Congratulations! You’ve decided you’re ready to rightsize from your much-too-large home into a comfortable, active senior living community. No more yardwork, home upkeep, cooking, cleaning or maintenance for you. Now all you have to do is find some helpful downsizing tips for seniors – then start downsizing, packing and moving.
Sounds fun, right? Right? Ok, maybe “fun” isn’t the right word. The downsizing process, not to mention packing and moving itself, can be time-consuming and laborious, especially for an older adult. Friends and family members may offer to help with decluttering and getting rid of unwanted items, but their good intentions may not be very helpful. If you have 50 years of keepsakes, possessions and meaningful memories, how could anyone but you know what to keep and what to let go of?
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right source for solutions. We’ve assembled these downsizing tips for seniors, along with ideas to help you get packing and moving.
1. Accept that things truly are just things. This is first on the list because it’s the hardest. You may not want to move because you can’t let go of your grandma’s china cabinet or your father’s antique oak desk. Maybe you just can’t part with your full 10-person dining room table, even though you won’t have a dining room at your new residence.
Yes, downsizing can be emotionally difficult. There’s a good reason why searching “downsizing tips for seniors” comes back with so many results. Your possessions are more than just things to you, just as your house means more to you than just another piece of real estate.
But approach your move as a fresh start, a new adventure. Try to remember that holding on to your things could be holding you back from a happier, healthier, less stressful life.
2. Measure twice, cut once. Get a floor plan of your new residence with exact square footage, then measure all the furniture you plan to take with you. That way you’ll know exactly what will fit, and where – and you won’t be tempted to move furniture that you know simply won’t fit. All the furniture that doesn’t fit gets cut from the moving list.
One trick is to use masking tape on the floor of your current home’s rooms to match the square footage of the corresponding room in your new residence. Then put your furniture in the spot where you plan to have it in your new place (this is where strong young family members can be remarkably helpful).
3. Start with small spaces. Bathrooms, closets, cubbies under the stairs – these are great places to start. These are the spots where you’ll find lots of clothes, coats and shoes, your kids’ old athletic equipment, gallons of old paint and possibly expired medications. All this can be donated or safely discarded (medications especially should be disposed of properly; the Federal Drug Administration explains how).
4. Move on to rooms you won’t have in your new residence. If you’re downsizing from a four-bedroom home with a den and basement into a two-bedroom apartment with no den or basement, that’s quite a few rooms’ worth of stuff to eliminate. But chances are, you haven’t used those extra rooms much in several years anyway. Ask family members or friends if they need the furniture you won’t be taking with you. Then donate what’s left to a group in your area. Some groups will even come pick up the items at your house when you donate it.
5. Close down the Kid Museum. Some seniors lovingly refer to their homes as shrines dedicated to their grown children. That’s because adult children move out and leave behind their school projects, old bicycles, toys, soccer trophies, video game consoles and drum sets at their parents’ house to collect dust. Ask your kids if they want any of their old things and then – after fair warning – donate it, set it aside for a garage sale or toss it out.
6. Ask yourself the tough questions. There will be tough decisions to make. But for items you’re on the fence about, ask yourself:
Do I need it, or want it?
Does it have sentimental value to me?
Do I use it often enough that it warrants bringing along?
Am I already bringing an item that does the same thing?
Consider making two piles: a YES, KEEP pile and a NO, DISCARD pile. Don’t let yourself end up with a MAYBE pile.
7. If you don’t need it, don’t keep it. If home maintenance and yardwork will be taken care of at your new community, get rid of your 15-foot ladder, lawn mower and trimmers, shovels, rakes and sawhorses. If you don’t plan to cook that much anymore, keep the basics like cookie sheets and the toaster – but out go the heavy mixers, multiple baking pans and cast iron skillets. But keep that blender for margaritas – a party is a great way to meet your new neighbors.
If you’ve done the downsizing thanks to our downsizing tips for seniors, now you have a move to make. You have some options:
Family assistance. If you aren’t bringing much, ask friends and family members to help you pack and load a moving van. Moving vans are inexpensive to rent for the day and are available in assorted sizes.
Hire a full-service moving company. They’ll send people to your door to pack, move and unpack all your belongings. Some will even hang your pictures and artwork on your new walls.
Moving Made Easy. This program, available through Friendship Village, offers you all the resources to sell, downsize, move and get settled. You’ll be assigned a move-in coordinator who will be with you at every step to handle your concerns and answer your questions.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re considering a move to a senior living community. On the bright side, our senior living experts at Friendship Village are here to help.
If you have questions about one of our St. Louis communities, or would like to learn more about Moving Made Easy, simply contact us. We’re available to answer your questions, talk about our floor plan options or arrange your personal visit.