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6 Senior Downsizing Tips & When Senior Downsizing Services Can Help

Downsizing at any age is challenging, but downsizing for seniors can be especially difficult. While there are many reasons you might choose to downsize your home, including positive ones such as reducing stress so you can enjoy retirement, it can be hard to accept major changes later in life. It becomes especially complicated if it’s happening out of necessity rather than choice, and even more so if it is happening unexpectedly. 

Whether you are a senior who is downsizing or a family member assisting with the process, there are a lot of moving parts to contend with and it can be hard to know where to begin. 

In this post, we will explore 6 senior downsizing tips to help you manage the process, and take a look at when to consider bringing in outside help like professional senior downsizing services. 

6 Downsizing Tips for Seniors

1. Start as soon as possible

If you can, start downsizing before it becomes a necessity. Failing health, injury, or the death of a partner are often the impetus for downsizing for seniors, but these situations can be incredibly difficult without adding a move to the mix. 

Instead, consider having a discussion about downsizing while everyone involved is still healthy. There may be a bit of push back, but it’s important to have these discussions early on. And, downsizing for seniors doesn’t always have to be a negative thing! Many older people enjoy having less home to take care of—fewer rooms to clean and no yard work frees up time and energy for hobbies, socializing, and travel (it also means your adult children can’t move back in with you, again). 

At the first sign of declining health or at least one month (ideally 3 months or longer) before you plan to sell the home, start the process so you have time to work room-by-room without rushing through any decisions.

2. Measure the new space

Before you start decluttering things, measure or get the measurements for your new space. Knowing how much space is available in your new home is essential for determining how much stuff you need to get rid of. This will make it easier to prioritize items and figure out which furniture will be the most useful, and it can also help make the circumstance of moving to feel more realistic. 

If you’re not sure how much room you’ll have, what you should keep, or where to put it in your new home, senior downsizing experts can help with space planning before you move, as well as with setting up your belongings once you arrive.

3. Make a plan

Having a plan for how to approach a house filled with memories can make the process go more smoothly, even if it’s just a loose outline of which areas to sort through first. Professional senior downsizing experts can also help you create a detailed timeline for downsizing your home. 

There are a few different ways to tackle a household downsizing project, but all of them typically take a room-by-room approach. The order in which you work will depend on your specific situation, but here are some options: 

  • Start with the most challenging rooms first (for example, rooms with a lot of memorabilia or treasured belongings)
  • Or, leave the most difficult rooms to the end—if you or your loved one is not ready to handle decluttering the most important items, start with the easy stuff and leave the difficult decisions for later on. It can be easier to make these decisions once there’s been then practice with other items in the home. 
  • Start with the least-used spaces (typically attics, crawlspaces, or the garage)
  • Start with the rooms with the most stuff

Once you’ve established your approach, consider the removal process. Often, one of the more difficult parts of decluttering can be the actual disposal of items. Having a plan here can help keep things moving as well:

  • Invite family and friends to come by and pick things up and give them a deadline
  • Schedule a date for companies who take donations from the home to come by and pick things up
  • Set a routine drop-off day each week to get rid of donations or garbage that won’t be picked up

If you think downsizing is going to be too tricky to tackle on your own, senior downsizing services can simplify the process from start to finish. Senior downsizing experts like Moves for Seniors provide a range of services, including space planning, downsizing, and organization assistance, and they’ll even help you donate or discard your decluttered items. If you’re considering hiring a senior downsizing expert, find out what types of services are offered and which ones would work best for you or the senior(s) who are downsizing. If you’re not sure if you’ll need help, read more in our “when to seek help” section below. 

4. Digitize collections

For large collections of things, such as teapots, model trains, books, or pottery, it may not be practical to bring everything to a new, smaller home. Instead, select a few of the most sentimental pieces to keep and donate or sell the rest. If parting with them feels impossible, you could also take photographs and create a scrapbook or a framed print featuring images of your treasured items. 

5. Sort your belongings into categories 

Once you have a plan for the new home and are ready to begin downsizing, sort the belongings into categories: 

  • Things to keep
  • Things to send/give to family members 
  • Things to donate or sell
  • Things to discard

After you’ve sorted everything into categories, follow through with the plan. Have friends and family take away anything they want, then donate, sell, or discard all the remaining belongings. Anything that is still in good, usable condition can be sold in a garage sale or online, or donated to an appropriate thrift store, museum, or local charity. Anything that is unusable or threadbare should be thrown out in the appropriate bin or waste disposal site. 

Moves for Seniors and other providers can also help with specialty shipping if you have sentimental or valuable items that you want to send to family members across the country. Items like pianos, grandfather clocks, artwork, and antique furniture can be picked up from your home and delivered to multiple locations. 

6. Include close friends and family members

Involving everyone in the decluttering process can help clarify things and make it easier to part with certain belongings. 

Sometimes, people hold onto items with the intention of passing them on to friends and family in their wills. However, not everyone actually wants the items they are bestowed. Involving people early allows them to take an item now or decline it entirely, so it can go to someone else or be sold or donated. This helps to save space in the new home and reduce the number of belongings that need moving. 

When to Seek Help from Senior Downsizing Services

If you are struggling with the immensity of the task ahead of you, it may be worth considering getting downsizing help for seniors, especially if you are contending with other mitigating factors such as failing health, declining cognitive faculties, or the death of a loved one. Facing these things alone or even within your own family can be incredibly challenging and emotionally draining at a time when you may already be spread quite thin. 

Bringing in an unbiased third party can help. With the help of a senior downsizing expert, there is less emotion in the decision-making process. A senior downsizing expert can also keep everyone on task and make greater, faster progress with decluttering and planning decisions than someone more intimately associated with the memories. 

Companies like Moves for Seniors that specialize in helping seniors downsize can be most useful in the following situations: 

  • If there are emotional or health issues that make it hard for the person to act
  • If there is little or no help from family or friends
  • If the home contains lots of stuff
  • If there is a big difference in size between a new home and old
  • If there are problems with hoarding

Learn more about Donation, Home Clean-Out & Decluttering Services for Seniors

Get Started with Our Senior Downsizing Tips

Downsizing to a smaller home is a difficult task, but it isn’t impossible. Make the process easy on yourself by:

  • Starting as soon as possible
  • Measuring the new space
  • Making a plan
  • Digitizing large collections
  • Sorting belongings into categories
  • Selling, donating and discarding items in a timely manner
  • Including close friends and family members in the process