How do I decide

dody40July 10, 2014

My beloved husband passed away last week and I cannot afford to stay here. I have wanted to move to subsidized housing for a couple of years but Gary would not hear of it. This place, as much as I love it, is way too expensive for me to keep up, especially now that my son is moving to Florida. He is the one that has plowed for me, shoved the sidewalks and taken care of my garbage, besides any thing else that I needed done.

I have been doing 'Gary' things for the last couple of years, and I am tired and want to turn the responsibility over to someone else. There will be an opening in the location that I want very soon. It is near to town, near to my doctors (whom I love, they have been so compassionate to me) and my friends and relatives are here. I do not want to pass it up as there is often a long waiting list.

I am nearly 74, and have a lot of attachment to my 'things'. How do I make a decision on what to keep? I know I really have to downsize. This place I am in is so large, that I could keep 'everything'. Now the day of reckoning is here. How do I get rid of everything I do not want?

I do not post much, but you guys have given much advice over the years.I really appreciate any advice that you can give to me now.


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Annie Deighnaugh

After Dad died...after the 2 of them had lived there for 50 years in the house including 2 barns full of stuff...she moved to a condo. When I was helping her clean out, I found it was a process. A process of finding things you'd forgotten you had, remembering what it was all about, glad for the opportunity to remember, then letting it go. She decided what furniture she wanted to keep for the condo based on its layout and what pieces she was using most frequently at the time. She figured out where she would put her bed, bookshelves, chairs, tv, etc. Then she had the family and relatives come in and take whatever they wanted she didn't need. Then she had a tag sale, and then she called in 4 different charities to take what they wanted. Then she called in the junk luggers. On the smaller stuff, it was a similar process. She had one of the neighbor girls come over after school and work with her wrapping and boxing up the fragile stuff.

After she moved, she found she replaced a number of things with things she liked better for the place. She'd go to estate sales and tag sales and donation stores and she came up with all kinds of great stuff for not a lot of money. But she enjoyed doing that kind of thing.

It was a lot of work, but it was so worthwhile. After she moved, her life was 1,000 times easier...and so was ours as we had to step in and pick up the slack in the meantime in terms of maintenance, lawn care, etc.

I'm sorry you lost your husband. It's not easy, but the lifestyle change you are making is a wise move. Sending you lots of strength and perseverance.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 7:41AM
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So sorry about your loss, I think you had posted a picture of him last year?

As for purging your "things", it's so very early in your bereavement, it's going to be difficult but I guess you have no choice.

Could you get a small space somewhere where you could store a few things? at least until you've had time to get better. That way you could take the essential in your new home and decide over the course of a year let's say, how and if you are going to dispose of the rest.

Good luck with this and keep us posted !

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:23AM
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Dody I am very sorry for your loss. This is a difficult time and is compounded by your need to move. It sounds as if you must do this rather quickly?? If so, I'm not sure you will have time for the process Annie outlined although in a perfect world that would be ideal. If you must do this without the luxury of examining and reminiscing then you simply have to find a way so you can be in a living situation that will be better for you.

Start with a detailed floor plan of the new place and decide the basics that you must have - bed, clothing storage, sofa or chair, small table and chair - and what will actually fit in the space. Do you have a friend or family member to help you sort through small items and papers? It's often easier when there is someone to help keep you on track and focused on the process and determining if something should move with you. If not, there are services that exist for just this purpose and will handle a house sale for the rest. With some, their fees vary on the amount of help you need and their percentage of the sale will vary as a result so you are not actually paying out of pocket if that will be an issue for you.

You seem confident about this new location and I hope this process goes as smoothly for you as possible.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:25AM
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First, please accept my condolences on the loss of your husband.

Next, I normally would not suggest making such a big change so soon after a major life event. However, moving to subsidized housing can have so many positive impacts on your life (budget, maintenance, health and social support) that, for someone who has been considering it already -- it doesn't make sense to delay.

Now, the How To ... Annie's given you a good plan. I particularly like her advice about choosing furniture pieces based on your new living space. Subsidized housing units are often very (very, very) small. If you know people who already live there, you might ask if you can see their apartments and if they might arrange for you to see the apartments of some of their friends. That way you can get a good idea of layouts that you like and what might work best for you.

When my mom and stepdad sold their big house in Illinois to live full time in their smaller (already fully furnished) house in Florida, they knew they couldn't take much with them. It was overwhelming at first but, like Annie said, it really does become a process.

After deciding what they would take, they had close family members (kids, grandkids) over for a casual meal then invited them to choose anything they would like to take. Next, they held a carry-in for extended family (siblings, nieces, nephews) and friends -- and did the same.

