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Guide to Downsizing for Seniors

Seniors holding small model home

Downsizing for seniors may seem like an overwhelming task. You’ve acquired a lifetime’s worth of possessions, and sorting through all of them requires considerable time and energy. But don’t fret; this blog will provide a list of downsizing tips for seniors so you can take it one step at a time. And since we’re all sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic anyway, you might find yourself with some extra time on your hands to downsize your possessions. There are senior downsizing services available, but after reading this blog, you might not even need them – you’re about to be a downsizing pro!

First Thing’s First…

Identify your reason for downsizing so you can determine how much stuff you need to get rid of. Are you downsizing to shed some extra baggage and live more minimally? Are you downsizing out of necessity because you’re moving to a smaller space, like a senior living apartment? Set a goal for how much you want to whittle down to, so you can hold yourself accountable to reaching that goal.

Take Inventory

Start with a list of what you want to keep. It can be a bigger, more general list, but this inventory will help you envision your belongings in a new space. Putting your thoughts down on paper can help you be realistic with yourself about the number of things you intend on taking with you.

Now Let’s Take a Look at What’s Left

Breaking down one seemingly overwhelming task can make it easier to tackle, so focus on one thing at a time, and little by little, you’ll get the job done.

  1. Identify Items That Spark Joy. We hang onto a lot of items that are not essential to living, but we keep them around for one reason or another; they bring back a good memory, help to personalize our space, or we just like them! That’s okay. You can keep some of that stuff, but don’t overdo it. Try the Marie Kondo method, a professional at organization. She says to consider each item and ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” If the answer is obviously yes, keep it! If you’re unsure or it’s a no, get rid of it.
  2. Get Rid of What Doesn’t! So for those things that don’t make you smile, categorize them into “sell,” “donate,” and “throw away” piles. Wait until the end of your process to make trips to Goodwill and post your items on Facebook Marketplace, so you can be as efficient as possible and only have to do those things once.
  3. Consider Your New Essentials. When you move to a senior living community, many of the services and amenities you’ll need regularly are available right on campus. You may find yourself cooking less, so you don’t need a fully-stocked kitchen full of every whisk and pan imaginable. There’s on-site dry cleaning and a salon, so you might not need a steamer and nail polish in every color of the rainbow. Think about ways you can cut down on the amount of stuff you have by utilizing the community’s services and amenities.
  4. Be Lighthearted About Your Closet. It’s possible to get a little too attached to that T-shirt that represents the best family vacation ever you took 20 years ago. But do you have photos from that vacation? Then maybe you don’t need two reminders, one of which takes up quite a bit more space than the other. Have you worn that sweater in the past year? If the answer is no, ditch it! There will be more sweaters if you really need one.
  5. Go Digital With Your Media Collection. Do you have a lot of books and music? Much of what you own is available online. You can have access to the same music and book library you enjoy by downloading them through music streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music, or reading apps like Kindle.

We hope these downsizing tips for seniors give you all the confidence you need to get started conquering a big, but manageable task. Downsizing can be fun if you approach it with the right attitude – throw on some tunes, grab a friend or your spouse to help, and pause every once in a while to go on a trip down memory lane when you come across a piece of memorabilia. And don’t forget to reward yourself when you conquer a task.