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Tips for Making Downsizing and Decluttering Easier for Seniors

Updated: Jan 25, 2019

For seniors, a move to a smaller home can bring on a myriad of emotions. It's a wonderful and refreshing opportunity to reduce clutter, but it can also be an admission of illness, loneliness, or loss of independence for seniors. These feelings only exacerbate the stress of moving as you face decades of family history to sort through, pack, and discard. Here's how to get through the challenging experience and find the perfect home in which to spend your golden years.

Carefully Consider Your New Location

According to Kiplinger, most baby boomers plan to downsize in their current location during retirement rather than move to another city. But for those of you who want to move far away, don’t settle on a home in a new location without doing some thorough research first. You want to ensure the place you move has all the amenities, services, and senior-friendly leisure opportunities you're looking for. Start by doing research online to get an idea of some locations that can meet your needs. Check out smaller-sized homes in the area so you can ensure your location supports your budget.

Once you've narrowed down a few locations that fit your budget and your needs, go visit them. Be sure to stay for longer periods of time, during different seasons so you can really see what it's like there year-round. While you're there, explore the neighborhoods on foot and take a look at the real estate options in person.

Thin Out Your Belongings

Since you’re moving into a smaller space, it’s important that you sift through your possessions and get rid of things. Decluttering before your move will keep you from spending unnecessary money on moving extra stuff and also make unpacking more manageable at your new place. To decide what to keep and what to get rid of, start with a floor plan of your new home so you can work out which of your furniture can fit. Try to only keep the possessions that you really like and avoid hanging onto extra dish sets, comforters, or containers "just in case" you need them one day. Most importantly, start this process weeks before you plan to move out to avoid rushing through it at the last minute. If organizing and planning is too much for you, consider hiring a professional. Home organizers are equipped to help you make some sense of the disarray and can help you prepare for downsizing without losing your sanity. Hiring a pro doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either. The average cost per hour for a professional organizer is between $40-$50.

Face Moving Day with a Game Plan

Moving day is both physically and mentally taxing, so come at it with a solid schedule and written plan. Make a to-do list of everything you need to get done, taking inspiration from this exhaustive list by Updater. Remember, you’ll have to update your address with credit card companies, banks, the post office, and government services. If you're unable to haul heavy furniture and boxes yourself, hire reputable movers or ask for help from friends or neighbors.

If your budget is strict, keep in mind the average cost for a move runs from $497 - $1,383. If you do hire pros, book the moving company well in advance so you can be sure they’re available for your move date. If your family members want to help, ask them to prepare some meals so you don't have to worry about cooking for a couple of days following your move.

Saying goodbye to your home in a way that feels right to you will help you get a sense of closure about leaving it behind. Some people like the idea of leaving their mark in the home, by means of initials carved into a tree or handprints in wet cement. Take something with you when you leave as well, like a favorite flower or shrub to replant at your new house. Also, snap plenty of pictures of the home so you can remember what your favorite rooms looked like.

Whether you're downsizing with your spouse or helping a loved one move, remember to be gentle about the process. People are attached to their things, and even though you think some possessions won't make sense in their smaller home, they may not feel ready to part with these sentimental items. Avoid pushing your loved ones into getting rid of anything they're hesitant about. Instead, be supportive and thoughtful as you reminisce on memories made in their old home.


Michael Longsdon shares this article as he is passionate about senior wellness and advocating against ageism. 

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