5 tips for downsizing for seniors 

July 10, 2024

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The prospect of leaving a space where memories and family get-togethers happened, all while leaving behind belongings can be daunting and overwhelming. But moving into a new space that fits your goals—often while solving issues like home maintenance and landscaping—is worth the work. Ready to make a change and not sure where to start? Learn some of tips and advice for downsizing, from experts and seniors who have made the move. 

Choose your new destination 

The first essential step is finding your new home, and knowing how much space you will have. Senior Real Estate Specialist Kim Rickert from Perry Wellington Realty specializes in downsizing. She says that it is essential to find a spot that will suit your current and future needs. “People need to ask themselves if they have any healthcare issues that require them to be closer to medical facilities. Does the new space have an open layout with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen all on one level? Will higher utility bills, HOAs, property taxes or maintenance costs add unexpected expense? Once that is determined, you can move on to downsizing your current home.” 

Take measurements and decide what is being moved 

When Dolores Metzler and her husband moved from a three-bedroom house to a 1,100 sq. foot residential living cottage at Valley View Village, she had to take a hard look at their belongings. “I did not want to overcrowd or clutter the smaller house since we downsized 50% of square footage,” she said. “Throughout the process, it was helpful to remember that it was a positive and good transition.” 

Choose what to keep 

Metzler sorted all of their belongings into three key categories: keep, donate, and throw away. She started with key pieces of favorite furniture to fill each room of her new home. “For example, we decided to take one bookcase, so I totally emptied it before filling it with only our top favorite books. Once furniture pieces were filled, I knew it was time to purge some more.”  

Pay it forward with donations 

Metzler took photos of heirlooms and sent them to her family, but found that her offspring did not have the deep attachment to antiques that she did. She said that as she gave away meaningful things, she took a minute to recall the memory, wrote it down, and then passed it along. “Interestingly, once something is out of sight, I have rarely missed it,” she said. After giving away things to family and friends, they held a yard sale, then donated to their favorite thrift shop. 

Let it go: top things to discard 

This is often the hardest thing to do. Start in a room where the least items are stored, and throw away anything cracked, broken, or deteriorated. Items like plastic and paper grocery bags, stained clothing or linens, and anything expired should be thrown away instead of donated.  

“None of downsizing is easy, but it is absolutely necessary,” retired teacher Lorraine Bingman said, after moving into a skilled nursing room at Valley View Haven. “Perhaps the most difficult part of it is the mental aspect of change. Learning to grow where you are planted can make life a joy.”