How to start downsizing for your new home
After months (or maybe years) of searching, you’ve finally selected a new home at a new senior living community. You’re ready to move in and start joining in on activities and meeting your new neighbors. For many older adults, however, the excitement of starting a new chapter can often be overshadowed by the stress involved in downsizing a home. Fortunately, experts have uncovered strategies that can help shift the project from exhausting to empowering.

Start early

By beginning the process before your move date is set, you will remove the sense of urgency. Without the pressure of a deadline, you can take your time and gradually progress towards your goal.

“We always advise people to start early,” said Leslie Milsap, senior vice president with Moving Station, a relocation management company that offers specialized consulting to seniors transitioning to retirement communities. “You can always slow down. But if you don’t take advantage of it early that is time you can’t get back later.”

Starting early means you are taking control of the situation. You will have the time you need to make sound decisions, and that can ultimately lead to a more satisfying outcome. Additionally, starting early gives you time to address the underlying emotional issues that can often be attached to moving. Ciji Ware, author of Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most, agrees.

“For so many of us, what we own defines who we are, or think we are, or wish we were,” said Ware. Before we begin to pare down our possessions, Ware says that we should devote some time to understanding the reasons we feel the way we do about them. “We attach deeper significance than we may realize to certain things, and until we figure out what that significance is, deciding on what we love and can't live without and what is just weighing us down can be problematic.” According to Ware, the meaning of an object can serve as a guide for determining whether or not it's truly a “favorite” thing and deserves a spot in your new surroundings.

Create a strategy

When a task seems daunting, a good strategy is to break it up into manageable pieces. Don’t start with the items and rooms that carry the most emotional weight. By starting with a small area or things that you don’t use, you are setting yourself up for early success. 

“You don’t want to take on too much, so that if you don’t complete it you feel like you’ve failed,” said Milsap. “Sometimes we tell people, just start with a drawer. Find those areas of the house where you have multiples of the same items. Do you really need three whisks or so many coffee mugs?”

By making mindful choices about what matters most, we are proactively creating a truer sense of home. 

“Happy rightsizers have made a conscious commitment to the principle of simplicity, surrounding themselves with only the people, possessions, and activities they love,” said Ware. “There is liberation in recognizing what you don’t need as well as understanding what you want.”

Seek help from others

It’s important to know that you don’t have to do this alone. Family, friends and professionals can all assist you in determining where your things should go. 

So how do we decide what to keep and what to eliminate? Ware says we should only be considering items that fit into two categories: what we love, and what we need. “With every household item considered, ask yourself why you like it and then envision it in your new surroundings.” She suggests asking the following questions of each item in your home:
  • Can you use it in your new home?
  • Is it the right shape, size, style, or type of object you prefer?
  • Does it have meaning for you on an emotional level?       
  • Is it valuable while also meeting the other criteria above?
  • Can a treasured household possession be creatively re-purposed to meet a need in the new home?
A moving consultant or professional organizer can work with you to determine your needs and create a customized plan to help you achieve your goal. They can evaluate floor plans to help determine what will fit in your new space, create project timelines, help with decision making, and manage the processes for appraisals, auctions, sales and donations. Once you have been relieved of the burden of some of those larger responsibilities, your energy is freed up to focus on more personal items. 

Slow down and enjoy the process 

According to Ware, creating a home that is designed to meet our current needs can be an extremely rewarding and satisfying experience. This can be a journey of self-discovery in which we experience serenity and contentment knowing we are surrounded by what matters most. We have the opportunity to showcase special keepsakes that were once hidden among our other things, and benefit others by sharing what we no longer need with them. The result is living in a streamlined home that is both beautiful and practical.