Downsizing 101… a case study

Retiring and thinking of downsizing? The first step is making a plan. Sometimes the plan comes quickly… but more frequently thoughtful downsizing is a longer process which may include several stages, multiple moves and some surprises along the way. If you don’t have a plan yet, check out Baby Boomer’s Ultimate Life Planning Guide… is downsizing right for you? for some help planning for the next stage of your life.

A downsizing case study

Bob & Nancy’s downsizing journey began 13 years ago, when they decided to sell the charming Minneapolis Tudor where they raised their family to move into a newer one-story home. The goal was to get rid of stairs and the inevitable maintenance of an older home… and prepare for aging in place.

They bought a home only 5 years old, with 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and laundry on the main level. It also had an open kitchen and dining room on the main floor perfect for entertaining, with 2 more bedrooms, bath and family room on the walkout lower level perfect for having lots of grandkid sleepovers. It even had a tree house in the woods of the fenced back yard! They expected to stay in this house a long, long, time.

Then life happened and the arrival of “Mr. Parkinsons” made it clear they needed to move to assisted living far sooner than they had planned. So… the next question was “what do we do now?” They had loved living in their house and it was filled with treasures… downsizing was not going to be an easy task.

Downsizing Step One: finding your next home

Although Bob and Nancy started decluttering, they were blocked from making significant progress until they figured out where they were going next. They needed to know how much space they would have to know what to keep and have a moving date so they could build a timeline. And perhaps most important, they needed to find a place they felt comfortable moving to so they could look forward to their move. They started looking and were happy when they found an assisted living/continuing care complex in the process of being built… a place where they felt they could make new friends and build the next stage of their lives. It felt right, they could afford to buy before selling their current home and signed a contract with a move-in date about 4 months out. Step one accomplished!

Downsizing Step Two: dealing with your stuff

For many people this is the hardest part of the process and Bob and Nancy were no exception. Even after diligently sorting and donating for some time before finding their new place and getting a closing date, it was obvious they were going to need help to meet their deadline. This is where Laurie Wrobel of Clutter 911 came to the rescue, as she does for many people in this situation.

Bob and Nancy had many friends and family who came to help over the course of several intense weeks… but Laurie became the point person who directed the process, assigning jobs to volunteers  to make the best use of time and resources as the whole house was sorted into what to keep, sell and donate. Many trips were made to recycling!

Once the house was sorted it was time for an estate sale. Some people do their own and there are many estate sale services available. Bob and Nancy worked with EstateSmart. It was surprising to learn that some people even slept in their vehicles parked on the street overnight so they were ready as soon as the sale opened in the morning!

Downsizing Step Three: saying goodbye and moving

After the sale came packing, donation pickups, the inevitable dumpster and the actual move to their new home. Bob and Nancy made saying goodbye to their house part of this bittersweet process of packing with their family and grandkids. I love this playful video of them saying goodbye to their house.

Downsizing Part Four: Staging and selling your house

Finally… decluttering, packing, moving and clearing were done. They were left with an empty house. Next steps were transforming it from ‘their home’ to ‘a house’ to sell. Key next steps were fresh paint and a thorough cleaning… then bringing in staging furniture and accessories to create a ‘model home’ so buyers could envision themselves living there. Sellers often tell me this step is a very important part of the ‘letting go’ process… all their stuff that made it their comfortable home full of memories are gone, and it becomes a fresh slate for new owners to create their own memories.

They accepted an offer on their house after 27 days on the market and are getting ready to close right after the new year. Mission accomplished!!

Contact us for help with your downsizing transition!

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results, 612-419-0560 – Life Transitions Realtor

RE/MAX Results HomesMSP Team –


Written By

I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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