After that, with the help of a couple of grandkids, they held a moving sale. This was a lot of work but it was worth it because they got rid of a lot more stuff and had the chance to visit with neighbors who stopped by.

When the sale was over, they called an auction house, the owner of a consignment store, and a couple of local ladies who provide an ebay selling service. Each of them took several more items away.

Their church's annual rummage sale was coming up so a lot of what was left was donated to that. There is a religious organization in their area that takes all garage sale "leftovers" to redistribute to local needy families and then sells the rest to finance overseas mission work.

It really was a tremendous amount of work but that turned out to be a good thing. By the time the last of it was gone neither my mom nor my stepdad had many sentimental feelings left for all those "things". They were just glad it was over.

Now, when Mom comes back to visit she delights in seeing some of her old treasures being put to good use in friends and family members' homes. She's never regretted getting rid of any of it and is happy living somewhere she can afford, where the outside maintenance is all taken care of, and where there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy life without all the worry and work that goes along with a big old house full of stuff.

Best of luck to you as you begin this new chapter.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:30AM
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By the way, my mom and stepfather accomplished all of this in 30 days, when their house sold to the first family who looked at it. It can be done quickly.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:36AM
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There are businesses everywhere that help run estate sales, which is in essence what you are considering.

I would highly recommend against putting anything into storage. Eventually your storage bill will far exceed the value of the contents. And, even in "climate controlled" storage your belongings may be damaged by moisture (or vermin!).

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:37AM
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Elraes Miller

I was in the same situation as you, 10 acres, with avocado grove and animals. There was no choice as I couldn't do the work myself and expensive to hire out. After 3 mos of clearing out, the house sold the day it was listed. Everyone told me to wait, but no one was really available to help the huge job of caring for all. I never regretted making the sooner than later decision. Some of us have a larger burden to face. You have some really good advice shared above.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:54AM
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Dody, my deepest sympathies. I am glad to read that you have friends and relatives in the area.

My husband passed 2 years ago. His mother had planned to move to our area prior to his passing; and I asked her if she would still want to come. She is 90 so this was quite a move for her but she is adapting well in her own apartment. I still live in our house. I hire the mowers, but have been doing all else. At times it seems overwhelming.

Do not be afraid to ask for help from your friends and relatives while you are in this transitional stage. Last Sunday I told one of the deacons that I needed help! And I told him what I needed so that he could help me find someone who would help. Some of those needs have already been met!

Friends and family want to help, most of them don't know what to do. You have been given great advice above.

1. Define your needs - day to day living
2. Decide how you will live - a gathering of friends, for example, would you prefer to offer them coffee in cups or paper cups.
3. What would you save if the house started burning?
4. Take pictures of "special" items that you no longer really need. After you move, place in an album with notes about why it was special.
5. Lots of things, collectables, etc are dust collectors!

6. Remember Love surpasses all things.

May God's angels watch over, guide and protect you.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:02AM
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Dody, I am so sorry about your husband. I think you've gotten great advice about your question of how to decide. I thought of something I thought I should mention...have you gotten legal/financial advice about your home?

Maybe you are renting now and if so this won't apply, but if you own your home and sell it, have you found out if the $ from the sale will affect your eligibility for subsidized housing? Sometimes people don't know how changes in their income/savings, etc. affect that sort of thing and when we are grieving it's hard to keep on top of it all.

Wishing you well as you travel on this new path in your life.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:12AM
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Dody, first I am so sorry you lost your husband, and know this must be hard for you. You already have some great advice and you ultimately must decide what your own timeline must be in order to proceed. If you do have some time and resources to pack away and store some cherished things, by all means do so until you can deal with them a couple of months from now. If you can move the things you want into your new subsidized housing and then start purging from your old home, and afford to keep up both places for a month or so that would at least help you in the transition without feeling so pushed to make hard decisions at first.

Donations of much of the furniture your relatives don't want might offer a better tax return than trying to sell it, however, you also need to itemize carefully. I would also photograph as much as possible of the things you donate (the larger items) for proof in case it is needed. Habitat Re-Store is a great place to start for donations if you have one nearby.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:22AM
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Holly- Kay

I am so very sorry for your loss.

I think it's wonderful that you are looking forward and see that you need to make things easier for yourself, both financially and physically.

After my DM passed and I had her large Southern Colonial to clean out and sell I was overwhelmed. I spent many hours crying over the things that she loved so much. I wanted to keep it all because everything reminded me of my mom who was also my best friend. Thankfully my DH was wonderful and helped me to see that we just didn't have the room for everything.

I contacted a woman who specialized in estate sales to come in after taking a lovely bedroom suite that was in her guest room, a beautiful antique table, and other items that I couldn't bear to part with. My children all took items that they loved and then DH and I set to work sending other items to a wonderful local charity.

