Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

February 24, 2013

Downsizing can mean losing 'stuff,' gaining freedom

TRAVERSE CITY — When Marcia Hoffstetter built her dream home, she expected it to be her last.

“I built this house thinking I would die here,” said Hoffstetter, 73, of Suttons Bay.

Instead she got caught in the economic crunch and can no longer afford to keep the house. After listing it on the market for four years, she finally sold it and is looking for a much smaller place to live.

Hoffstetter is one of millions of Americans every year who downsize to smaller homes.

Some do it to free themselves of the burden of caring for a bigger house, leaving more time for family and travel. Others do it to reduce financial stress or to save money for more of the things they want — like that travel. But all recognize that they can’t maintain a big home — physically or financially — forever.

“You just know when it’s time,” said Janet Ready, a widow and parish nurse in Traverse City. “It’s different for everyone.”

Downsizing from a home with emotional connections can be difficult, especially when it means having to give up familiar or beloved possessions. That’s because possessions are memories, said Kelly Stites, owner of Assisted Moving Services in Traverse City.

“The hardest thing for people is letting go of memories,” said Stites, whose company specializes in moving coordination, organization, design and downsizing. “When letting go, they want to know that their things aren’t just getting thrown away.”

Hoffstetter will need to let go of nearly half her possessions in order to downsize from her 2,400-square-foot house with full basement to a small house, condo or apartment. Meanwhile she’s living in a friend’s lower level.

“I want to stay in Suttons Bay or Leelanau County but there is no affordable housing up here for year-round,” said Hoffstetter, manager of the Leelanau Christian Neighbors food pantry in Suttons Bay. “It’s all vacation rentals, especially when you come from downstate and you’re used to all those apartment buildings and complexes.”

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