The Ultimate Downsizing Guide for Seniors Moving into Independent Living

Woman putting towels on a shelf

Many people experience an initial negative reaction to the term “downsizing.” They may see all the obvious benefits of moving to a senior living community and feel like it’s the optimal time, but reject the idea of downsizing. That’s why we’re exploring how to downsize in a way that feels constructive to your lifestyle and puts the process in the context of opening your life to more opportunities.

The term we prefer to use is “rightsizing.” Seniors move to what feels to them like the right size home for this stage of their life, so they can spend the right amount of time doing what they love and seeing the people who matter most to them. Finding that “right” ratio can look different for each person. It may include downsizing your home to save time and hassle, or it may mean finding a residence with similar square footage in a more convenient community. There’s no wrong way to rightsize as long as it works for you.

5 Helpful Steps for How to Downsize or Rightsize

 

1. Decide on Timing

Many people know they’re going to have to begin this project “someday,” but we encourage you not to put it off too long. Ideally, you want to start before an emergency event dictates a move. Choosing your timing keeps the process in your hands and allows you to make thoughtful, unhurried decisions.

 

2. Know Where You're Moving

It’s undeniably helpful to know the size of your new residence, as well as any amenities it offers. That way, when you’re going through your current residence, you’ll know if the sectional couch will fit in the living room, how much space you’ll have in the linen closet, and how many shelves you’ll have for books.

If you’re moving to a senior living community, you should take stock of what amenities are available. With chef-prepared meals served in the dining room, café and bistro, you may be able to part with several kitchen appliances. You might sell the old rowing machine, because you’ll now have a fully outfitted fitness center down the hall. The more you know about what will be available at your new residence, the better decisions you’ll be able to make.

Also consider how you’d want to design your new place. Having a clear image of your beautiful new residence will help you know just what to keep.

 

3. Divide Your Belongings Into Categories

Once you’re ready to dive into the selection process, start with a system. Organize your belongings into categories. If you can, try not to ruminate too much over one piece. Every so often you may have a hard time deciding what to do with a certain item. Create a category for things to “decide later,” and keep making progress. Hopefully, you can come back to the harder decisions with more clarity later. These categories should provide a good starting point:

Pass on to family members
Some items won’t have a place in your new residence, even though they’re valuable or represent an important history. These pieces are perfect to hand down to the next generations. If one of your children has always had a special attachment to the piano, you get to experience the joy of giving it to them. If one of your grandchildren is about to move into their new house, you may get to be the hero who helps them furnish it. As you’re considering each item, have fun imagining which of your loved ones would treasure it.

Donate to charity
Some of your belongings may be useful to people outside your family and social circle. There are numerous charities that would be thrilled to receive furniture, appliances, clothes, books — whatever you can spare. When you donate quality items to a charitable 501(c)(3) organization, you can receive a tax write-off for the value of each item.

You can decide for yourself if you’d like to donate to national organizations, like Goodwill, The Salvation Army or the National Furniture Bank Association. Or you could opt to donate to local thrift stores, homeless shelters or women’s shelters. There’s no shortage of great causes to support.

Sell
If you’d like, you could choose to fund part of your move by selling certain items. If it’s an especially valuable antique, you will want to find a certified dealer to get the best price. If it’s an everyday item, you could find a market for it on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or Etsy.

Decide later
Once you’ve established a good rhythm in your categorization, come back to some of the harder decisions. You may find that you have a better sense of what to do with them now that you’re deeper into the process.

Keep
This may be a category you have to revisit and pare down a few times — that’s very normal. But the items that you ultimately bring with you to your new place will become even more treasured and meaningful.

 

4. Pause for Memories

Throughout this process of downsizing your home, take a minute to appreciate the fond memories you had with each item. Give thanks for the good times that might make it bittersweet to part with the piece now. It was something that brought you joy, and now you’re allowing someone else to create wonderful memories with it.

If you want to be sure to remember an item, take a picture of it. You can create an album and write down the stories behind each piece. That way you can make sure the history isn’t forgotten, and you can keep a token of that item with you.

 

5. Bring in Professionals if Necessary

Sometimes the job of organizing a lifetime of belongings can feel overwhelming, or seniors experience physical limitations that prohibit them from moving furniture and heavy boxes. There are great companies that focus on helping older adults rightsize their residences. They can make your project much more manageable, and can help with everything from organization to selling your current residence.

If you’d like to know more about the ways Freedom Plaza can help simplify your move, or if you’d like tips about how other seniors have made the best use of their floor plan, contact us. You’ll hear back from a team member shortly.