It took us weeks to clear out her home. By the time the job was finished I was determined to not leave so many belongings for my children to have to sort through. I went on a purge but it is amazing how much "stuff" creeps back in.

You may not be able to even use the furniture you currently have as what works in a large home may not work in a smaller apartment, so decide on the furnishings that will work in your new place.

Go through kitchen items and if you haven't used something in several years chances are you never will so put it aside to go to auction or tag sale. Most auction houses will take everything and their commission comes out of the proceeds from the auction.

The sentimental items are the ones that will be the most difficult. See if their are any items that your DS wants and then other family members that you are close to.

I hope that you have fairly smooth sailing with this and that you will find peace and joy.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:23AM
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Take photos of some of the favorite items that you won't be able to take, you can always enjoy looking at them in photos. My condolences to you, this must be so hard to consider while you're still grieving. God bless you.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:33AM
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Dody, I'm so terribly sorry to hear about the loss of your husband and wish you strength!

I agree to ask for help from your friends and relatives, and try to be as specific as possible. Many people are happy to help out but may not know what they can do for you.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:35AM
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How do I get rid of everything I do not want?

This last question stuck out at me. I think many great suggestions have been made. Start here. Root out, box up, garage sale out all the things you know you don't want, first. Next move what will fit, be useful, in your new place. Once you see certain things really have no place in your new home..I think they will be easier to let go of. At least that is how it was for my mother-in-law.
You had a plan long before you lost your husband. Do not let your grief cloud this. You have nothing to feel guilty about--wanting to leave. You wanted/needed that before you lost him.
Leaving does not mean you are forgetting or leaving him behind. Your home served you well for many years. Now your needs have changed. That is ok.
God Bless you,

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:38AM
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I'm so sorry for your loss. Moving is never easy, especially while you are grieving.

We have begun the process of cleaning out 30 years worth of stuff in our basement. We make 4 "piles"---keep, give away, throw away, and not sure. The give away and throw away stuff we try to get rid of ASAP by taking it to charities or the dump. This makes things more manageable. The "not sure" pile will get a second go-round at a later date after we've had time to stew on those items.

Good luck on everything....let us know how it all goes.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 10:23AM
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Estate sales and yard sales are fine but if you have or think you have valuable antiques, then your first step should be getting a qualified antique dealer/appraiser in so you get the most money for your items of value. You will be taken bigtime at a yard sale or estate sale.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 10:33AM
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Dody, I am sorry for the loss of your husband. You are experiencing the same thing that I went through twice.
My last husband passed away suddenly when he was 80 and I was 70. Like you, our house was way more (4090 SQ) than I could afford to maintain by myself, nor did I want to try....I was in no physical shape to maintain the sprinklers, mow the lawn, shovel the snow etc., plus the fact that our taxes and insurance were extremely expensive.
I chose to move back closer to my roots and family and since I could not find a house that was handicapped ready, I chose to build is modest, and I love it here closer to loved ones.

I had a three day moving sale. I took only the things I needed, gave some to my kids, and sold the rest. Yes, it was hard to see some things go, but I just kept telling myself "it is only STUFF!"...and someone could get more use out of it than I was. In fact, I sold most of the furniture also because I did not want to move it, store it, and move it again....and a new house and a new life deserved new furniture.

Good luck to you and may you find comfort in your decision.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 3:44PM
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olychick brings up a good point. You really should check to see how selling your house might affect your ability to move into subsidized housing. It might not impact it at all though.

I have several volunteers who live in senior housing and, from what I understand, the only thing that counts against eligibility to live there is INCOME and that is defined as wages or gains. So, if you had 100,000 in the bank as a result of a home sale, the only thing that would count toward residency eligibility is the income (interest) it earns.

Residency eligibility is not the same as being eligibile for subsidized rent though. Your assets (bank accounts, investments, etc) probably will count against you receiving lower rent.

Still, at least in my area, senior housing -even at full price- is a bargain.

Again, good luck!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:12PM
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My deepest sympathies to you -- and sending along deepest wishes for strength, wisdom, balance and grace.

Excellent advice above ... first and foremost -- plot out your new space on a piece of paper -- and decide on what items will help to turn it into a comfortable home.

MAKE LISTS -- writing down each and every thing will really help you decide and keep track of items. Buy a binder with plastic sleeves -- and drop in the lists so you can see and keep track as you go along .... You need a list for each space in the house ... it is so much easier to find an item on the list when you have separate lists for each room!

Write down the phone numbers of your favorite charity shops ....

Consider what items to GIVE; which items to DONATE and which ones to SELL. Go through the house -- room by room -- and make a list (with those three columns) for each and every room and space.

