When Downsizing Is The Most Romantic Valentine’s Day Gift Of All


It’s closing in on Valentine’s Day and you’re probably wondering what to get your true love. I want to tell you about the strangest and yet somehow best Valentine’s Day gift I ever received. My wife, Joan Garry, bought me cemetery plots for Valentine’s Day several years ago. One for her; one for me. It was the best gift this girl could ever ask for.

It was a gift that kicked us into gear to really start planning our lives. You see, our youngest children, the twins, had left for college the year before. And our two pets, Louis and Charlie, were having trouble finding us in our big empty house in Montclair. We had been thinking about downsizing. We had talked about it, but the conversation was kind of paralyzing.

Maybe you have friends who are talking about downsizing. Well, Joan and I successfully figured it out. It was excruciating. I cried often. I couldn’t believe how much crap I had accumulated. The second grade math text book, the PS&G bill from 2005.

Montclair’s Joan Garry and Eileen Opatut enjoying travel after downsizing.

Simplifying my life made it so much bigger. We no longer have high overhead — taxes, utilities, services. Downsizing gave me more time and cash to do all those things I wanted to do during the next stage of our lives. In just our first year after downsizing, we wanted to travel and we planned it all out —- Sedona, Santa Fe, Maine, Martha’s Vineyard and then a grand trip to Italy. Bliss.

If this story sounds like your own, I have just the Valentine’s Day gift for you.

Give your significant other the gift of a plan. Here’s how to get started:

  • Start dreaming again. Have a conversation about the future — what does it look like? For me, it would be over moo shu. You pick what’s right for you. What is on your bucket list? Travel? Retiring a few years earlier? Explore that bucket list, write it down and keep it very handy.
  • Make your “overboard” list. What are the things you could throw overboard that could make life easier, simpler, less stressful. I guarantee your big drafty house with the high taxes makes the list.
  • Say this five times: “It’s just a house; it’s just stuff.” You are who you are, what you do, what you think and how you feel. Look at your bucket list. If your house and the stuff it contains are in your way, it’s time to make a change.
  • Don’t hesitate. Consider all your options. Buying/renting/moving away. Condo/single family house/townhouse. Think about how you live currently. Where do you spend the most time? Will it change going forward? What do you REALLY need? Knowing where you might be going is exciting and will motivate you to actually move forward.
  • Take the first important steps. When you’ve decided what new adventures await, use this checklist to get you started. It will help you determine what really needs to be fixed. And determine what it might cost. Get organized. Start by decluttering. Take it one room at a time or it it will be overwhelming.

It’s funny. I have started to read obituaries. They are a great reminder of what I have, what I want and they offer me inspiration to go and get it.

Downsizing might be the right way to start living bigger. I may be the only person I know (maybe the only person period) who got a cemetery plot for Valentine’s Day but I think about that gift in a different way. It’s a gift about planning, anticipating and really living. Living big.

And in that context it might be the most romantic gift ever.

Eileen Opatut downsized from a home to an apartment in Montclair. Opatut, a realtor, offers help to others looking to downsize and blogs here about downsizing. Download her downsizer worksheet here.

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