This post was originally published on February 16, 2018 and has been updated for relevancy.
It should surprise no one that downsizing is a stressful time for seniors. Selling the family home and making the move is stressful on its own. Making decisions about the possessions you’ve collected over a lifetime doesn’t make the process easier as those choices can be tough in many different ways. It’s time-consuming, often labor-intensive, and emotionally draining. If you’re preparing for a retirement community, make the process as stress-free and straightforward as possible with these tips for downsizing and decluttering your home.
Top Tips for Downsizing Your Home
When downsizing is in your future, everything comes down to proper planning. Get started now with our favorite tips for downsizing.
- Know your space. If you already know where you’ll be moving to, find out how much space will be in your new home and what will already be provided in your space as far as storage, furniture, and different appliances. If you’re moving to a retirement community, it should be easy to get this information from the administration. If you’ve already received a tour, taking pictures of your new space could also help you visualize where you want to place your belongings. Knowing this information from the start will make it easier to decide what comes with you.
- Start early. Even if you’re not ready to downsize right away, it may be time to plan for the future. Many seniors only begin downsizing when they’re incapable of living on their own or after the death of a spouse. Waiting for tragedy means added stressors during an already difficult process. Start getting rid of belongings and cleaning the home before the time comes.
- Organize a plan. Before you get started, create lists of things you need versus things you don’t need. It may help to reflect on the last time you used an item to consider whether you need it or if it’s just taking up space. Some follow a time constraint rule where if they haven’t used or worn an item in a certain amount of time, usually over 6 months to a year, they toss it out. Creating an organized list of your belongings will help you visually organize them and allow you to evaluate what you plan to keep and what you can get rid of moving forward. This approach also allows you to easily group your items based on what you plan on doing with them. Taking time to organize yourself before you declutter and maintaining the same organization throughout the process creates a smooth and clearer path.
- Start small. Decluttering and downsizing your home can be a majorly time-consuming process that can be emotionally exhausting. This is why the most effective approach is to tackle a project like this in smaller increments. For example, you may plan on decluttering one room at a time and working your way around the house. You can create a schedule where you plan on tackling one room every few days or even one room a week, depending on the amount of work involved.
- Gift now. Do you have meaningful items that you’ve been saving to give to your kids or relatives? Legacy gifts are nice, but giving them away now serves two purposes: you’ll reduce clutter in your own home AND you’ll get to see your children enjoy them!
- Involve the family. Making decisions about what to keep, give away, or sell is a complicated process. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Enlist the help of your family members; their contribution and insight will help ease the process and they may be able to help you make tough decisions.
- Condense it. You can’t take everything with you, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave the memories behind. Got a treasured collection of fine china, coins, or even antique lunchboxes? Take pictures of the collection and put them in a photo album or frame. But keep in mind that you don’t have to get rid of everything! Choose a few favorite pieces to come with you.
- Digitize your photos. Another way you can downsize even more is through digitizing your photo collections. By digitizing your photo albums, you can keep those memories in digital picture frames or on a computer instead of packing clunky books containing hundreds of photos to take with you. Not sure how to go about digitizing your photos? Ask a friend or family member for help.
- Donate, sell, or throw it away. The items in your home will vary significantly in value, both monetary and sentimental. Once you’ve packed what you’re going to take and have given away the items your family members want to keep, what do you do with what’s left? Take some time to think about these items seriously. Are they valuable? You may want to get them appraised and sell them. Clothes and other items may be better suited for donation at your local Goodwill, and heavy furniture will often disappear quickly if placed on the curb. Take a hard look at what’s left. You may be able to sell some of it at a yard sale, but certain items’ value may be purely sentimental. If you can’t take it with you and no one else wants it, it’s time to throw it away.
- BONUS: When you do move, there are certain items that you’ll want to have with you right away. Pack a box with these first-day essentials, such as toiletries, medication, and maybe a few favorite decorations to make the place feel like home. By preparing this ahead of time, you’ll save yourself the headache of trying to dig through boxes for the items you really need.
Finding Your New Home
Downsizing and moving into an assisted living community can be a stressful project. However, with proper planning, it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. At the Briarwood Community, we want seniors to feel welcomed into their new homes and prepare them with the information they need. Downsizing is just one part of the process—do you need help finding the right retirement community for you and your lifestyle? Get started by downloading our free eBook, Preparing for and Finding a Retirement Community.