We love our possessions. They bring back happy memories, connect us with loved ones, show off our tastes. But sometimes as we age, it becomes necessary to downsize.
Maybe needs or abilities have changed. Maybe declining health requires space in your current house be freed up for medical equipment, or moving to a smaller house would make life easier. Maybe you just want to live simpler. Whatever the reason for needing to downsize, it likely also means needing to get rid of some of your possessions, and this article will help you through that process.
The Benefits of Senior Downsizing
Although downsizing is sometimes tinged with sadness, there is also a host of benefits that come along with getting out from under a lifetime’s worth of accumulated belongings. This is especially true for older adults who might no longer have the desire or the ability to manage their possessions as they once did.
Here are some of the benefits older adults experience through downsizing their home:
- Reduced costs and stress – when moving to a smaller home or an apartment, monthly expenses such as a mortgage / rent, utilities, insurance, and more are reduced or eliminated, as well as the stress associated with them.
- Increased leisure time – yard work, seasonal chores, home maintenance, and the honey to-do list is a thing of the past.
- Greater flexibility – enjoy the ability to take a vacation or visit friends and family members without worrying about someone to watch the house or pick up the mail.
- See your possessions bring joy – you may have classic antiques or other items your family has long admired. Now you get to watch your possessions make them happy.
There are many reasons for downsizing. Some people downsize their possessions to live a clutter-free life, while other people downsize their home to eliminate unnecessary stress and responsibility. Curious as to whether downsizing is right for you? Read our financial planning advice for seniors, as understanding your finances and your long term economic goals will help you determine the best course of action.
Four Tips to Effective Senior Downsizing
No matter your reasons for downsizing, and whether you want to move to a smaller home or just remove unnecessary clutter, there are good and bad ways to go about doing it. Here are four great tips for making the downsizing process as pleasant as possible:
1. Come Up with a Goal-Oriented Plan
Sound planning is the key to a relatively pain-free downsizing process. If you want to eliminate a great deal of wasted time and unnecessary stress, begin mapping out a strategy as soon as possible after you make the decision to move.
Your plan should be centered on well-formulated and time-sensitive goals. Take on the most cluttered areas of your home first — usually the kitchen, living room, and family room. Resolve to reduce the number of belongings in these areas by half every two weeks, for example.
Once you’ve pared down the clutter in these rooms to your most important possessions, you can proceed methodically through the rest of the house, choosing what to sell, donate, or keep at a pace that allows you to reach the goals you’ve set on time. You’ll have a much less intimidating task in front of you after cycling through this process two or three times.
If you are moving to a smaller home, think about your new space. What will fit in your new home? What is necessary? You probably won’t need items that have been sitting in your basement or garage for the past 10 years, but you may want to keep your small kitchen appliances and dishware.
2. Get a Head Start
Moving is difficult at any age, but it can be particularly hard for seniors aiming to downsize. This is one of the many reasons it’s important to get started as early as possible, hopefully before the complexities of such a daunting process become too stressful.
If you’re already planning to put your old home on the market sometime in the near future, it’s best to start paring down your belongings at least six weeks before the house is actually listed. This amount of advance notice will allow you to maximize the return you receive on any items you put up for sale and help you find the best possible home for anything designated for donation.
Does the idea of downsizing seem daunting? Unable to decide what items should stay and what items should go? Read our 13 tips on how to take the stress and anxiety out of downsizing.
3. Maintain a Positive Attitude by Focusing on the Benefits of Downsizing
Downsizing can seem like a dismal prospect. Even if you’re merely trying to simplify your daily life, offloading the possessions you’ve spent a lifetime accumulating is often accompanied by a deep sense
of sadness or nostalgia. That’s why it’s crucial to keep your spirits up during the process by looking on the bright side of the downsizing process.
Look at your coming move as though it’s the beginning of something new, not as some sort of mournful passing. Even if you end up jettisoning items to which you’re emotionally attached, there are also feelings of liberation and excitement that come with simplifying your everyday life. Focus on these feelings of renewal and new possibility to make downsizing into something that’s much less of a chore.
4. Ask for Help
At the very least, downsizing is a laborious process. Even if you’re thrilled at the prospect of having less clutter to manage, the process of getting rid of a houseful of possessions requires a lot of hard work. That’s one of the reasons it’s a good idea to enlist a little help from friends and members of your family.
Of course, it’s not just the heavy lifting that your loved ones can help with – they can also aid you in making those tough decisions about what to discard and what to keep. And perhaps most importantly of all, your family is often the best source of emotional support during this potentially difficult time. Plus, they may want some of the items you’re intending to remove from your home.
Downsizing to Make Way for the Future
The arrival of the new year signals a time for rebirth and change for many people. Yes, it’s a time for looking back and reflection, but it can also be time for constructive action. For many older adults, the New Year is the ideal time for simplifying their lives and downsizing.
And while there are pros and cons alike to the downsizing process, there’s no reason to make it any harder than it already is. By following the tips we’ve discussed, older adults and their families can reap the benefits of downsizing without experiencing some of its many pitfalls.
We hope the information we’ve provided proves valuable to you and your loved ones. Want additional tips on downsizing? Check out our 8 tips for downsizing your home!
List Of What To Take When Moving Into Assisted Living
Amie Clark (co-founder of The Senior List) wrote a helpful post entitled “Downsizing To Community Living- what to bring and what to let go”. It contains some valuable tips on what to take when moving into assisted living (or any other community living facility). Moving Into Assisted Living (What to Bring)
- Bed – Generally, beds are not furnished (the exception would be an adult care home), unless your insurance is paying for a hospital bed. Depending on the size of the bedroom, a twin, double, or full-sized mattress is best. You want to make sure there is plenty of room around the sides of the bed to maneuver safely, especially if other furniture is in the room. A foot-board and headboard may be desired, depending on the space.
- Chairs and Sofa
- Shower curtain and rings- Most communities supply the rod.
- Towels- Several (2-3)complete sets of towels. If housekeeping is done weekly, this should be plenty.
- Sheets – At least two sets, unless the bed is changed frequently, most housekeeping is weekly that includes laundering sheets.
- Bedspread, blankets, and pillows
- Laundry Basket
- Garbage cans – In a retirement or assisted living setting, a small garbage in the bathroom(s) and kitchen area are handy.
- Clothes Hangers
- Personal Items & Toiletries – toothpaste, toothbrush, denture products, comb/brush, soap, shampoo, shaving products, incontinence supplies*, glasses, hearing aids.
- Clock, personal photos, and decorative items- familiar items in your new home, like curtains, artwork, and houseplants can make a world of difference to make your new accommodations feel more like home.
- Telephone (optional)
- TV/ Radio
- Dresser/ Nightstand
- Clothing – Garments that are washable- commercial washing machines can be very harsh on clothing, I would limit dry clean items, and comfortable for everyday use. Perhaps a few dressy items for special events.
*Some assisted living communities will assist in ordering incontinence supplies as they may be able to purchase in bulk at reduced prices.