7 Downsizing Tips for Seniors

Downsizing: illustration showing home with "Sold" signHow do you pack up a lifetime?

If you’re planning a move to Bridgeway Senior Living in the near future, you’re probably overwhelmed by everything you need to do. Contacting real estate agents to sell your home, sorting and packing your belongings, scheduling movers… the tasks just never end. Downsizing to a smaller home or senior living community is a stressful time for most people, and you may end up wondering: is it even worth it?

That’s when you need to remember the many benefits of downsizing. Maybe you’ve been having trouble keeping up with cleaning and maintaining your home. Maybe the high bills of a large house are what’s spurring you to move. Or maybe you need medical assistance that you can’t get at home, or you want to be closer to your family. Whatever the reason, moving to a senior living community will enhance your life in so many ways. But it will take some work to get there.

Here we’ve compiled the best tips and advice to help you transition as smoothly as possible:

1. Declutter.

Ideally, you should have started this process years ago. But if you didn’t, don’t worry. Just start right now. You just need to get a handle on what you have in your house; you don’t need to make big decisions about your things yet. Roughly sort your belongings into four categories:

  • Items to take with you to your new home
  • Things to sell or donate to a charity
  • Things to give to family members and loved ones
  • Trash

At this stage, you’re just getting rid of the real junk. Do you have filing cabinets full of bills going back to 1973? Throw them out, or better yet, recycle them. Get rid of the rusty bikes in the garage and unused gardening tools. If you have more than one of the same item, get rid of the doubles.

2. Plan around your new space.

Try to get a floor plan of your new apartment or suite, so you can plan which furniture to bring with you. At the very least, make sure you know the dimensions of the space, or at least an estimate. Knowing how much room you’ll have will help you determine exactly what you want to bring with you. And then…

3. Write lists.

Take the time to create detailed lists of what you want to do with your things. It helps to keep the lists handy all the time, so you can jot down items as you come across them. Keep one list of everything you’re packing up to take with you, and another list of things you want to give away—and to whom you’re giving them. Everything else will either be sold, donated, or thrown out, depending on its condition. Once you’re writing lists, make sure to keep another checklist of everything you need to do before the move. This can include things like scheduling movers and shutting off your utilities.

4. Save your memories.

Do you have stacks of albums full of cherished photos? You want to hang on to them, but that’s not practical when you’re downsizing. Consider keeping the particularly sentimental or historical originals, and putting the rest on DVD using a photo scanning service like Legacybox. Similarly, if you have sentimental items that can’t come with you to your new home, consider photographing them before saying goodbye.

5. Ask for help.

Moving is not easy for anyone, and certainly not for seniors leaving their beloved home. Enlist your family members and friends to help with your downsizing. They can help lug things to the yard for bulk trash pickup, or help you set up a yard sale if you choose to sell your things that way. Having objective people around can also help you make decisions about keeping sentimental, but purely unnecessary, items.

6. Arrange your paperwork.

Update your address in all your personal records: the Social Security office, your bank accounts and credit cards, your driver’s license, magazine subscriptions, etc. You can also arrange an automatic forward to your new address at your local post office.

7. Allow yourself time to say goodbye.

Downsizing is bittersweet. It’s hard to leave your home of many years and part with so much of your belongings. Give yourself time to reflect on all the memories and good times the house gave you, and then say goodbye. It’s not the end; it’s just the start of a new, exciting chapter in your life!