4 Tips on Downsizing for Seniors
After spending a lifetime building memories and making connections in your local area, you may have noticed that keeping up with your established routines is becoming more difficult as you age. Your large home that used to house your children and extra guests feels like a never-ending chore to keep clean, and that massive backyard that was home to countless barbecues and birthday parties seems to take longer to mow each week. Or maybe you’ve been going over your retirement accounts and are wondering if there isn’t some way to stretch those dollars further. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and considering whether it’s time to downsize, take comfort that you aren’t alone.
According to data tracked by the National Association of Realtors, baby boomers make up 42% of sellers, with those aged 57 and older identifying downsizing as the reason for the sale. The desire for simplicity and additional free time for preferred activities seems to be a common trend in the aging process. Those who choose to downsize can enjoy a variety of benefits, including:
- Lower housing costs
- Relocation to preferred climates
- More convenient access to medical facilities
- Closer proximity to loved ones
- Reduction in home maintenance efforts
If these potential advantages have you considering a downsizing move of your own, but you’re worried about the work it will take to make it happen, following these four tips can keep the process organized and create a more seamless transition.
1. Start Planning Early
Downsizing is a major life event that involves a variety of considerations and synchronized activities. The earlier you plan, the better prepared you will be for any unexpected challenges that may come up. If you aren’t in a time crunch, extra preparation now will provide more confidence in your decisions and ensure your new home is exactly what you want.
Set a Timeline
Before you do anything, create a timeline that maps out your moving goals and highlights any major steps you need to take. This provides you with a roadmap to keep your efforts organized and timely. Set realistic expectations and overestimate the time you think you’ll need for each stage of your transition. This will provide some flexibility if some things take longer than expected and let you handle any surprises without having to reorganize your entire plan.
Determine Distance Limits
Depending on the reason for downsizing, you may have to consider how far you’re willing to move. If health concerns require you to be closer to family members, you’ll have specific areas to choose from when searching for your new home. If your needs are less restrictive, you’ll need to decide how far you’re willing to go. Some seniors may choose to stay local, while others may be prepared to move across the country to reestablish themselves. If you have a spouse included in the move, discuss this with each other at length to ensure this decision is agreed upon equally.
Identify Required Amenities and Space Needs
Once you have an idea of how far this move could take you, determine your make-or-break amenities. Create a list of things you can’t live without, such as access to any specialized medical care, and things you’d prefer to have but could give up if needed. It’s a good idea to make one list for your preferred community and a separate list for your future home. Your community list should cover considerations like:
- Health care access
- Senior-friendly programs
- Environment (desert, mountains, ocean-side, etc.)
- Residential area type (urban, suburban, rural)
- Climate preferences
On your home list, think of the space you’ll need and different features you want, such as:
- Mobility considerations (stairs, wheelchair access, paved walkways, etc.)
- Extra bedroom for guests
- Hobby considerations (kitchen amenities for cooking, shop space for woodworking, etc.)
- Maintenance requirements
As you research potential locations, eliminate any that are lacking the must-haves on your community list. Once you’ve created a location short-list, use the same process when researching potential homes.
Check State and Local Senior Services
To further narrow your search, look into any senior services offered by the state and local areas you’re considering. Remember to consider the services you need now and any you might need in the future. Having programs available to assist with home modifications, in-home caregivers and other common senior needs can help prevent the need for future moves if your circumstances change.
2. Sort Belongings
Sorting through a lifetime’s worth of possessions can be a major hurdle when considering the move to a smaller home. Fortunately, you can take several tactics to reduce your items without sacrificing the memories they bring.
Use a Decluttering System
Home organization is big business and has inspired hundreds of decluttering methods to bring your belongings down to a more manageable level. Simplicity is best when going through a full household, so start with the common three-part system. Divide your belongings into those you want to keep, donate or throw away. Make the easy decisions in the first round and see what you have left. If you still need to part with more, you can continue to use this system or find something more complex to help you make the tough decisions. A few systems you can consider include:
- Marie Kondo
- 27-Fling Boogie
- The Minimalist Game
You should retain photos and documents that hold special meaning, but it might save you some space to store them digitally. Place home movies on a hard drive, along with any music you may have on cassettes or CDs. If you’re the sentimental type and tend to save everything, take some time to go through each item and see if you can recall the memory it’s meant to inspire. Eliminate anything that doesn’t trigger an associated event and reduce multiple reminders of the same memory to one you hold most dear.
If you identify things you aren’t ready to part with but know you still need to cut back, you can always rent a storage unit to give you some extra time. Larger items you love but won’t have room for, such as furniture, could also find a temporary or permanent home with loved ones.
3. Involve Family and Friends
Relocating can be an emotional change for those who are close to you, so it’s a good idea to start discussing your plans with loved ones early in the process. Involving friends and family members gives them time to come to terms with the changes coming and provides an opportunity for everyone to voice their concerns. This lets everyone focus on enjoying the final weeks or months before the move and making plans to build memories in your new place once you’ve relocated.
Plan for Long-distance Communication
If you intend to move some distance away, take the time to establish preferred communication methods with those who will be left behind. Social media accounts, video chats and phone calls are all great ways to keep in touch with the people you love. Consider a mix of traditional and contemporary communication so you can tailor your future interactions. Writing regular letters to your children and grandchildren offers a personal touch to your connections with the added benefit of creating keepsakes on both ends.
4. Celebrate the Move
The term “downsizing” can convey a feeling of loss, so it’s important to manage your perspective by celebrating each milestone. It can help to honor the home you’re leaving by finding a meaningful way to say goodbye. This can take the form of a send-off party, writing a letter to the new owners, leaving a personal mark behind or taking a memento with you to your new home. A common option is to take cuttings of your favorite yard plant to the new yard as a way to connect both homes. If you must travel some distance to the new home, enjoy the journey as time allows. See the sites along the way and try to find joy each day you travel.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, celebrate your new beginning in an equally meaningful way. Reach out to your new neighbors and invite them to a simple housewarming party to begin building connections in your community. See if a friend or family member can stay with you for the first few days to help set up your home the way you want and establish memories with someone familiar. While celebrating your new home, remember to allow yourself space to grieve your old home. This is often part of the transition and helps to process the change so you can fully embrace everything you’ve gained.
Learn More About Moving for Seniors
- What to Consider Before Moving Your Elderly Parents Closer to Home
- How Do You Know if You Should Downsize Your House?
- At What Age Should You Downsize?
- What Are the Risk Factors for Relocation Stress Syndrome?
- How Should You Prepare for an Elderly Parent Moving In?
- What Effects Can Moving Have on the Elderly?
- Is it a Good Idea to Move Someone With Dementia?
- How Do You Move Older People?