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

No matter how productive you are during the sorting process, it’s easy to backtrack if you don’t make designated piles. Set aside piles for different purposes, family members, or destinations. For example, if you’re donating clothing to a local thrift store, make a separate pile for that. If your niece wants certain collectibles, put them in a separate pile. Of course, don’t forget to make a throwaway pile – a trash can – for those items that need to go now.

Tip 5: Measure Your Furniture

Moving to a nursing facility that has room for your own personal furniture? You may not have to part with your favorite sofa, side table, or heirloom chest after all. Setting up your own belongings in your new home will make you feel more comfortable, but not everything will fit, so make sure you plan accordingly.

Take measurements of all of the furniture you want to bring, and compare it to the measurements in your new home. If you’re moving into a furnished room, make sure you know the dimensions and storage features of each piece, as this will also tell you how much of your stuff will physically fit.

Tip 6: Visit Your New Home

Before you move into your new apartment, cottage, room, or condo, spend some time in the space if possible. Invite your friends, family members, or caregivers to sit with you, looking around at the walls, fixtures, features, and the overall size and atmosphere of the space. It may not feel or look like home yet, but this process will make it much easier to imagine yourself there later. Now go home and imagine your belongings filling that space.

Tip 7: Ask Loved Ones What They Want

Every milestone in life gives us a chance to honor the past and celebrate the future. As you make plans to move into a smaller space, honor the life you lived by finding cherished new homes for your favorite possessions. Ask your grandchildren, children, nieces, nephews, and other relatives if they want to keep some of the photos, souvenirs, or heirlooms you’ve gathered over the years.

Often, the items we think our family members will want doesn’t match reality. Have your children and grandchildren mark items throughout the house that they’d like to have rather than guessing who wants what.

Tip 8: Sell, Recycle, and Dispose

The final step is often the most satisfying: getting rid of everything you don’t need or want. Thanks to the power of modern technology, you don’t actually have to say goodbye to everything; you can take photos of the objects you’ll miss. After the gifts and donations are sorted and your must-haves are ready to pack, photograph the keepsakes you’re selling or donating and start disposing of the ones you’re throwing away. Hold a yard sale, visit the donation drop-off box, or even hire a service to take care of everything for you.

As you lighten your load and eliminate excess clutter from your life, it may get easier to embrace your switch to a smaller space. From now on, you won’t have to clean rooms you don’t use or trip over old memories. Enjoy making new ones in your new home!

This article originally appeared on Generations healthcare.

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