Downsizing Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
Downsizing your home can be overwhelming. Taking the stress of moving and compounding it with the challenge of going through years’ worth of “stuff” makes some people give up even before they get started.
Ask yourself what belongings you can’t part with. Create a list of things you treasure most, while keeping in mind that you won’t have quite as much space as you are used to.
Things to Consider Before Moving as a Senior Adult
Before moving to a new place, you should think about how your needs might change in the future:
- Am I close enough to friends and family?
- Will I have a support system?
- Are there groups related to my interests?
- Are there recreational activities?
- Will the current area out-price me if I’m on a fixed income?
- Can I afford all my expenses, including utilities and property taxes?
- Will I be able to afford the same place if my needs change?
- What options are available if I need medical care or help with errands?
- What type of emergency services and amenities are offered?
- What will I gain from moving? What will I lose?
Now that these considerations have been thoroughly discussed with your spouse and children, it’s time to make a decision. If that decision is yes, it’s time to downsize and move, here are some tips that are designed to make the move smoother, easier and less overwhelming.
Taking the Uncertainty out of Downsizing
With practical tips, you can go from feeling overwhelmed about moving and downsizing to feeling confident, prepared and ready.
1.) Give Yourself Ample Time
Downsizing should be a process—not an event—so start early. Taking your time with the downsize will make the event less stressful, allowing you a bigger window of time to decide which items you really need before moving into your new home.
When the first thought of downsizing crosses your mind, make the decision to reduce your items with three boxes in your garage labeled: donation, give to family, and e-waste. These boxes will allow you to reduce your belongings in a gradual, eco-friendly way. As you come across unneeded items during your normal routine, simply put them in the appropriate box and continue with your day.
By donating and handing down items, your unwanted items can be appreciated by new owners instead of wasting away in a landfill. Separating electronics from your general waste is crucial since many devices contain toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium which can cause environmental and human harm. Make sure to recycle e-waste appropriately so professionals can dissemble parts safely and reuse materials for new devices.
2.) Measure Your New Space and Evaluate Your Storage Options
Before moving, measure your new space and look for opportunities to increase storage so you know exactly how much space you’ll have.
The best trick for adding storage is to take advantage of vertical space. Consider using floor-to-ceiling shelving units, hanging pot racks, door organizers, and furniture with hidden storage. If your new home has a garage, install hooks and shelves to hang gardening tools.
3.) Use Evaluation Questions to Help You Declutter
Start by writing a list of questions to help you evaluate what stays and what goes. Here are a few questions to help you decide your belongings’ value:
- Have I used this in the last six months?
- Is it something that I use or something that I want to use?
- Can I replace this item easily and inexpensively if I change my mind?
- Is the time I spend maintaining this item and the space it takes worth the joy it brings me?
If you’re feeling reluctant to get rid of your stuff, try starting with areas of little or no emotional attachment to ease into the process.
4.) Sell Your Furniture to the New Buyers
The easiest way to get rid of furniture you don’t want to haul to your next place is to sell it to the new homeowners if they are interested. In most cases, it’s better to offer furniture after negotiations for the home have finished.
5.) Digitize Documents and Pictures
It’s amazing how much space documents and photos can take up once accumulated. Convert your photos, carousel slides, and negatives to digital copies. Once converted, display your memories on digital picture frames. Each frame can hold thousands of photos playing on rotation.
Documents can be scanned as well. You can have a company handle the process for you or if you are computer savvy you can do it yourself. There are websites that will guide you on how to do so or check with some of your relatives and ask them to give you a hand.
6.) Reduce Clothes and Linens
“Why have I held onto this so long?” is the typical question that most people ask themselves when they begin downsizing. The advice you hear most often is get rid of anything you haven’t worn in the past two years. Possibly a family member or friend might enjoy some of your items. Don’t forget that consignment stores or charities are also a good way to help you downsize your closet. Remember to ask charities for a receipt so these donations can be deducted on taxes.
When you begin the downsizing process on your linen, the typical recommendation is to keep two sets of sheets per bed and four towels per person. Consider putting blankets or seasonal bedding in boxes that will lay flat, possibly even slide under the bed. Additional items that you choose to let go of are also a welcome addition at many consignment stores.
7.) Keep Your Favorite Sentimental Items and Give the Rest to Your Family
One of the hardest parts of downsizing is deciding what to do with sentimental items. Instead of dreading it, embrace it as a time you can share with your loved ones. Go through the old school projects and baby shoes with your loved ones. You’ll share a laugh when you find the macaroni decorated popsicle frame that was made for you in kindergarten.
When it comes to family heirlooms, go through your evaluation questions again: do you truly love this item? Will you display it in your new home, or will it end up stored away again? Hold on to the most special items. Maybe you can still enjoy seeing some objects at a family member’s home during the holidays.
8.) Get Free Moving Boxes from Almost Anywhere
You can frequently get most if not all your boxes for free. Think of the different retailers where you shop. You will discover that they may be your best resources. Stores that get weekly shipments are the best. Bookstores, grocery stores, and large retailers are safe bets.
9.) Do a Test Run to Truly Know if You can Live without It
Putting away the “maybes” is the best way to see if you really can go without them. Before you move, pack up any items you’re unsure about keeping in a labeled box and only take an item out when you discover a need. If your “maybes” are still stacked when the moving process begins, consider renting a storage unit for the remaining items. That helps eliminate the risk of something happening to those items.
10.) Partner Up with a Real Estate Agent Who’s Well-Versed in the Downsizing Process
Working with an agent who has proven success helping clients downsize will make the entire process smoother. When it’s time to sell, your agent can help you find and negotiate a win for a home you love so downsizing doesn’t feel like a downgrade.
If you’re a senior adult, you may benefit from an agent who is specially trained to help with both the physical and psychological challenges of downsizing and can help with concerns like affording household costs post-retirement, choosing a home with improved accessibility, and exploring senior living communities.
11.) Focus on the Positives of Moving
It’s normal to feel emotional about downsizing. Letting go of excess belongings and extra rooms is difficult, but remember you’ll still hold the memories associated with them. Instead of focusing on loss, focus on what you are gaining from the move: a more accessible floor plan, lower utility bills, and possibly extra income for travel.
Consider a Continuing Care Retirement Community
If you’ve looked at senior living communities, you might have noticed they say similar things. But they aren’t all created equal. Many senior living and retirement communities are designed to be there for you when you can live independently, but can’t support you as your needs change. A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is different. At a CCRC, the care levels change as your needs do. Whether you need no assistance and just want a worry-free retirement lifestyle or need extra support, when downsizing, a continuing care retirement community is an excellent option to consider.
For great resources on downsizing, The Ohio Masonic Communities is your go to resource. With three locations in Springfield, Waterville, and Medina, OH, their senior living communities offer 24/7 care and support for independent living, assisted living, and memory care. If you and your loved one are interested in senior living, schedule a tour at one of the scenic and beautiful communities. Call (877) 881-1623 today to learn more about their great senior living options.