Keep it simple: Three tips to downsize for senior living

Senior Couple Downsizing In Retirement Packing And Labelling Boxes Ready For Move Into New Home

By Sarah Richard

Decluttering never seems to end, and the process never gets easier.

Whether we admit it or not, many of us are collectors. Over the years, we accumulate home decor, artwork, knickknacks, clothing, linens, tableware and more. The worst part is that we don’t realize how much stuff we have until it’s time to downsize and move into a smaller home. Stress levels can reach new heights when decluttering becomes a time-sensitive necessity before a move.

Take it from The Preserve, a senior living community in Fort Myers. Since it opened in 2020, The Preserve has helped countless seniors and their families navigate the transition into memory support, assisted living and skilled nursing. That typically starts by helping them figure out what to pack, what moving company to use and whether they need to purchase new furniture for their apartment, which tends to be a smaller space than their current living arrangement.

Seniors and their adult children can reference this moving guide from The Preserve to ensure a smooth transition into senior living:

Determine a starting point

One of the biggest challenges of downsizing is figuring out where to start. Keep it simple and start with household chores. Dusting, sweeping, mopping and clearing countertops will make a substantial difference. With a clean space, you can clearly see your belongings and have space to begin sorting.

Then, go room by room to start decluttering. Organize belongings into three categories: keep, donate and sell. Assess each item. If it hasn’t been used or appreciated in the last year, chances are it won’t be used or appreciated in the next year. Items with monetary value, like antique furniture, a doll or trading card collection, paintings or jewelry might be worth a trip to the consignment shop. Items with sentimental value are difficult to part with, so consider giving heirlooms to relatives or friends who will appreciate the gesture.

Bring what you need

Square footage is at a premium in senior living communities. Before moving, ask for a floor plan to help determine how much, or how little, will reasonably fit. Bring enough furniture, decor, accessories and personal items to make the space feel like home – your home – without cluttering your new bedroom, living room, kitchen, dining area or patio.

Senior living communities often provide meals in a central dining room, but residents need tableware for late-night snacks or if they plan to entertain guests. Hanging family photos on the wall and draping a handmade quilt over the couch are great ways to maintain a cozy, homelike environment.

Ask for help

Seniors should never be reluctant to ask family and friends to help with the decluttering and downsizing process. It’s actually a great bonding experience. When the moving date finally arrives, step aside and let the moving company do its job. Movers expect to do the heavy lifting, so don’t worry about positioning items close to the front door.

Lastly, tap the experienced staff of the senior living community. Employees of The Preserve and other communities help residents move in and move out on a weekly basis. They know what residents need to pack, which moving companies offer the best rates and service, and even what furniture styles look best within apartment units.

Moving into senior living is a monumental step in the aging journey, especially for those who have accumulated a lot of personal belongings. Downsizing becomes a more manageable process if seniors have a plan, pack the essentials and ask for help.

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