Downsizing Guide

A Downsizing Guide for Older Adults

More and more older adults are beginning to realize the joy that comes with downsizing their homes after retirement. There are many benefits to living in a smaller space including fewer home maintenance costs, less time spent cleaning and lower taxes.

Nevertheless, downsizing may seem like more work than just staying put. Paring down a household full of memories and things can be overwhelming. But moving to a smaller place is easier than you might think, especially if you make a plan and have lots of helping hands. Here are a few tips to make downsizing as simple as possible.

15 Tips for Downsizing

1. Start small.
Decluttering is overwhelming, especially if you are moving from a three- or four-bedroom home to a one-bedroom apartment in a senior living community. However, rather than become frustrated by the task, choose to start small. Tackle one closet, dresser or even drawer at a time.

2. Enlist the help of friends and family.
Schedule dates for downsizing and ask your friends, neighbors and family members to volunteer their time. Make the event fun by ordering pizza or grabbing a bottle of wine. Not only will an extra set of hands help you get rid of clutter, but it is also a great way to spend valuable time with people you care about.

3. Make a plan.
While you might be tempted to just jump in and start packing, it is actually more efficient to create a downsizing plan. Try to think in terms of weeks or months, rather than days. Schedule one or two work sessions in a day and plan to work for about two hours at a time. Working any longer will leave you fatigued.

4. Create lists.
Lists keep you organized and prevent downsizing from becoming chaotic. They can also help you maintain direction when you are in the midst of paring down. For example, you can make to-do lists to remind yourself to shut off utilities and cancel subscriptions. You could also make a list of keepsakes you would like to bring to your new home.

5. Gather moving supplies.
Secure moving boxes or plastic totes, packing paper, tape, masking tape, markers, garbage bags and other moving materials. Make sure you have a place to sit in each room too, as you can do a lot of the work from the comfort of a chair or couch.

6. Separate the stuff.
Create three piles: keep, throw away and donate. Select an item and put it in the appropriate pile. Put garbage directly in bags. When the “keep” and “donate” piles get large enough, put them in labeled boxes or totes.

7. Be decisive.
Use the OHIO rule, which means you “Only Handle Items Once.” Avoid moving items from the throw-away pile to the keep pile, for example. Indecision demands time and emotional energy. If an item will no longer bring joy to your life but is still in good condition, choose to donate it.

8. Give things away.
Make others happy while you downsize. Has a friend always loved a painting in your home? Ask if they would like to keep it. Does a helper seem to admire a particular item? Let them take it home.

9. Take pictures.
Do you have a collection of teapots that you won’t have space for in your new home? Choose one or two that mean the most to you and take pictures of all the rest. You can also digitize books and paperwork to save even more space.

10. Keep your favorite photographs.
While you may not have room for all your photo albums, you can save a handful of your favorite pictures. You could also digitize your favorites by running them through a scanner. Invite a child, grandchild or friend to help with this. After all, going through old pictures is a wonderful opportunity to share memories and family history.

11. Sell your stuff.
Want to make a little cash? Sell your unwanted items. You can haul your possessions outside for a yard sale during the summer months or take them to a local consignment store during the winter. If you are tech-savvy, you could also sell items on online forums like Facebook Marketplace.

12. Clean as you go.
Dust, vacuum and mop each area of your home as you go. Cleaning small areas is much less stressful and exhausting than cleaning the entire house the night before you move.

13. Pack a “First Day” box.
Develop a “first day” box that contains toiletries, prescriptions, personal belongings and other essential items you will need on your first day at your new place. Otherwise, you will be rummaging through boxes and bags when you should be soaking in your new space.

14. Imagine your new space.
Think about the layout of your new space when deciding which items to keep. You may wish to leave the china cabinet behind, for example, but bring your favorite recliner. To make the most of your new living space, you may even want to opt for a furnished place.

15. Say goodbye.
Leaving behind a household full of memories can be bittersweet. This may be the home where your children grew up or where you and your spouse celebrated your 60th wedding anniversary. Thankfully, these memories will be with you no matter where you are. Moving to a senior living community also provides the opportunity to make new ones.

You’re Ready to Downsize

Your post-retirement years are meant to be full of fun, socializing and spending time with family. That’s why so many adults consider downsizing. One of the easiest and most effective ways to downsize is to move to a supportive senior living community. Senior living communities, also known as retirement communities, are an opportunity to release the burden of homeownership, maintenance and many common chores. If you are stil unsure about downsizing, take our five minute quiz to help provide more guidance and insight.