Next -- check with local charity shops and see which ones will come to your place -- many shops have restrictions on which items that they will take .... Many animal shelters will take items like towels ......

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:28PM
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Dody, I am so very sorry for your loss.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 11:03PM
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I thank you so much for helping me make things clearer in my mind. The funeral is today, and after that I will start making lists of what I can take. I know what these apartments are as my Mom and my sister both lived there at one time.

Gary & I took out a reverse mortgage a few years ago. I have already talked with them. I can just walk away and then have 30 days to get my stuff out. That is the option I will take, because then my responsiblities here will end. The monthly expenses are really steep, plus the taxes and insurance. If I want to, I can have 6 months to move out after I notify them, but then I will still have all of the financial responsiblies, which I cannot afford.

The bank sent Gary's social security check back and I have red tape to go thru to get it back. Have already started that process. My check is very miniscule, and not sure how long it will take to get my new amount. In the meantime, one of my son's has offered to lend me the money to pay my bills until this is all straighted out. I had extremely high expenses with Gary meds as all the prescription insurance he had was the VA and he needed his meds at home right away.With the VA, it takes up to 10 days to get them. I have wonderful support from my family.

I know it seems self centered to be worrying out these things now, but I think it helps to keep my minds busy and occupied on things beside my husband dying and how much I miss him. My whole life for the last 2 years had been spent taking care of him and now it seems like I am in limbo, don't know how to go about my day.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 6:09AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Oh Dody! Hugs to you. Please try and gain some perspective and recognize that this is a terrible ordeal you are going through, that your emotions are all awhirl and that you are functioning only on reserve power. It will take a lot of time for you to regain your footing and find a new way for yourself. You will develop a new routine in time. Give yourself plenty of time to heal. Be kind to yourself. Don't expect too much of yourself at this point as you are going through one of the toughest transitions I think there is.

I think taking care of your living and financial arrangements is very important because, once you have that done, the stress in your life will be significantly reduced. And if it helps distract you from your emotional turmoil, that's a good thing.

Stay strong! Sending you thoughts of comfort, courage, and peace.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 7:09AM
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Dody, what a beautiful photo of you and your husband! I am glad you are able to make a move quickly, so you won't be saddled with more expenses. You don't need that. I echo Annie's post about being kind to yourself, and that adjusting to a different way of life takes time. Just remember that your husband wants the best for you, and you can have no regrets for your life with him, you took good care of him and that is wonderful. A hope for many blessings for you.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 9:49AM
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Such a beautiful picture of the two of you! You can see the love shining through. I'm so sorry for your loss, but glad you had the love! I wish you the best as you sort through your things and go through this major change in your life. You've gotten great advise so far. I still have trouble parting with my sweet Mommas things. I just have to tell myself over and over "this isn't Mom, it's just a blouse" or "this isn't Mom, it's just a vase". Thinking of you...

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 6:47PM
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What a wonderful picture of you and your beloved Gary. Thank you for sharing it. This has undoubtedly been a very difficult day for you, it is a tribute to the two of you that you have a caring and loving family. One day at a timeâ¦..

I will remember you in my prayers.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 10:13PM
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Beautiful couple. I can so clearly see the love in both of your eyes. I think you are really smart for taking control of the situation asap.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 10:20PM
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Love that great photo; it's a treasure.
I'm so sorry about your loss.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 6:08AM
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I wish you well. My husband is in poor health and I am thinking that soon I will be where you are. He began having strokes around 2000, so life has been challenging, though I took one day at a time and just did what had to be done and he has done extremely well. He still wants to be as functional as possible and has such a great outlook. That is what keeps me going, his outlook.

I will pray for divine guidance for your decision-making and I trust you will as well, and I pray that you can get through this with as little stress as possible. I do feel that you can do this and will land on both feet with a great outlook. In my prayers, I pray for blessings along your path.

This post was edited by patricia43 on Sat, Jul 12, 14 at 6:36

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 6:35AM
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What a handsome couple! Dody, I am so sorry for your loss. I wish I could give you a big hug and lend a helping hand. You have received some great ideas here.

Big (((((HUG))))))

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 6:36AM
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Beautiful pic, sending deepest sympathy to you.
Please keep us posted on your plans.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 7:25AM
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First: I'm so sorry for your loss.

Second: love the picture, it's great. Place it in a prominent place in your new apartment.

Third: if ever in your life there was a time to be self-centered, this is it. Now is the time to focus on you and your future. It appears your supportive family is still there offering support, so take them up on that. Accept the money to cover you until your financial situation is straightened out. Tag the items you will be taking to your new place then invite the family over to help themselves to what's left. Get the kids and grandkids to help lift, carry, pack, haul the remainder to a thrift store.

Be kind and gentle with yourself but keep moving forward. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 7:53AM
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