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The Complete Guide to Downsizing for Seniors

a stack of boxed packed up ready to move

Our living, working, social and emotional needs change as we transition through life. It’s the same with our living situation. The large home and collected treasures that seemed so necessary when our children were young may now feel overwhelming. As health changes and family moves away, older adults often find themselves making the shift to a safer, cozier, and maintenance-free residence.

Does this sound like you? If so, you may also find yourself asking the question, “But if I downsize, what do I do with all my stuff?”

In this complete guide to downsizing for seniors, we answer this question and many more. We will take you step-by-step through the process of evaluating, planning, and implementing a downsizing strategy that may ultimately lead you to feel happier and healthier.

Dividing your downsizing project into individual steps can make the process less intimidating. Here are some things to consider as you begin your downsizing journey:

What are your downsizing goals?

Stay focused on the end result of your project. Do you just want to do a quick decluttering, or are you preparing to change your living situation? Many older adults want to reduce maintenance costs and the stress associated with managing a large household.

If you are moving from a three-bedroom space to a one-bedroom space, you may need help to sort and prioritize which items stay and which must go.

When is the best time to start?

The best time to start downsizing is now! This process often takes much longer than expected. After all, many of us have a lifetime of gifted objects, sentimental items and yes – even a little (or a lot!) of clutter – to get through. This can also be a physically and emotionally difficult process, so be sure to give yourself the time you need.

How to prioritize your downsizing project

Breaking your project up into manageable portions will help reduce potential anxiety. It will also give you a sense of accomplishment as you complete each step.

  1. Plan your approach. First, plan which room you will tackle first. Try to start with a smaller room that you aren’t using as often. Ensure that you have enough boxes and bags on hand to sort items into trash, recycle, gift, or donate piles.
  2. Declutter. When you are ready to begin in the room, start throwing out anything that you know is destined for trash or recycling. Next, sort through everyday items that you will be donating. This includes clothing that hasn’t been worn in years and objects that no longer have any use or benefit to you but may be appreciated by others.
  3. Reduce. Next, sort through sentimental or treasured items that you want to keep but know you have no place for in your new living situation. Consider giving them to friends and family members who you will visit regularly.
  4. Minimize. Now that you have reduced the number of your belongings, consider whether or not you really need heavy furniture like chests of drawers, wardrobes, and shelves that take up a lot of space. Charity shops are always happy to receive these items, and some may even pick them up for you.
  5. Repeat. After you complete your first room, see how you are feeling. If you think you have the time and energy to start the next room on the list right away, keep going! However, anticipate that this process may take several days or several weeks. Make a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

Downsizing: Next Steps

In part three of our three-part series on downsizing in your retirement, we will discuss options for older adults who may need some assistance to successfully complete their downsizing project.

Now is also a great time to begin exploring your senior living options. Discover the perfect community for you!