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The Upside of Downsizing: Tips for Seniors

Are you or your loved one moving to a senior living community and are unsure how to start downsizing? Browse our list of downsizing tips for seniors.

Considering a move to a senior living community is often part of the bigger transition that’s underway as you consider rightsizing your life.

You want your lifestyle to align with your priorities — family, friends, travel, hobbies, passions — and you may be looking forward to a smaller, more practical space with a fuller complement of services and amenities, as well as the peace of mind that comes with on-site health care.

If the idea of fewer responsibilities and less hassle appeals to you, here are some practical downsizing tips for seniors that will make your transition to independent living much smoother.

Start with the Space:

After you have shopped around for a villa or an apartment in a senior living community that feels right to you, you can make your downsizing decisions based on the size and layout of that new space. You might create a scaled floor plan of the apartment or villa. Or many communities offer interactive floor plans on their websites so you can plan the layout of furniture while you select what to keep.

Pay specific attention to the amenities that are already available within the community, especially if you’re downsizing to apartment living. Consider whether items will be necessary in your new space. Will you need as much cookware if you plan to eat in the dining room often? Will you need to bring your hand weights if you’ll have all-day access to a fitness room? Could you donate some of your books to the community library and share them with new neighbors?

Sort into Categories:

Armed with your floor plan and specific knowledge about the independent living community you’ll be moving to, begin the process of sorting through your belongings. Your lifestyle can open up as you pare down your items. When organizing, it helps to go through one room at a time and separate items into categories: Pass Down, Sell, Donate, Toss/Recycle, and Keep.

Pass Down: You may have furniture, jewelry or kitchen items that a family member or friend would really appreciate. Is anyone moving into a brand-new home? Has someone always admired a certain item of yours? If it feels right, this might be a fantastic opportunity to give treasured pieces to loved ones and experience their joy firsthand. One of the best rightsizing tips for seniors is to create happiness for others while you do the same for yourself.

  • Sell: If you come across items of value that your loved ones can’t use, consider selling them through a consignment store, on Facebook Marketplace or even Craigslist. Put the money you make toward a trip or a new experience — that’s part of the fun of rightsizing.
  • Donate: Some items may go to others in need. Choose a great charity and make their day. Keep a list of everything you donate because you may be able to claim a deduction on your taxes. Depending on how much you’re downsizing, the savings could be substantial.
  • Toss/Recycle: We all have items in our houses that we don’t need and have no real value. It will likely feel great to get rid of some of the clutter. Look for opportunities to recycle them when possible.
  • Keep: This category may need to be revisited a few times. It’s very common for the Keep pile to still be too large for your new space after your first pass. But it’s important to take a moment to appreciate the most loved pieces that will make the move with you.

Find Great Help

A helpful source for downsizing tips for seniors will be your new senior living community. They will likely have a move-in coordinator who can help. Ask them to recommend real estate agents who can assist with the sale of your house. There are also services specifically created to help older adults downsize to senior living, so you can get help if the process is beyond your physical capabilities or too emotionally taxing. Ask the community for recommendations to help you find a qualified and trustworthy organization. You’re not in this alone, and the right help can go a long way toward making this change a positive experience.

Savor the journey. If you’re moving from a longtime house, take time to celebrate the great memories you made there. You can take photos of spaces you particularly love so you have them to keep with you. You can bring over relatives and friends who have enjoyed the house with you and have a big potluck party to honor your time there. Stay positive and grateful whenever you can. Downsizing is a process through which you can refocus on your values, share your generosity with loved ones, and actively create a future you look forward to.

If you’d like more downsizing tips for seniors, as well as information about how senior living communities can assist with that process, explore our rightsizing article. And if you’re looking for quality communities in your area, enter your criteria into our community locator tool to find a helpful list of suggestions.

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.