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Downsizing Help for Seniors: How to Make the Process Easier

Housing | October 14, 2022

A couple moving out after taking advantage of downsizing help for seniors.

Has your loved one been thinking about downsizing? They’re not alone. Senior Living reported that roughly 51% of retirees ages 50 and older move into smaller homes. Unfortunately, downsizing can be an emotional and time-consuming process that involves your loved ones sorting through decades of treasured memories and leaving the place where they’ve spent many years raising a family. Here are some downsizing tips to make the process easier for your loved one.

When is it Time for Seniors to Downsize Their Homes?

If they had the option, most older adults would want to stay in their homes forever. Studies have shown that 77% of Americans aged 50 and over want to age in place (stay in their current home forever). Still, some circumstances make downsizing the better option. It might be time for your loved ones to downsize their homes if:

  • Their monthly housing expenses are no longer affordable.
  • Your loved one doesn’t have much money left over after paying bills.
  • Routine yard work and cleaning are becoming more difficult to maintain for your loved one especially if they own a home with many rooms.
  • Your loved one’s dwelling doesn’t seem conducive to aging in place (e.g., there are too many stairs to climb).
  • You think it would be better for your loved one to be closer to you or other family members.

Allow More Than Enough Time

Patience and planning ahead are essential. Like most projects, downsizing can take a significant amount of time. Your loved one starts the process early so there won’t be a need to rush during the last few days and weeks before the big move.

Target Small, Easy Areas of the Home First

Start with the areas in the home that don’t carry as much sentimental value. Some rooms hold more memories than others, thus making them more emotional and challenging to clear out and organize. You and your loved one should save the places in the house that have a lot of family photos for last. The laundry room, mud rooms, and bathrooms are ideal places to tackle first.

Work at an Even Pace

The downsizing process can be physically and mentally overwhelming for your loved one. For that reason, make sure to work at a pace that won’t tire out your loved one. You don’t want them to overextend themselves, so stick to a steady schedule that doesn’t stress out your aging parent, but also gives everyone you enough time to dedicate to decluttering and organizing for the move. Then, you can reserve the rest of the day for everyday activities and socialization.

Purchase a Storage Unit

Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to let go of the things that matter to us. A storage unit can be an excellent solution if it’s too difficult for your loved one to let go of things that won’t fit in their new home. Pick a climate-controlled storage unit with plenty of space to store the things your loved one wants to keep near and dear to them.

Use a Downsizing Checklist for Seniors

Although downsizing means moving into a smaller residence, it’s still a large undertaking. A downsizing home checklist can help keep things on track. Use the list below to put the process into action, or you can tailor it to meet your loved one’s needs.

Tackle one room at a time

Once again, it’s best to start with the rooms that have the least emotional attachment. Also, it’s best to start with less cluttered rooms. You can also start with decluttering the rooms that won’t have an equivalent area in the new home. For example, if the new home won’t have a dedicated office space, you might want to consider disposing of all the unnecessary items in the current office.

Organize items into a category 

There are some items that your loved one will want to keep, throw away, donate, or sell. They don’t have to decide what organization or person gets those items right away. A label maker can help you designate what items belong to which category to keep everything organized.

Get rid of trash

Move items that you’re throwing away to an area for trash collection. Your loved one can ask you or a friend or loved one with a truck to haul a load of trash to the landfill or arrange for a curbside pickup with your trash collector. Some neighborhoods also have bulk trash pickup days, so keep an eye on your city’s schedule for those dates.

Decide how and where to sell items

Your loved one can host a garage sale, list items on sites such as eBay, or even go to antique dealers and consignment shops for valuable collector’s items. If they are uncomfortable with creating listings or negotiating prices with buyers, they can ask friends or loved ones with this kind of experience to help.

Take care of donations

There are several organizations that would love to take care of your loved one’s unwanted items. You can advise your loved one to call local charitable organizations such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army to find out who is accepting donations. Then, pick a designated day to drop off these items.

Pass down heirlooms 

Another option of giving away items is passing them down to family members. There might be an heirloom such as precious gems worth passing down to a child or grandchild. This process can also help seniors know that prized items are staying within the family.

Consider the layout of your new home

Even after organizing, there might still be items that won’t fit into their new home. It’s always worth reevaluating what will and won’t fit before hauling things to the new place. It would help to aim for a clutter-free space without obstructions.

Start the packing process 

Once your loved one is down to the items they’re keeping and will fit perfectly into their space, they can finally start packing. Encourage them to start by packing similar items together and items that will go into the same room. Then, it will be best for them to label every box with a permanent marker with details about what’s inside the box or where it will go for easy unpacking. An example of marking a box is: “Bathroom #1: shower curtain, hand towels, and rug.”

Safely store all delicate items

Express to your loved one the importance of keeping up with all important documents. Encourage them to find all vital accounting and legal paperwork and keep them in a safe place, such as a fireproof lockbox. Also, items such as wine glasses should be wrapped and have enough cushion to protect them.

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