You can’t take it with you


By Marianne Delorey

Americans tend to have more stuff than they need. At no time is this more apparent than when they are downsizing. There are plenty of professional organizers that can help you get a handle on your stuff, but the first step in downsizing should actually be to get a better handle on your space.

Go to your new space and measure to see what will fit, but don’t limit your thoughts to your new room, apartment or condo. Talk to the manager and other residents where you are moving. Find out what amenities your building will offer that will help you limit what you will need to bring.

Does the building have an exercise room or an exercise program? Are there safe and attractive paths for walking? If so, you might not need your treadmill and exercise videos.

Are meals available? Don’t bring more pots and pans than you will need for the occasional meal. If there is a community kitchen, is it well stocked? Maybe you can do without your 12 cup coffee maker and 60 piece dinnerware set.

Can you host family parties in the common areas? Then bring a loveseat instead of a couch and a four person dining table instead of an eight person table.

What are your responsibilities with regard to cleaning? If you are in an apartment, you will likely need a vacuum, a broom, a mop and some basic cleaning equipment. If cleaning services are provided, you might need even less. If you are going into a condo, you may still want to hang on to your rug shampooer.

How much storage is available? And what are the conditions of that storage? Is it a private, locked space or a communal, shared space? Is it seasonal only? On a similar note, ask about the closets. If you saw a model unit, ask about the specific dimension and number of closets.

Ask about rules of use for common areas. Can your grandchildren use the toys in the common area? If you leave a radio in the common areas, will it be safe? Will it be ok with management?

Find out about local transportation. Will you be bringing your car? Do you know what the closest bus route is? Will you need to bring sturdy bags so you can go grocery shopping and haul your food home on a bus? What about a cart?

Determine the rules for the maintenance crew. Will they let you borrow a hammer if you are hanging a picture? Will they help you hang your curtains? What other tools will you need to bring?

Check out the laundry facilities. Are their machines small? If so, you might want to forget about that double plush comforter and bring a blanket and a bedspread.

Are there TVs and a computer in common areas? Is there a lending library? Maybe you won’t need such a big desk or work space. Can you tolerate sharing some of these items or do you need your own?

What about outside space? Is there a pool or tennis court? You may want to make sure your pool floats and rackets don’t get buried in the move. If you will have outside space, will you want to garden? Prepare by setting aside your favorite tools and equipment.

Every building is different in terms of what amenities it offers residents. The rules set up by management for common area use will vary from place to place.

 Marianne Delorey, Ph.D., is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or and Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at