Moving or downsizing as a senior citizen isn’t like any other move. It’s a transition that requires much more planning and help than a move completed in your twenties or thirties. You often have to worry about moving not just a few years of stuff, but a whole lifetime’s worth–not to mention items that belong to your parents, children, and even siblings. A lot accumulates over a lifetime, which makes downsizing as a senior a challenge far beyond a standard relocation.
If you’re looking for downsizing tips for seniors, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re moving yourself into a new home, or are helping a family member who has decided it’s time to downsize, we’ve spoken to the experts and gotten their top tips to make downsizing a breeze. Read on to see advice from organizers, decluttering experts, and even folks who have helped their own family members with a senior move.
Downsizing Tips for Seniors
Find the Right Home for Your Current (and Future) Lifestyle
The house you buy when you’re thirty might not be the house of your dreams when you’re retiring. Stephanie Kolish of Home Instead in-home senior care services says that reevaluating your living situation–both physical and emotional–is important as a senior: “Downsizing can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember home isn’t just about physical space, it’s about the environment you create.”
For some, this will mean staying where you are and simply revamping the space. Others will find that staying in place just isn’t right for them, and will seek a new home. No matter whether you’re upgrading your current space, or looking for a new one, Stephanie coaches a few things to pay attention to:
- Stairs. “Stairs can cause added challenges to those with balance or mobility issues.”
- Bathrooms. “Sunken tubs and slippery steps can cause safety hazards as we age. Installing grab bars or curbless walk-in showers can help avoid this risk.”
- Lighting. “Adequate lighting is key. Ensuring your home is lit properly will go a long way to increase safety.”
Make sure your home–new or otherwise–is equipped not just for issues you have now, but for potential health concerns you may have in the future. You may not be up to the task of renovations in another ten years.
Get Your Senior Downsizing Strategy Figured Out
Downsizing can mean a lot of things, so having set goals, limits, and a determined strategy will make a big difference. Empowerment coach Fiona McLaughlin used a nontraditional strategy when she moved in with her father to help him downsize: “My dad is sentimental and not a natural declutterer, so we started slowly, gamifying the process to appeal to his playful personality. We began by seeing how fast he could remove ten things from a kitchen catch-all every day for a week. The timed element added to the fun.”
If time is not on your side, you may need to cut straight to the heart of the problem. In many cases, the biggest part of downsizing to tackle is going through memorabilia. “When it comes to memorabilia, there can often be a lifetime of letters, knick-knacks, and more around the house,” says professional organizer Amy Trager, who proposes a more cutthroat strategy. “Consider limiting your storage to a certain amount of containers or bins. Pick out your favorites as you sort through belongings. Once the bins are full, they’re full.”
For the tech-savvy (or those with tech-savvy family members willing to lend a hand), there’s one more option. Design consultant Nora Bouz recommends, “Go digital. Scan the pictures and important documents, and back them up.” With your beloved photos and pieces of memorabilia in the cloud, you’ll always be able to access them without digging through boxes–and you’ll have a lot less boxes to deal with anyway.
Clear Out the Tough-to-Reach Areas (With Help)
Before you can dive in and get decluttering, you may want to get all your stuff together first. And depending on your storage situation, you may need to clear out some tough-to-reach places, like your attic or crawl space.
Home organizer Katy Winter knows all too well how to tackle this. “I have cleared out many attics. Do not do this alone. It’s messy, heavy, and usually involves a lot of unloading and a dumpster.”
But it’s more than just having help, Katy explains. “I have yet to find an attic where we did not purge 90% of its contents. Be prepared to let go. If items have been sitting in an attic for 30 years, there is a good chance you don’t need any of these items.” Letting go will take more emotional labor, but it will help moving or remodeling go by more easily.
Enlist Your Children to Help with Downsizing
When tackling downsizing as a senior, “don’t go it alone” is the number one tip to follow. That could mean hiring a professional organizer, working with a motivational coach, or, depending on what you’re decluttering, getting help from someone who’s a bit more personally invested in your decluttering efforts to help. Namely, your family.
“You are not responsible for your grown childrens’ memorabilia,” Katy explains. “If they do not have storage in their new home or apartment, allow them one bin [for stuff that you will store].” This will force them to take on part of the decluttering that makes sense for them (and frees up more time for you to declutter your own stuff).
Give Your Items a Second Chance by Donating Them
Once you’ve sorted through what’s wanted and what’s just clutter, half the job is done. The second half is taking it where it belongs. And as Fiona experienced, this can be more joyful than anything else. “When we had enough for our first donation, I took my dad to Goodwill and showed him how his items were going to a good cause. He was pleased with the tax deduction, too!”
Of course, actually bringing your items to a local donation center can be a difficult task. Enlist the heavy lifting help of Dolly to make it a breeze. Dolly Helpers will pick up your items (even bringing them down from your attic if you want) and bring them to the donation center. Dolly is available on-demand, so you won’t need to wait around for the next donation pickup day or deal with an eight hour delivery window. Plus, Dolly can take your unwanted items that can’t be donated to the dump, too.
Bring the Feel of Your Old Home to Your New One
One of the hardest challenges of moving or downsizing as a senior is letting go of the home you know and love. But the touches that make your home feel that way can be brought into your new home, too. “For the exceptional memories and family pictures, have a dedicated area in your home where you create a collection or display,” Nora recommends. “You will enjoy looking at these memories often and it will add beauty and personality to your home.”
Downsizing is hard at any age, but with these downsizing tips for seniors, it should be a breeze. And make sure to get help moving the heavy stuff with Dolly. We’ll tackle your donations, dump runs, and even pick up new furniture for you from the store. With Dolly, you always have a friend who’s ready to help with the heavy lifting available.
Miranda is the Marketing Coordinator at Dolly. She’s moved nine times in the past six years, and while she’s grateful for the moving expertise, she’s hoping she doesn’t need to move a tenth time anytime soon.