For many seniors, downsizing isn’t just a one-time event; it is an emotional, physical, and mental process that takes time and patience. That’s why it is so important that—if possible—you take your time to process downsizing so you can:
- Make decisions that don’t feel rushed.
- Feel comfortable about where you are going next.
- Be confident in the decisions you have made about your possessions.
- Say goodbye to items that have meaning but are holding you back.
Here are a few ideas to help the downsizing process go more smoothly.
Deciding What to Buy
Downsizing into a different home has many benefits for seniors. Even with those advantages, it can still be a bittersweet process. If you are struggling to get the downsizing process started, begin by thinking about where you want to live next. Focus on what will empower you to live safely, comfortably, and independently by:
- Researching the current housing market so you know what you can afford to buy and what you can expect your current house to sell for. For example, homes in Fairfax have been selling for around $510,000 and have been on the market for less than a month.
- Understanding what your new home needs to be safe. For example, one-story homes help protect seniors against falls, and homes with non-slip flooring can guard against slips. That’s important because slips and falls are a leading cause of health decline for seniors.
- Deciding on the type of space that’s best for your circumstances. If you will have a live-in caregiver or visiting family, consider a two-bedroom house. If you want a place where you can connect and socialize with other seniors, look into a condo in a retirement
Deciding What to Purge
Organizing expert Marie Kondo is famous for saying that if a possession doesn’t “spark joy,” it’s time to let it go. However, downsizing your belongings—especially for seniors—can often be more complex than that. Sometimes we have to let go of things that do spark joy. And that can be incredibly hard. Here are some ways to make the purge more palatable:
- Rent a storage unit to store items you aren’t ready to make a decision about just yet.
- Give sentimental items to friends and family members who will cherish them.
- Donate old clothes and household goods to shelters that support women and families working to get back on their feet.
- Box items up well ahead of when you need to move. Sort items as keep, sell, donate, and unsure. Make decisions about your “unsure” box when you are ready.
- Recruit a friend or family member to help you sort and pack so you can get an objective opinion about items you want to hold on to but do not need.
- Keep only one or two favorite items out of a collection and take pictures to remember the rest. For example, if you have a curio filled with porcelain figurines, keep only a handful that have special meaning and take a few pictures so you can reflect on the entire collection whenever you want.
Deciding on Moving Day
Moving day can be both an incredibly exciting and stressful time for many people, but especially for seniors. You can make sure your move from one house to another is seamless by:
- Hiring movers so you don’t have to worry about managing the logistics.
- Taking your dog, cat, or other pets to a friend’s house for the day or to a boarding facility (a one-night stay will usually run you $25 – $45).
- Making a checklist of everything that needs to be accomplished the day before, day of, and day after moving day.
- Packing an overnight bag of essentials so you don’t have to go through boxes to find items for your night-time routine or breakfast in the morning.
- Charging your phone, tablet, laptop, medical devices, and other kinds of technology so that it is ready to use the moment you unpack.
Downsizing as you move into a new place—be it a smaller home or a condo in a retirement center—can be painful, but there is a great deal of weightlessness and joy for many of the seniors who do it. Talk to your family and friends who have already gone through something similar to get their advice and support.