Aging Well

8 Helpful Downsizing Tips for Moving into a Senior Home

You’ve made the decision to move into a senior living home. You and your family have discussed the details together and you have the perfect skilled nursing facility picked out. Now that the hard part is over (phew!), it’s time to focus on the first phase of the transition: downsizing before the big move.

Whether your move is overwhelming for sentimental or practical reasons, we think a few tips about senior downsizing might help. We’ve watched patients and their families adapt to smaller homes for years, and we have eight simple insights for anyone who’s staring down the process.

Tip 1: Make A Plan

Downsizing from a whole household to a private suite, room, or bed is a labor-intensive process. It may take days or weeks of organizing, tossing, and moving. That’s why it’s so important to set a schedule and make a plan ahead of time. For example, you and your family might start by clearing out one room each Monday.

It could take up to four weeks of serious effort to totally declutter your rooms. If you have a big house or a lot of stuff, plan accordingly. Try your best to plan the move in advance, giving you a month or two to prepare the household without getting too overwhelmed.

Tip 2: Start with Unsentimental Stuff

If you have strong associations between objects and memories with loved ones, it’s not fair to expect you to part with everything you own right away. However, you might have plenty of items with no sentimental value. Make the task of moving out a lot easier by focusing on these items first. Save the emotionally loaded items for later.

For example, take a look at each book on your living room bookshelf. When was the last time you read it? Is it a rare collectible or treasured gift, or simply something you picked up at a used bookstore once? If you haven’t read a book, or used any household item in the past year, it’s time to toss it.

Tip 3: Comb Every Cabinet, Shelf, and Drawer

That’s right – empty every single surface one-by-one, and don’t replace any items unless you absolutely need them. Basements, attics, and overstuffed closets are great places to start, because they tend to accumulate out-of-sight objects that haven’t had practical uses for years or even decades. Whether it’s your stuff or you’re helping a loved one downsize, it’s important to take it step by step – or shelf-by-shelf – as you sort through all of your storage spaces.

As you remove items from shelves and drawers, consider how long it’s been since you last used that object. Think about how many rooms or surfaces you will have in your new home, and how much storage space your relatives or friends are willing to offer for sentimental keepsakes. Everything that can’t fit or isn’t important enough to keep? Toss it.

Tip 4: Build Piles with Purpose