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Downsizing

How Downsizing Helps Seniors Cope With Losing a Spouse

by Natalie Jones, contributor

Widows and widowers may want to stay home to be comforted by their deceased partner’s belongings. In many cases, seniors who wait a few months to go through the grieving process decide that downsizing is an answer to several of their challenges after the loss of a spouse. Let’s explore how moving to a smaller home helps these seniors cope.

Downsizing Removes Financial Stress

Unfortunately, some seniors face financial challenges after the death of a spouse. Even if the mortgage was paid off on the family home, seniors sometimes struggle to pay for heating and maintaining a home that is far too large for one person. Downsizing to a smaller, newer home saves these seniors money and removes the financial stress they feel after the death of their spouse. 

Selling a home helps seniors pay off debts or make a down payment on a new home. Some who may have been considering downsizing prior to the death of their spouse find it easier to make the decision than others; yet, many seniors, after meeting with their accountants or financial advisors, realize that downsizing is a good financial decision even if it wasn’t something they had considered. Seniors who downsize also find that they save money in annual property taxes, insurance, and other costs of owning a large home. 

Instead of purchasing a new home, you could take the money you receive from the sale of your old house to put toward a rental home. This could help you keep a little money in the bank in the event of an emergency. There are thousands of homes for rental around Phoenix, and online directories can help you narrow down the search depending on what you’re after (number of bedrooms, pet-friendliness, etc.). 

Downsizing Helps Seniors Move Through the Grieving Process

Everyone copes with the loss of a spouse in different ways, but Sue West, a certified organizer coach, has found that after some time passes, surviving spouses want to move through the grieving process and start the next chapter of their lives. As a result, they want to go through their spouse’s things, keep a few memories, and downsize. West recommends downsizing in stages, just as you grieve in stages. 

  • First, go through your spouse’s clothing. You will be able to make the bedroom your own and work through the emotions associated with getting rid of your spouse’s belongings.
  • Next, go through your spouse’s hobbies or collections. This may mean going through photographs, baseball cards, furniture, jewelry, fishing rods, or anything else that your spouse collected or worked on that meant a great deal to them.
  • Then, be sure you are not getting rid of everything. If you do, you will regret not having a memento or piece that brings you joy in remembering your spouse. Some people take photos of things before giving them away or selling them so they have memories to hold on to without taking up space.
  • Last, go through the things that you could not bring yourself to go through the first time. West admits this is different for everyone, and she’s worked with people who could not get rid of a toothbrush, or shelves of books, because of the sentimental value. 

If you struggle with downsizing, you may need help from loved ones. Some seniors find peace in giving a few of their spouse’s items to their children. Others find solace in creating memory boxes to house the most treasured mementos. Others make photo books and include letters or other objects. Still others repurpose some of their spouse’s items; for example, some make pillows from shirts. 

When you are ready to move into a smaller home or into a senior living community, you will find that it is easier to do so after going through your spouse’s belongings and having less to move when you are ready to say goodbye to your home. That’s the other reason that West recommends downsizing in stages for seniors who have lost a spouse.

Seniors trying to cope with losing a spouse often find that downsizing makes it easier to do so. It relieves financial stress and helps them move through the grieving process by taking steps to start the next chapter of their lives. 

JC Realty is ready to help when you begin looking for a new home. We can also help you put your old home on the market. Call us at 602-330-3208 to learn more.