5 Downsizing Tips for Seniors

The beginning of a downsizing project can be daunting, even if you’ve already made up your mind to relocate. For those who have lived in their home for years or decades, it can be particularly emotional to part ways with the belongings you’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Thankfully, there are many ways to mitigate the stress of making a big move.

Before you even start sorting through everything, create a reasonable timeline for your move. Whether you’re moving next month or next year, your downsizing plans will be much easier if you can create a schedule and stick to it. Here are five tips to follow for a seamless transition to a smaller space:

1. Start by Decluttering an Unused Room

When you first start out, you may already have a few items in your bedroom in mind that you’re ready to part with. However, this doesn’t always mean the rest of the room will be so easy—in fact, you may find more than you bargained for tucked away in the corners of a top shelf or stashed in a drawer. Instead of tackling a room you use every day, start with a space you hardly visit, where there’s likely to be more items you haven’t seen in years and are more willing to give up. Linen closets, laundry rooms and unused home offices are a great starting point since, over time, they can often become storage space for unwanted items.

2. Eliminate Rooms You Definitely Don’t Need

If you’re relocating to a smaller space, it may make sense to evaluate what rooms you have now and compare them to what rooms you’ll have in your new home. Let’s say you live in a two-bedroom house and you’re relocating to a one-bedroom apartment. In this case, you probably have at least a bedroom to unload, and possibly one or two living rooms, depending on your floorplan. In cases like this, nearly everything in those extra rooms can go. Unloading large furniture is a great way to start since you can make space to sort through all the more sentimental items.

3. Say Goodbye to Duplicates

This especially applies to linens and kitchen supplies. Over the years, it’s convenient to accumulate several sets of linens or multiple spatulas. But if you’re heading to a smaller space, it isn’t as practical to have so many houseware options. While you may have your own reasons for owning a French press, espresso machine, moka pot AND drip coffee maker, you can probably decide which appliance is best suited for day-to-day and which ones are just taking up space in the meantime.

4. Create Two Piles: “Yes” or “No” — There Is No “Maybe”

If you’re starting to sort, avoid making a pile of stuff named “I’ll come back to this later.” If you’re going through a large assortment of items, it may be especially tempting to make this third pile. In the end, the “maybe” pile can become the largest of the three, forcing you to essentially start over and make some difficult decisions. Instead, make your hard decisions on the first go-around and stick to them. When deciding what should stay and what should go, think about whether the item is truly useful, how you can store it in your new home or if your loved ones would also appreciate it as a legacy gift. If it’s hard to justify it in any of those three ways, it’s probably a good candidate for the “no” pile.

5. Consider Early Legacy Gifts

Why wait to pass down heirlooms if you already know who wants what? Maybe you’ve already decided who will get the artwork, the china, the first edition books. If so, consider passing those items on now as part of your downsizing plan. This will help you clear out some clutter, knowing it’s going to a good home, and give you a chance to have a candid conversation with your loved ones about your belongings. You may find that they’re more than willing to take some items off your hands rather than see them disappear.

No matter the timing, downsizing is rarely an easy task. Parting ways with many of personal belongings you’ve collected over several years or decades can be overwhelming, even if you’re completely ready to trade in a full-size home for a low-maintenance lifestyle.

For a smooth transition, talk to an interior designer or space planner at your new home , or a downsizing specialist who can offer guidance on what to bring and what to leave behind. Remember to give yourself plenty of time and approach the process with a positive outlook!

Making the transition to a senior living community? Check out our recent blog, “6 Secrets to a Successful Transition to Senior Independent Living,” for key tips to help ensure a successful, stress-free move.