When making the move from your family home to a senior living community, it’s likely you’ll be downsizing. But where do you start? When reducing the amount of furniture, clothing, and personal belongings, emotions can tend to run high. Downsizing can be a somewhat taxing process emotionally, mentally, and physically. But it is also a wonderful time to reminisce and cherish all the memories you’ve had in your home before bidding it farewell, and it can be a meaningful process to embrace simplicity.
To make the process of moving to senior living as smooth as possible, here are 10 tips to help you plan for downsizing.
1. Get Started As Soon As Possible
Even if you’re more than a year away from moving, getting started on the downsizing process early will alleviate stress in the long run. Depending on how large your home is and how many items you have, it may take longer than you think to sort through possessions and memories, and it’s not something to be rushed! Give yourself plenty of time to downsize at your own pace.
If you have someone in your life available to help, like an adult child, a sibling, or a friend, it can be helpful to invite them to join you as you declutter. Especially if you anticipate sharing heirlooms with family members, this can take a little time to coordinate. So consider getting started before your move is on the calendar.
2. Consider Your New Living Situation
Think about where you will be moving. Compare the size of your future home to your current home to get an idea of how much you need to downsize, especially when it comes to large furnishings.
Your new home may have fewer rooms than your family home. Many rooms you have now that you will not have after moving can be downsized significantly or even entirely. For example, your smaller home or senior living apartment likely won’t have a formal dining room, multiple living rooms, several bedrooms, or a large patio. If you have any of those now, they’re an excellent place to start downsizing!
3. Start with Easy Decluttering
Anything with a lot of emotional attachment may be more challenging to say goodbye to. To get off on the right foot and build momentum, save the heirlooms and beloved antique furniture for later, and focus your attention on those items that are less sentimental and thus easier to declutter.
Starting small can also help you get into a good pattern of decluttering. For example, tackle that junk drawer in your kitchen (no judgment here — everyone has at least one). Decluttering feels overwhelming if you think of your whole house. But if you start small, it becomes much more manageable!
4. Eliminate Duplicates
It’s easy to accrue duplicate items when you have a large home to fill, but these items aren’t necessary when you downsize. You’ll be surprised to see how many “duplicate” items you’ve acquired over the years that you won’t need anymore. You may find the most duplicate items in your kitchen. For example, pots and pans, cookie sheets, dishes, and cutting boards can all be reduced to only what you’ll need.
5. Let Your “Yes” Be “Yes” and Your “No” Be “No”
Although Jesus was not talking about decluttering in Matthew 5:37, this is still great faith-based advice for sorting through your belongings when downsizing! Organize items into keep, sell, gift, and donate piles, but avoid creating a “maybe” pile. This will only serve to lengthen the downsizing process. And you may find yourself indecisively looking through the same items repeatedly, then keeping more than you should. If you’re truly on the fence, consider asking a trusted friend or family member for a second perspective.
6. Find Alternative Ways to Store Collections
Some collections, like baseball cards, are fairly easy to bring with you and won’t take up too much space. Other collections, like porcelain dolls or model airplanes, may not be practical to bring with you when you move. Start by taking photos of every item in your collection so you can create a photo album of the memories to keep with you, then decide on a few favorite items from your collection that you want to keep.
After you’ve decided what you will say goodbye to, you can either give your collection to a loved one who will cherish it or sell it to a fellow collector who will take good care of it.
7. Decide What to Sell and What to Donate
Downsizing can be an opportunity to make a little extra cash or donate items to someone who will appreciate it just as much as you. Think about what items are worth the effort to sell, and what you would rather drop off at the local thrift store. Clothing clutter is usually much easier to just donate, but large furniture items can be sold pretty quickly through an online marketplace.
Downsizing can also be a lovely opportunity to be charitable and share your special items with others! Consider where you can make an impact with what you have. For example, a women’s shelter might be able to bless its clients with your donated furniture or clothing as they start a new chapter. Or a job training organization may be able to share gently used business attire with people heading to job interviews. Many churches and parishes can help connect you to nonprofits where your donations can make a big difference.
8. Plan the Layout for Your New Home
Print out a floor plan for your new home or draw up a diagram and start placing your larger items within the space. This will help you visualize your possessions in your new space and get an idea of what will or will not fit. Be prepared to have too much when you officially move in — it’s normal to keep too much and have to downsize further once you’re ready for the big move! Here at St. Anthony’s, we’re happy to help.
9. Ask Loved Ones for Help
Downsizing is much more strenuous (and much less fun) when you do it alone. Ask your children, best friend, or neighbor for help sorting through your belongings. Not only will this make the process go faster, but it will also create an opportunity to make even more memories and share wonderful stories as you organize a lifetime of memories!
Inviting your loved ones to join you in organizing old belongings is a perfect opportunity to bond with them and perhaps share a cherished item or two. It will also help your family adjust to your transition to senior living if they can be part of the process.
10. Give Yourself Time to Process the Emotions
As we said at the beginning, downsizing is emotional. You may need to let go of some items you have a deep sentimental attachment to. Paired with saying goodbye to your family home, that’s a lot to process! Give it time and allow yourself to grieve, but also give yourself permission to be excited about the things to come.
Senior living is a wonderful season of life where you get to form wonderful friendships and create even more memories, and that’s something to get excited about! We’d love for St. Anthony’s to be part of your next chapter. Schedule a tour to start exploring what the future holds!