Often the most daunting thing about moving into a retirement community is fitting a whole life's worth of things into a smaller home. You have chosen your floor plan, you are ready to start a new life in retirement living, but you still have to figure out how to downsize and fit the things you need into your new home.
Many of us have carted boxes and boxes of memorabilia—including photographs, school papers, art projects, journals and more photographs—from home to home as we’ve moved over the years. Figuring out what to keep and what to throw away is time-consuming and in some cases painful, so we put it off, tape up the box and move it again. When downsizing for retirement, it’s time to let go of non-essentials. Easier said than done.
At Village Green Retirement Campus, residents can choose between different floor plans, ranging in size from about 500 square feet to nearly 1,000 square feet apartments and even larger free standing homes for seniors over 55. The goal shouldn’t be to move as much of your old home as possible into your new home, but rather to choose those select items that will make your new space feel like home.
When relocating to a smaller home, downsizing is in order. And downsizing in your 50s and 60s can be more difficult than it is for most. You have decades worth of memories and things that, due to nostalgia or simply not being able to move them elsewhere, have accumulated.
Downsizing is about reducing the amount of things you own. Most people don’t need most of the things they own, so downsizing can be a very healthy thing. But it is difficult for most. This is why we have prepared a checklist for seniors downsizing to help you sort all of your things and decide what you do and don’t need and where to put everything.
But before you can downsize, you have to get your home move-ready. You have to declutter.
Downsizing is really just decluttering with an extra step – getting rid of what you don’t need. In order to lay out the things you own and decide what you do and don’t need, you need to first organize and clean. This will allow you to approach the task of downsizing with a fresh head and a lower stress level.
There are many methods of decluttering, but our new favorite is the KonMari Method, developed by Marie Kondo. This is a new method of tidying that flips the old method on its head, tidying in groups by item type instead of room by room.
There are five categories of things to tackle one at a time:
- Komono (miscellaneous things)
- Sentimental items
So first you start by unpacking the closet, then the book shelves, etc. Put everything in a pile and then go through item by item deciding whether it adds enough value to your life to keep.
This might be the hardest part, but there is a method for this too. When you look at the item, Marie Kondo says to ask yourself: Does this item spark joy? Will it continue to spark joy? If the answer is yes, the item should probably stay in the family. But if you are moving into a smaller living space, you may not have room for it, so you may have to give it to a family member or friend instead.
With that in mind, here are some tips on letting sentimental items go.
Carol Bradley Bursack at AgingCare.com has compiled some tips that can help you make the process a little bit easier:
- Make a rough scale drawing of the new room or rooms so you have a realistic idea of which furniture might work in the new space or how much storage you will have.
- Don't make it harder by getting sentimental about old keepsakes.
- If you are having trouble deciding whether to keep, donate or discard, create an ”undecided” category of things that can be stored for a couple or months and decided on at another specific date.
- Focus on the positive. This move is not the end of the road, but a new path that offers new opportunities for a simplified life focused on the things that matter most.
- See if your family will keep family heirlooms, including photographs, letters and family journals, even if you have to store them. Holiday decorations may fall into this category.
Deciding what to do with your belongings is the last step before moving into an independent living community. Also keep in mind that a good way to downsize things that “spark joy” and are too difficult to get rid of, give them to family and friends. People love gifts, and this is a good opportunity to bequeath will items early.
If you need the extra help moving, senior downsizing services may be useful. They cost money, but they are often a more worry-free way to move when you are over 55.
If you’ve already downsized, then congratulations! The hardest part is over. Now it is time to move in and start building a community to enjoy life with.