Around 51% of retirees over the age of 50 decide to move and downsize. This can be an emotional process, especially if you’ve lived in one place for a while. The following tips can help you decide if downsizing is right for you and make the process easier.
Reasons to Downsize
- Weather. According to one study, 25% of older adults plan to move to a warmer climate.
- Logistics. Stairs, long driveways, outdated bathrooms, and other infrastructure can make it harder to age in place, while a one-level home makes it easier.
- Medical needs. Depending on the medical concerns, being closer to family or doctors can be helpful. In some cases, seniors also move to accommodate specific medical equipment.
- Simplify. Having a smaller lawn or home means less to take care of, which is helpful as we age.
- Family. Whether you want more time with the kids and grandkids or need their help, being closer to family is a consideration.
- Costs. Being on a fixed income while juggling unknown expenses like healthcare and home repairs can be tough. Moving to a smaller, more affordable space can help.
How to Know if It’s Time to Downsize
Deciding if and when downsizing is appropriate can be complicated. Ask yourself these questions to get the process started.
- How easy it is to maintain your yard
- Are there rooms in your house you don’t use
- How long can you afford to stay in your current home
- How much equity is in your home
- Do you feel isolated
- Is your stuff more than you can manage
Getting Ready to Downsizing
Clearing out stuff and getting ready to downsize should take place slowly over time in order to avoid burnout. You should also make some decisions ahead of time to make things easier.
- Have a plan. Deciding where to move is a big deal. Give yourself as much time as possible to pick the right place and to adjust to the idea.
- Decide on the housing style. Free-standing homes have more space, but also require more work from you. Apartments, facilities, and condos are smaller and need less work from you, but may have other rules you need to comply with.
- Create goals and a timeline. Moving out of state requires more planning and working with movers to get it done. Once you’ve gotten quotes and picked the company, work with them to create a reasonable plan.
Tips for Downsizing and Decluttering
- Start early. Give yourself at least three months to go through everything. Packing takes longer than you think. Also, out-of-state movers may require several weeks to ensure your items arrive when you do.
- Gifting. If certain items are earmarked for loved ones, give them away before you move. This not only helps with decluttering, it also means you’ll be able to watch your family enjoy these gifts.
- Create a floor plan. Knowing the layout and dimensions of your new space will help you know what you can bring and what won’t fit.
- Start small. Begin with easy, practical items like kitchen and bathroom supplies first. Then, do the more emotional items such as art and decor once you’ve gotten into a rhythm. It will still be challenging, but it’s easier once you’ve begun the process.
- Take one room at a time. If your new place doesn’t have that room (such as a den or second bedroom), save it for last and bring only the essentials.
- Prioritize difficult areas. Garages, attics, and closets can be particularly tough. Try to do at least one of these early in the process. It helps build momentum. Ask for help if you need it!
- Sort. Create piles for keep, toss, and giveaway. Eliminate the “maybe” option. While it’s tempting, having a maybe pile leads to “analysis paralysis. If you’re not sure, follow the advice of professional organizers and ask yourself if it is useful or beautiful or if you have used it in the past year. If the answer to all of those is no, you don’t need to keep it.
- Avoid duplicates. Other than clothes, you don’t really need more than one of most things. For things like t-shirts, check-in with yourself about how many you actually wear.
- Label it. When it’s time to pack, label each box by room and contents. This will make the moving and unpacking process much easier. Also, be sure to do a count of boxes in each room. This will help you to know if something is missing.
- Go digital. Getting rid of photos can be emotional, but you don’t have to lose the memories. Digitize as many as you want! It takes up very little space and means you’ll have those precious memories forever. Going digital works for documents as well.
- Keep essentials nearby. It takes time to settle into a new home. Have a bag of essentials packed and ready. This is even more helpful if moving across state lines. Your essentials bag should include things like:
- Clothes for a few days
- Toiletries, medication, contact solution, glasses, etc.
- Important documents
- Payment for movers and a small amount of cash
- Pet supplies
- Basic kitchen and meal supplies
- Cleaning supplies
Ways to Stay Positive During Downsizing
Moving and downsizing are emotional. It’s okay to feel your feelings, but staying positive also helps make the process easier. Use these tips to help manage your mindset.
- Join classes and clubs in advance. Once you know where you’re going, look to see what’s available either on-site or nearby. Then, join any that are of interest before you arrive.
- If possible, do a trial run. Many 55+ and assisted living facilities will let you stay a few nights to see how you like it. Take advantage of this if you’re able to do so, as it will help you acclimate faster.
- Focus on what you’re gaining. There is a lot of loss inherent in this process, and it’s okay to grieve. However, when it gets too hard, consider what these changes bring to your life. Think about the extra time you’ll have for things you enjoy instead of fixing or maintaining things.
- Ask for help. There are a lot of logistics in the process. Get help from loved ones and professionals.
- Make plans to see people. Whether you want to say goodbye or just need a break from packing, having concrete plans to see people is beneficial to the process.
- Allow space for the memories. As you go through your items, give yourself permission to take time with your belongings and treasure the feelings associated with them.
Are you planning to downsize this year? How can we help?