From an insider's perspective.
About eight years ago, I had a major life upset. I was caught between raising my somewhat troubled teenage boys, making a career change, being available for my recently widowed mom, settling in to a second marriage, and beginning to feel the effects of becoming middle-aged. Whoever coined the term, sandwich generation, was spot on. I guess that would make me some type of hoagie.
At that time, we were living in a largish home with a lot of interior and exterior spaces to maintain. There was little time to stay on top of anything. We even hired out the lawn mowing. Every time I drove up to our home, I noticed the signs of things slowly slipping... I got better and better at ignoring them.
When the last of our kids left home, my husband and I rattled around in our largish house for awhile, making plans for reclaiming the space. But the pressures of careers, sick parents, adult kid emergencies, and general wear and tear seemed to perennially interfere with our great intentions. We kept meaning to get it together. But, mostly, we were surviving.
One of the things that resulted from the career shift was jumping headfirst into the financial services sector, with a heavy focus on retirement planning. Interesting how life places us in positions to learn what we need to know. Combined with the realities of losing my father before any of us were ready, I found myself up close and personal with my own lack of preparedness for the eventualities of life.
This is all to say that, amidst the other big upsets in 2012, it became apparent that we needed to downsize our home. Not just to something smaller to fit our new empty nest but truly an abode that would be easier to manage. When we looked around, the options weren't great. Smaller homes were often older with deferred maintenance. Many were in neighborhoods that hadn't quite decided if they were going to get face-lifts or let the sagging carry on, unabated.
We must have looked at a hundred homes. Our poor realtor was a saint. We ended up finding a smallish home that seemed to fit our newly liberated state, sans kids. It had a lovely garden and my husband and I thought we would take up a new hobby together. Yeah. That did not happen. Again, good intentions. I don't know. Maybe we weren't the norm. Maybe we were just ill-prepared for life. But a couple years into living there, we saw that we could not keep up, once again.
Two years ago we graduated to condo living. My husband resisted at first but he was the first to admit how wonderful it was to come home to a mowed yard or wake up to a snow-shoveled private street. We had arrived. It wasn't without a tremendous amount of work to sort, purge, donate, sell, haul, trash and shred the years' of accumulation of trinkets, treasures, memorabilia, keepsakes, clothes, shoes, serving dishes, knickknacks, doodads, whatnot's, and "heirlooms," etc. Twice.
Literally, the first downsizing brought a ginormous, politically-incorrect dumpster to our driveway, after discovering a leaky hose-bib had ruined my husband's lifelong book collection. I know we lost things to that dumpster I wish I had back. But my husband, bless his heart, took the brunt of the herculean moving effort. I was overwhelmed and lost in the reverie of memories.
The second move I was better. I liken it to my first camping trip as an adult, four month's pregnant with my first child, when the Missouri river rose in the night and we were drenched, with our two- door Toyota, a large chocolate lab, and a ton of wet gear. My family still laughs about my strained cry in the night, as we desperately packed up, "How much was it? Toss it!," in my terrified hullabaloo. No, this move, I knew, it was time to "woman-up" and dig deeper, surrendering the precious cargo I could not let go of before. Passing along as much as I could, recycling, being socially responsible.
Today, I take some comfort in knowing that if something happens to me, which is highly likely to occur, sooner than later, my adult kids will not have to wonder why I hung on to my high school boyfriend's football jacket. Or my old uncle Jig's marred, but sentimental, antique oil lamp. Those things served their purpose, no doubt. But I like to think of myself now, more as a turkey wrap. A lighter, leaner version of a still, delicious sammy. A more appropriate choice at my age.
Okay, enough reminiscing! If you're still with me, I'm ready to divulge my top seven reasons to downsize into a smaller home, which I learned along the way:
- It's a relief. In all kinds of ways. Financially. Emotionally. Physically.
- It's a joy. It has freed me up to do things I put off way too long.
- It's a comfort. Knowing I can manage with the upkeep. And have done the hard work of purging.
- It's easier. If I do get time to travel, I don't worry about leaving. I'm in a close-knit community.
- It's fun. I love where I live. Most of us are middle-aged or older. We're out walking. Staying active. Chatting when we see one another.
- It's a sense of security. Knowing my neighbors are nearby. We are available to help one another.
- It's connection. I have several close friends here, and we are at one another's homes almost daily.
So, that's about it, in a nutshell. There are, of course, more. But those seven reasons, or benefits, are part of my daily experience now. It's hard to articulate but there is something to be said for being prepared rather than trying to ignore what's around the corner. I'm happier. And, I feel good about my life. I do believe the best years are still to come. Nothing can replace what's already occurred. Those times are a gift. But I think I understand why older adults take life a little less seriously. Why they are more apt to find the positive. And see the best. The twilight years are special. Indeed. Why not embrace them?
Linkside at Old Hawthorne is a gated, 55+ community, offering new homes for sale, and a new lifestyle for active adults. Here, you can have the life you've always dreamed. Enjoy a gorgeous new home while we take care of all the landscaping and snow removal. You will have built-in social connections in the neighborhood and as a social member of The Club at Old Hawthorne. Close to downtown Columbia, Mo, and surrounding parks, trails, lakes and major entertainment centers, Linkside offers an ideal way to protect your time, money, health and energies. To have a life that's worth living.
Susan Reeves is a community liaison with Linkside at Old Hawthorne, helping to raise awareness about the benefits of living in a 55+ community.