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Saying Goodbye – Emotional Aspects of Downsizing

Joined: 11/9/2011
Posts: 23
Sometimes in the excitement (or stress) of moving, we don’t have time to pay much attention to the emotional components of the move. I recently wrote a post on “making meaning” when you’re leaving your old house for the new digs. It’s a way to say goodbye and preserve memories to mark the event. But what if you’re downsizing? Similar moving-related emotional feelings happen, but there can be a very different aspect to this kind of move.

Not Always Voluntary

Overall, the move to a smaller home can be a fun and exciting adventure. Maybe you’re moving to your dream retirement area. But for some people, the decision to move is not within their control. Let’s face it, there are MANY factors involved in a move that are out of our control. But if you’re downsizing your home as the result of a divorce, children moving out, loss of income or inability to manage a larger home, there may be a great sense of loss.


I think we normally think of grieving when we lose a family member or beloved pet. But we do grieve the loss of other things, often in different or unexpected ways. Even good change, like a job promotion can precipitate a feeling of loss. Grieving the loss of the old status is normal and part of the process. So it’s easy to see how downsizing your home could bring on all kinds of emotions, even sadness and grief. I’m probably more tuned into it since I was a psychotherapist for twenty years. I often helped people recognize that what they were experiencing was a form of grief. They were surprised – “But why would I miss that dilapidated, old house I left?”

Letting Go

Physically, when you downsize of course you have to condense your belongings. Sometimes that kind of purge is a good thing – getting rid of the old to make way for the new, etc. But it can also mean having to give up things that you might want to keep. It may mean saving items that have strong emotional connections, so it’s important to sort through things to be moved with that in mind.

Suggestions for Saying Goodbye

The following might be helpful when you’re downsizing. It’s important to acknowledge and understand the emotional components of the move:

Give yourself time – Don’t rush the sorting/packing process. That doesn’t mean you have to linger over every item, but give yourself time to do it.
Make a gratitude list – Make a list of the positive aspects of this move, i.e., less to take care of, meeting new neighbors or a fresh start.
Take control over things you can – If this move is a “forced” decision, take back control over any aspects of the move that you can. If you want to keep some items and probably won’t have room in your new home, rent a small storage unit until you feel comfortable letting go of them.

Everyone’s response to change/life stages, etc., is a very individual one. Don’t try to rationalize or excuse your response. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to go through big changes. Be good to yourself.

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Comment by mcoly618

Joined: 5/2/2009
Posts: 472
I wanted to let you know that we featured your essay on the Stage of Life Facebook page today. If you would like to check it, out go to Feel free to share the news with your friends and family. You're famous! :)
Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 1:52:32 PM
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