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Making the Right Move: When and How to Downsize for Seniors

January 30, 2024

The new year is a time when many of us feel as though the year ahead is a blank slate, ready for resolutions and redefining our goals. Some seniors may find themselves thinking about their future in their homes. When is it time to downsize? It’s a big decision and not one that is usually taken lightly. How do you know if it might be right for you? How do you even begin?

Maintenance Feels Like a Burden

Has maintaining your home begun to feel overwhelming? Maybe things you used to do without blinking an eye, like mowing the lawn or conducting home repairs, have gotten more difficult physically, financially, or both. You might even be noticing that all the extra space in your home simply costs (and wastes) more money to heat and cool. If the joy you once felt with home ownership has been replaced with stress, it might be time to downsize to a more manageable living arrangement that will be easier to maintain.

Mobility Needs Change

Sometimes, medical and mobility issues experienced by seniors set into motion the realization that the home they purchased in their younger years no longer meets their changing needs. For example, bedrooms on a second floor or laundry in the basement require you to climb stairs on a regular basis—an activity that becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible, with aging joints or the onset of a disability that requires using a wheelchair or walker. In such a scenario, a move that enables one-floor living might make sense.

It’s a Constant Reminder of Loss

For many older adults, a home is a place of comfort and memories. Yet for those who have lost loved ones or seen children grow up and leave, home can become a painful reminder of the past. Widows who have shared their space with their spouse or partner for decades might now find it isolating to be at home; empty-nesters might find the quiet of their once-bustling home to be not peaceful but lonely.

You Want to Live a Simpler Life

Still, other seniors may find that in their later years, even if they are physically and financially able to continue their current living arrangement, they wish to pursue a simpler way of life. A smaller home (or moving to a retirement community) usually translates to fewer material possessions, fewer bills, and fewer responsibilities. Downsizing to live simply is appealing as a way in which older adults can focus on enjoying their retirement with less stress and more freedom for family, travel, and leisure.

So you’ve decided to downsize – now what?

Downsizing involves moving, of course, but it’s so much more than that. It can be emotional, even for the most eager seniors, and laden with enough logistical processes and decisions to make anyone want to pull their hair out.

  1. Gather your most treasured possessions—those you cannot part with under any circumstances. Is there anything among these items you’d ultimately like to see go to loved ones or friends? Now is as good a time as any to gift these heirlooms and treasures to those you love. You’ll not only pare things down to fit into a smaller living space, but you’ll also get to experience the joy that comes with giving your meaningful belongings to those who mean the most to you.
  2. Set aside the home essentials—and only the essentials—you’ll need in your new space. We’re talking cookware, small appliances, silverware, linens, and your favorite home decor items. Do you need to take five different sets of dishes to your smaller abode? Shelves and shelves of towels? Probably not. Try to whittle down your possessions in these categories, keeping in mind that anything that does not make the cut can be donated to someone who will be grateful to use them!
  3. Set up a few boxes for items you wish to donate (remember – you’ve already set aside the things that are most sentimental to you, so you’re working your way through the stuff that’s less important at this point). As you go through the contents of your home, you’ll be glad to have a designated spot to collect the things you’ve decided to part with. When it comes time to actually get these things out of your home, there are many organizations that will come right to your front door to pick them up at a scheduled collection time. It doesn’t get any easier!
  4. When it comes to furniture, think about the size of your new space and what will realistically fit in it. If you’re moving into a retirement community, most will be happy to provide a floor plan of the home or apartment with dimensions so you can measure ahead of time—before you squeeze in that sectional and find that it takes up your entire living room!
  5. Finally, if your home is wrought with happy memories and just the prospect of leaving it behind is harder than any of the logistical preparations outlined above, lean into those emotions you’re feeling. Take pictures of your favorite parts of your home and yard. Walk through it and remember the moments that were shared within its walls. Acknowledge the end of one era and the beginning of another—both yours in your new smaller home and that of the next family, who will one day move in and add to the decades of memories already (and forever) there.
[9:27 AM] Tim