Seniors often feel the need to downsize to a condominium or senior living community after they retire and their kids have left home. Maintaining a bigger house for just one or two people doesn’t always make good financial sense, and the maintenance and repairs can be a lot of work. After decades spent in the same house, however, the idea of packing and moving can feel overwhelming both physically and emotionally.
If you find yourself in this situation with an older adult you love, we have some advice.
6 Tips for Helping a Senior Downsize Before a Move
Here are six suggestions you can use to make the process of downsizing go more smoothly.
1. What matters most?
Ask your senior loved one which of their belongings they can’t part with. Help them create a list of things they treasure most, while keeping in mind that they won’t have quite as much space as they are used to. Create a separate list for items that are important to them, but will need to find a new home with a friend or family member.
2. Secure treasured possessions
Downsizing and moving can be hectic. Putting a home up for sale also adds another layer of complexity to the process. It might help to rent a storage space or borrow the use of a family member’s garage or basement to place treasured items in during this time. That helps eliminate the risk of something happening to those items. It also makes the house look more spacious to potential buyers.
3. Create a floor plan for the new home
If your senior loved one has already chosen a senior living community or condominium, get the dimensions for each room. Then measure each piece of furniture they want to take with them. Use these measurements to create a room-by-room floor plan of their new home on graph paper or by using a free online tool like RoomStyler or Homebyme. This will also show you just how many of their belongings will—or won’t—fit in to the new space.
4. Start early and take your time
When a senior has lived in their home for many years, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the very idea of downsizing. People often feel paralyzed and procrastinate about getting started. Doing so can make the process even more difficult.
Starting early, even before you begin to search for a senior living community for your loved one, gives you the advantage of time. This makes it less stressful for all involved. It also gives you an opportunity to reminisce over old family photos and mementoes as you work your way through the house.
5. Create a plan for disposing of unwanted items
Figuring out what to do with no longer needed items can take time. While you likely have a variety of non-profit organizations in your community that welcome donations, it will probably take a few phone calls to figure out what they will take. Older electronics can sometimes be more difficult to dispose of.
Some charities offer pick-up services if you have larger pieces of furniture to donate or multiple boxes of smaller items.
Finally, remember to ask each charity for a receipt so the senior can deduct these donations on their taxes.
6. Where and how to start downsizing
Finally, sit down together to create a plan for where and how to get started. Some have found it helps to first go through the whole house and de-clutter. (You’ll probably be surprised at how much clutter has accumulated!) Once that is done, you can start a room-by-room approach to really dig in and pack up.
Senior Move Managers Can Help
If you need professional advice to help you through this process, there is a group of professionals that might be the solution. Senior move managers provide support with everything from interviewing moving companies to arranging for a charity to pick up donations. Search the National Association of Senior Move Managers website to find an advisor near you.
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