It’s a time fraught with emotion—the moment a senior citizen considers downsizing into more efficient or assisted living arrangements.
It represents the end of a phase of life. This can be scary, especially if you have spent years settling into a comfortable routine. The decorations and accouterments of your daily life are loaded with memory.
The house you now ponder clearing out and selling may have been the place your children or grandchildren played in, the site of family gatherings, holidays, full of joy and grief and so many fond memories.
This trepidation is natural. We are creatures of habit, especially the habits we have had a long time to settle into.
But consider the opportunity in front of you as well. Moving after retirement may be time to let go of the house, but the loved ones who made it “home” are not going anywhere. Everything passes, and the next phase of life is a new adventure. New children may play in the house you called home; a new family may enjoy the keepsakes you no longer have use for.
The golden years of retirement are an opportunity to reduce responsibilities. A house that is too big for you, in need of rehab, and hard to afford on a fixed income may have to go. While your possessions may have sentimental value, cluttered houses lead to cluttered minds. Those beloved possessions can live on and give joy to a new owner.
There’s no set age at which to downsize from a large house to a smaller apartment, condo, or senior living community, but it may be the right option if:
- You have more space than you need or can afford.
- You require assistance to perform activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, or medication reminders.
- Upkeep of your house and possessions has become a burden, physically or financially.
With the commitment made to simplify, all that is left is the size of the task. True Legacy Homes is here to make the task of moving after retirement more manageable with our Downsizing Tips for Seniors.
- Set Expectations
- Identify your Most Cherished Possessions
- Make a Plan
- Consider Professional Help
- Create a System to Let Go
1. Set Expectations
One of the mistakes that can make a big task seem bigger is assuming that it all needs to get done today. Another mistake is believing that it all needs to be done by you and no one else.
If we have a 90-day deadline, we tend to approach a task like it’s Day 89 and we have only one day left. Panic sets in.
Check in with yourself. There is no way downsizing gets done in a day or even a week, and no one downsizes their whole life alone. This is a process. It’s going to take time. Start setting manageable goals for your downsizing project now.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, it was built one brick at a time. Your downsizing adventure will be built not in grand gestures, but one keepsake at a time.
Here are some tips to manage expectations:
Know Your Limits
You may have moved house many times, but that may have been decades ago. The body loses bone mass and muscular strength as we age. We may not be able to lift the loads we could years ago, and accidents could cause more serious injuries than before. Think long and hard about which downsizing tasks, including lifting heavy boxes and furniture, you can perform safely. Safety first. When in doubt, there’s no shame in enlisting help. You’ve earned it.
Take Your Time
If you have a choice between an apartment available in 30 days and an apartment available in 120 days, take the 120 days. Give yourself permission to move at a leisurely pace. You are moving after retirement, and retirement means you get to choose your timelines and milestones. Take advantage of it! The rush is over.
That said, even if you have given yourself the gift of breathing room, do not procrastinate. Start now with easiest tasks. Even if a crunch time does eventually arrive, it will “crunch” less the more you get done now. Recruit friends, family members, or senior moving professionals to keep you on track if necessary. You didn’t make it to retirement on your own—life is lived cooperatively, and big projects seem smaller with the help of friends!
2. Identify your Most Cherished Possessions
Your next home will feel like home if you bring with you things from your old home.
That said, remember that the goal is to cut costs and unclutter your mind by getting rid of clutter. Think about the smaller space you may move into. Wall hangings and small keepsakes move easily. Larger furnishings are more of a challenge. If you have three cherished sofas, pick your favorite to make the move. Forget about what it cost to purchase; that’s in the past. Choose what you love the most.
Large items that you love but have to downsize should first be offered to friends and loved ones. You can have the satisfaction of knowing that they are staying in the family and you can visit them at any time.
Start an Email List, Group Chat, or Facebook Group for your Downsize
This will consist of friends or family that might be interested in your stuff as you downsize and get rid of it. Post lists, pictures, and details about what you have to get rid of. Your relatives may not just want the goods—they may come and pick them up, saving you moving costs and affording you the chance to catch up!
Letting Go is the Hardest Part
This part takes faith. It is hard to let go, but once something is out of sight, it is easier to put it out of mind. Don’t be afraid to be brutal. If you’re on the fence, put it in the “donate” pile. Odds are excellent that you will never miss it.
3. Make a Plan
Even the largest tasks are manageable with the right plan. Plans give you milestones for your progress and keep you on track.
