by Joanne Ower
I lived in the same house for over forty years. My late husband and I raised two sons there, and I greeted and loved grandchildren and great grandchildren there. It was a happy home, always lively with family and friends.
But as the nest emptied, my home in North Ft. Myers, Florida, got too big for me. I no longer needed three bedrooms, two baths and a two-car garage, and I sure didn’t need all the stuff that accumulated over the years.
I soon learned that having a feeling and doing something about it are two different things. My family gradually understood that I was unhappy living in a home too large for one person to maintain. But I stayed on longer than I really wanted to because my younger son lived next door. He’d promised his father that he’d take care of me. Then he relocated, and that’s what finally moved me off square one.
The best thing I did — and I recommend this for anybody in my situation — was to talk it over with my family. We had a Iot of long discussions. I also talked to friends I’d grown up and stayed in touch with in the Ft. Myers area. I had a great real estate agent who took the time to understand what I wanted after I downsized. He sent me listings from mobile home parks in my area geared specifically to retirees and older owners.
One of my best friends dating back to grade school had a winter home nearby on Ft. Myers Beach. She told me I could stay there if I needed to during the transition. That was an added piece of luck that pushed me forward and gave me confidence.
Once I’d made the decision to downsize, with my family’s encouragement, I listed my house. Then I faced the second hard part – deciding what to do with forty years’ worth of belongings ranging from furniture to odds-and-ends. Family members got larger items like the organ and grandfather clock. I donated a lot of other things. But after that I still had years worth of personal items, photos and mementoes. That was really hard. I’d put things in the discard pile and then take them out again, uncertain what to do. My youngest son solved the problem when he said, “Mom, keep what brings you happy, special memories, and let go of the rest.”
It was still difficult, but I felt a big relief when it was done.
I’d already chosen the mobile home park where I wanted to buy when my house sold. My new home is still in North Ft. Myers, less than two miles from my old one. It’s for very active people over sixty and offers lots of fun activities. The park takes care of yard maintenance so my son doesn’t have to worry how fast my grass is growing, and that’s a big relief for both of us. I own the mobile home and property, and have enough room to entertain family and friends, but not so much that I can’t take care of it. My new neighbors are friendly and helpful and we all look out for one another.
Of course any move comes with annoying details such as address changes, new utility hookups and so forth. You have to tell the driver’s license people, the Medicare people, the insurance people, your doctors and on and on that you’re moving, and this takes an awful lot of time.
I’m proud to say, now that the move is finished and I’ve settled in, that I adapted very well and I’m enjoying my new lack of stress. It was the best decision ever. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Reaching the decision that it’s time to downsize can be traumatic, but the window at the end is bright.