Downsizing Resistance. What’s behind it?


Just the thought of downsizing can cause a flood of emotions, most of them leading to resistance. Here are the top five reasons.

A. Fear

Fear is the primary emotion that surfaces whenever we are faced with a major change such as downsizing. Fear-based resistance manifests itself as procrastination. Here are the typical types of fear and the “pilot light” that fires them up.

  1. Fear of change. It is a natural human desire to keep things as they are. If our daily life is currently stable, we have a tendency to maintain that stability. This is similar to “homeostasis” in the workings of the human body.
  2. Fear of the future or fear of the unknown. One more level of downsizing is confirmation that we are closer to the end of our life.
  3. Fear of not fitting in socially. A person living in their own home for years is used to isolation. Living in a retirement home leads to an increase in social interaction which can cause some initial apprehension.
  4. Fear of financial capability i.e. running out of money. Someone living a mortgage-free home typically has fears and insecurities about being able to afford the monthly expenses. They sometimes forget about the large amount of equity they have in their home which can be invested and used to fund their retirement expenses.
  5. Fear of physical drain. When downsizing has been put off for many years, we are that much older and less capable of mustering the required strength. This can be quite daunting to an elderly person. This can be solved with the involvement of available family member and/or outside help.

B. Sense of Loss

  1. Loss of independence. A person living on their own in their family home is usually independent. Retirement home living is an exchange of some of that independence for increased supports.
  2. Loss of the connection with the past. Our home and our stuff are often associated with our memories. Downsizing our home and our stuff can represent a weakening of those memories to some. One client was very reluctant to leave her home because her father built the house for her. She is now in a retirement home and enjoying her new life.
  3. Loss of benefits of living on your own such as a garden, abundant space and complete privacy.

C. Internal Conflict

A person may feel conflicted because they know logically they should downsize but have difficulty emotionally in doing so. This is probably because of one or more of the above reasons.

D. Exercising Control

This is similar to “sense of loss” above. However, in this case, the person is not co-operative and “digs in their heels”. This is really a proclamation of one’s independence by becoming unwilling to participate in any home move or downsizing efforts. To learn more about the importance of control to an elderly person, refer to the book titled: “How to Say It® to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders” by David Solie.

E. Feeling Overwhelmed

In this situation, the person often becomes immobilized. This could be due to:

  1. The amount of stuff they have to deal with
  2. A lack of strength to deal with it, possibly due to imperceptible aging
  3. They are too busy – i.e. “not enough time”. This could be because they are still working.

Lazy Dog

Q. What is the antidote to all of the above?

Here are three basic steps you or loved one can take:
1. Take action! Take one small step and build on it. Start with one area in one room, such as a closet.
2. Deal with it like a project – i.e. schedule time each day for working on the goal, define major milestones and measure progress
3. Get help from family and/or professionals.

What resistance are you dealing with and how are you progressing?

*  You may notice some Canadian spelling in these posts. The words may look odd but that’s how we spell them. We’re used to it.

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Quill pen

Unless otherwise credited, all posts are happily authored with a quill pen …
Paul Ferri, Broker, ASA (Accredited Senior Agent)
RE/MAX Unique Inc. Brokerage*, Toronto, Canada
*Each office independently owned and operated

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