Make a “Downsizing Checklist.” Organize it by priority and deadline as needed, but don’t be afraid to check off the easiest items first. It builds morale to see the list fill up with checkmarks, and makes the more difficult tasks seem manageable. Items on your checklist could include:
- Review finances
- Inventory possessions
- Select the next residence
- Arrange for the disposal of possessions
- Arrange for the disposal of the house
- Create a floor plan layout
- Begin in the least used rooms
- Attend events at next residence
- Create a moving schedule
- Assemble a moving day box
PRO TIP: Live Now Like You Are On Vacation
We don’t mean lounge by the pool every day…although if you are retired, that is certainly an option! But when you are on vacation, you live comfortably out of suitcases. Start doing that now. Pack your essential clothes and toiletries and start living like you are on the road…because soon you will be. You still have your washing machine, what’s the harm? Eat out, order take-out, or have prepared meals delivered. This frees up your possessions to be downsized. You can’t box, give away, or donate items that are still in daily use.
4. Consider Professional Help
If the downsizing to-do list starts to look overwhelming, help is available. Downsizing is supposed to make your life easier, not more stressful. Consider delegating the task to a Senior Move Manager service.
These services coordinate the logistics required to make the move seamless. You can find a senior move manager near you through:
Google “senior moving services near me” or “senior moving services [YOUR CITY].” Yelp.com can be a good source of reputable providers.
Estate Sale Liquidators
Services that coordinate your estate sale may provide or refer out to senior moving services.
Your Next Residence
If your next home is a senior living facility, they may have a senior moving service on their payroll or as a preferred vendor.
Senior moving services vary in their offerings, but over and above the usual services provided by a mover, a senior moving service may offer:
- Packing and unpacking services.
- Post-move cleanup.
- Referral to the next residence.
- Liquidation of possessions via an estate sale.
- Rehab of the house for sale.
- Listing of the house for sale.
- Purchase of the house.
The more tasks that can be taken off your plate, the better. Time is money, and in the golden years, time becomes more precious than ever.
5. Create Systems to Let Go
Systems make life easier. They take worries out of your head and put them into the real world. There, a consistent system can be applied to those worries and transform them into solvable problems.
Letting go of habits and belongings is no different. Your mind sounds the alarms and blows the task up to life or death.
Short-circuit that process. Come up with a system for letting go, and it will be a hundred times easier.
Here are some systems to try:
Make Lists and Inventories
List-making is the gold standard of getting open loops out of your head and into the real world where they become more manageable. Get some notepads (or, if you’re a tech-savvy elder, a “Notes” mobile or desktop app.) Everything you can touch in the house, write it down—what it is, where it is found. Make any other notes you feel like—whether it has to come to the next home with you, whether someone else in the family would want it, anything else you want. In short order you will have a record of everything in your home and where it is, making it easy for you, your senior moving service, or your estate sale liquidator to manage its destiny.
Rate Items on a Scale of 1 to 3
Category 1 being “must keep,” Category 3 being “definitely get rid of.” Spoiler alert—realistically only Category 1 will make the move, and possibly not even all of it. You never know, though—Category 2 might make the cut.
Get boxes or bins and store them in the garage, shed, or the corner of the living room. Label them “Keep,” “Don’t Keep,” “Give Away,” etc. Whenever it occurs to you to put in those boxes, you will know what to do with them. As the boxes fill up, you can sub-triage. For example, your “Keep” box might be divided into “Give to Family Members,” “Take to the Apartment,” etc.
Select one item to keep, and one item to get rid of, every day, starting as soon as the decision is made to downsize. Decluttering an entire house is a daunting task, but you can easily pick up one item that you don’t use every day and put it into a sorting box. Make an agreement with yourself that once your “one-and-one” is selected, you have fulfilled your obligation for the day. You might pick up five “keeps” in a row before you get to your discard … and then you have triaged six items! Often, it feels so good to take action that your mind tells you “I did my one … but why not do another?” When you tire of the task, stop. After all, you’ve done your one-and-one!
Downsizing is a big and difficult task, but with the right strategies, it can be a rewarding process and a milestone in a fulfilling life. True Legacy Homes has assisted hundreds of seniors in and around San Diego with this critical transition. We have a passion for service and a commitment to preserve memories, honor our elders, and preserve magnificent legacies for the next generation.
Contact True Legacy Homes for more tips to streamline the downsizing process in preparation for the next adventure.