5/16/2017 3:01:00 PM Downsizing to make room for life's next chapter
ROCKTON, Ill. (AP) — Jack and Sandy Daniels never intended to move when they built their home in Rockton — north of Rockford — more than 40 years ago.
“Nobody thinks they’re going to get old,” Jack said.
But as their children grew older, they found that so did they. The half-acre of land with mature trees they had enjoyed over the years became more difficult to maintain in their 70s.
With one daughter living in Milwaukee and the other living in the Illinois Valley — each a 1.5 hour drive away — the Daniels couple came to a crossroads.
“We recognize that frailties come with age, and we didn’t want to be a burden on our kids,” Jack said. “We did not want our kids to have to be trucking up there every time we have a problem.”
Ten years ago, their daughter Dixie Mills of La Salle asked them if they would ever consider moving to the area. They were agreeable, but it was five more years before they really began to talk about it — and another five years before it became a reality.
Both daughters invited them, Jack said, but moving to Milwaukee had a big downside, since Sandy isn’t comfortable driving in big cities. “You would never drive again,” Jack told her.
Making the move was a big change.
“It meant leaving friends up there that we’ve known for over 50 years and making new ones down here,” Sandy said.
“Which wasn’t hard at all, because the people down here are very welcoming,” Jack said.
Realtor Theresa Washkowiak of Janko Realty in Peru helped the couple find their new home and said she sees seniors downsizing on a regular basis.
“I think, personally, it’s an exciting time,” she said, comparing it to the excitement of buying their first home as a newly married couple.
“It’s like a new chapter,” Mills said.
With the decision to relocate came the decision to downsize. When you’re moving, it makes sense not to bring things with you that you don’t really want or need.
The Daniels couple donated a lot to Goodwill, had multiple garage sales, and still filled two dumpsters with accumulated “stuff” after 46 years in their home.
Letting go of their things and their home wasn’t easy.
“Once you make the decision you just kind of have to shut your eyes and say, ‘This is the way it is,”’ Sandy said.
“You focus on the new home instead of getting melancholy about the way it was,” Jack said.
Jerry and Audrey Prokuski of Mendota are still on the other side of the fence: They are hoping to sell their tri-level home and purchase a ranch home. Each of them suffered illness last year, which led them to decide it was time to downsize.
“Anyplace we want to go, we’ve got stairs,” Jerry said. “And it’s beginning to be difficult to maneuver the stairs.”
Washkowiak looks at downsizing as a positive opportunity for her clients.
“It’s a great time to bring family together,” she said.
Families share memories as heirlooms, recipes and furniture are dispersed among relatives, and other items are kicked to the curb.
“You’re really deciding what you need and what you don’t need — what’s important to you,” Washkowiak said.
The Prokuskis have begun that process and have been happy to see heirloom furniture find places in their children’s homes — including an end table with eagle-claw legs that Jerry’s grandparents had received as a wedding gift.
“That was really popular. It’s a true antique,” he said.
But it hasn’t been all roses.
“Downsizing, as far as I’m concerned, is really a chore,” Jerry Prokuski said. “You collect an awful lot through one’s lifetime.”
The Prokuskis were born in the 1930s.
“We threw nothing out,” Jerry said. “We were brought up to utilize.”
The Daniels couple are members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Jack has scaled back his involvement with the organization since the move.
“She’s getting more frail, and I promised her I would be there for her,” Jack said. “I’m just less available for congregation business now, and for me that’s a relief because I can focus more on my wife.”
Sandy has multiple sclerosis.
“I’ve been dealing with that for over 50 years,” she said. “It was a real trauma to move I guess, to have to uproot and change. But I’m doing it, and I will do it.”
Finding health care providers that fit their needs took some time. For a while after moving, they were driving 180 miles round trip to see their familiar physicians.
“We’re happy to have found (local) doctors now,” Sandy said, “and dentists and eye care.”
They weren’t sure how their two cats would handle the move, but the pets already seemed at home in less than a week at the new house. Not so for the nine months the couple was in a rental.
“I wonder if they pick up the vibe from the owners,” Sandy said.
“Maybe we finally feel settled,” Jack agreed.
The Daniels’ new home is a perfect fit for them, with a woods and creek behind the property.