Part IV. Growing Older: Your Guide to Downsizing and Making the Big Move.

As promised in Parts II and III, we're on to The Big Move.

By now you've found a new home and have begun the downsizing process.  The next step in managing your big move is to find a good moving company.  If you're going to try to move on your own, make sure you get plenty of help.  You can actually get hurt taking on too much of the physical stuff yourself.

We opted for a small, local moving company recommended to us by friends.  We called them early and had them come out to give us an estimate.  Book your moving date as far in advance as possible, that way you'll be sure to move on a day that's convenient for you, not for the moving company.  We also decided to have the moving company pack some of our things.  If you only want to pay for packing up one room, I'd suggest the kitchen.   Breakables and kitchen utensils are time-consuming to wrap and box.  Plus, if anything is broken, the moving company will take full responsibility for items they're packed themselves.

Don't sell or consign all the furniture you've decided to part with until the moving date is closing in.  If any of the key elements in the selling process (the inspection, appraisal or the buyers' loan approval) don't come through, you'll still have some furniture pieces to "stage" your home until it sells.

Plan to carry over certain fragile or valuable things to your new home yourself.  We took a few plants, some artwork, our favorite wines and important documents over to our new condo the day we closed on the place.  We wanted to make sure our special items didn't get lost or damaged in the move.

Hire a professional cleaning crew to clean your old house and put the finishing touches on your new place.  It's worth the extra money to eliminate the stress of a big cleanup when your moving day arrives.

Take your time unpacking.  Maybe you like to get everything in order quickly, but if your new place is smaller than your old one, you may want to think a bit about the most efficient ways to store office, kitchen and bathroom items.  A little more relaxed "we'll get to it when we can" attitude goes a long way in helping ease the stress of adjusting to a new home.

And finally, have you considered buying a new bed?  Our old one was getting too soft, so we started our new life in our new condo with a glorious, new mattress, frame and headboard.  It was so nice to sink into our comfortable, never-slept-in bed after a long day of moving.  Just add a glass of the favorite wine you brought over ahead of time, and The Big Move might seem pretty manageable after all.