Moving to Assisted Living: Your Packing Checklist

What to Pack When Moving to Assisted Living
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What to bring? What to leave behind? If you're moving your parents into assisted living, keep in mind that they’ll still use most of the same sorts of things they're using now. But it's important to remember that space is usually limited, so think smaller-scale with fewer items, senior relocation experts say. Focus on what will be used every day, as storage space is limited.

Adult children often want to move the "best" furniture and household goods from a parent's home, or select nice new replacements. But many older adults tend to prefer (and thrive with) what's familiar and comfortable -- so be sure to sound out and respect your loved one's real preferences to help ease their transition to assisted living.

Check with the facility for its recommended packing list and exact space measurements. Find out what items are already provided in every resident's space, so you don't bring duplicates. Be sure to ask whether there are rules against anything -- it's not uncommon for communities to prohibit coffeemakers or even expensive jewelry collections. Also note that most communities recommend labeling every item (including clothes) with the owner's name.

Furniture | Housewares | Personal items | Cleaning supplies | Decorations | Entertainment


  • Bed (rent a comfortable hospital bed, or bring a bed with a familiar mattress)
  • Nightstand (ideally with drawers and shelves)
  • Seating (small sofa, chairs with arms, rocker; avoid chairs on casters)
  • Small table(s) with storage, such as shelves or drawers
  • Small kitchen table or drop-leaf table (a standard dining table is usually too big)
  • Dresser (second dresser for storage may fit in closet for extra storage; drawers are often easier than hanging everything)


  • Microwave
  • Mini fridge
  • Dishes and glasses to use every day (but probably not settings for 10 or 12)
  • Pots and pans (large and small pots and frying pans may be sufficient)
  • Coffeemaker
  • Hot pot
  • Mixer
  • Nice serving dish (if your loved one likes to cook, there will be entertaining and social opportunities)
  • Bedding (two sets sheets, blankets, pillows, comforter -- easier than a separate decorative bedspread)
  • Bath towels
  • Hangers
  • Trash can(s)

Personal items

  • Clothes (winnowed to fit closet space; include pajamas, robe, bathing suit if applicable, sweaters for air conditioning, nice outfits for socializing; two weeks' worth of underwear and socks so there's a clean set available while the other is in the laundry)
  • Shoes, nonskid slippers (minimal pairs needed)
  • Basic toiletries
  • Medications
  • Small file or other storage for medical, legal, financial paperwork
  • Photographs to display or look at in books (digitize everything else to store)
  • Special heirloom or memento to give a sense of home
  • Small safe (but don't bring jewelry, etc., that's not regularly used)

Cleaning supplies

  • Dish soap
  • Dish towels
  • Surface wipes
  • Window cleaner
  • Bathroom cleaner
  • Laundry basket
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dusting cloths


  • Wall décor (photographs, paintings)
  • Curtains (check ahead; blinds are usually already in place)
  • Lamps, lightbulbs
  • Clock
  • Vase
  • Throw (for toss-on warmth)


  • Television (if used; make sure your loved one knows how to operate it)
  • Music system (if used; make sure your loved one knows how to operate it)
  • Desktop, laptop, or tablet computer (if your loved one will use it)
  • Tool kit (some communities have workshop areas)
  • Hobby supplies (needlework, paints, craft materials within reason, cards, books, sporting goods such as golf clubs or bowling ball)

What NOT to Pack for a Move to Assisted Living

As you're preparing to move your parent or other loved one into assisted living, there are a number of items that you might be tempted to bring -- but that are better left at home. Think twice before packing:

  • Lots of knickknacks or collectibles (surface space will be limited)
  • Throw rugs or area rugs (they're a tripping hazard)
  • Chairs on wheels
  • Seldom-worn jewelry
  • Multiples of most things (e.g., mugs, appliances, bathrobes, coats, handbags)
  • Large-scale furniture
  • Boxes of stored items (bring only what's used regularly)

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

almost 3 years, said...

This is a list for independent living, not assisted living. Assisted living that my inlaws are moving into only have a microwave, small apt refrigerator. Someone will clean the apt. weekly, and they get 3 meals served in the dining room, plus snacks for a diabetic at night. Other cooking/baking is done in the activity room with supervision, if necessary. They are happy to move here and have someone else be in charge of medications.

over 3 years, said...

your article regarding what to take was fantastic. But must share my personal experience when moving into to a senior center. Unfortunately I forgot to pack the lids to my pots,pans and frypans and what a mess I created. It is almost impossible to purchase individual lids for cookware. Just thought I would pass this on.

over 4 years, said...

I ran into the same delemma with my father a year ago. He did not want to be in assisted living but after his stroke it was hard for me and my mother to care for him. Finally we were able to get in touch with the people at Abundant Life ( and they helped us convince him it was the right thing to do. He is happy there and it's been a great experience so far. Its never an easy thing to do but they were helpful!