Downsizing can be stressful – but it doesn’t have to be scary or something you dread, says Deborah Strickland, Director of Sales at The Village of Gainesville, a senior living rental community that offers independent living, assisted living and memory support. In fact, she puts this positive spin on it: it’s actually a chance to upsize your life!
“Most older adults know that, eventually, they will need or want to downsize their living situation in order to help them live the life they want,” she says. “And, honestly, that’s great! Although it can be hard to leave a home that you love and have been in for many years, letting go of all your stuff can be a very freeing experience, both figuratively and literally.”
This is particularly true when you’re downsizing in preparation for a move to a senior living community like The Village of Gainesville. “Moving to a senior living community has numerous benefits for seniors – fewer chores, less upkeep, more opportunities for socialization and fun, just to name a few,” she says. “By being smart about the downsizing process, you can make the move into this new chapter as stress-free and liberating as possible.”
Here are our Top 10 downsizing tips for seniors, based on our experience helping residents move into our senior living rental community.
- Give yourself plenty of time.
This advice is twofold: first, start downsizing before it’s actually necessary to do it. You don’t want to rush through this process if you’re trying to coordinate a move to senior living and downsizing your things and putting the house on the market all at the same time. Second, don’t attempt to do all your downsizing in one day or one weekend. No matter how big or small your house is, the process will take longer than you expect. We suggest taking anywhere from three weeks to a month (or more) to complete the entire process. Giving yourself time to thoughtfully go through your items and your home will help you make better choices and will make the process far less stressful.
- Start small.
It’s tempting to tackle the big things first, like your bedroom, the kitchen or the basement, but experts suggest starting much, much smaller at the very beginning of the process. By tackling a small area (preferably one with little emotional attachment, like a linen closet or the laundry room), you’ll get into the groove and see success quickly – which will give you the momentum you need to keep on going.
- Toss out rooms you won’t have moving forward.
You can’t literally throw out a room – but if you’re moving into a smaller space (like a senior living rental apartment), you may not have a garage, office space or fourth spare bedroom. In that case, try to get rid of nearly everything in those spaces. Sell, donate or toss anything that simply won’t be practical for your new space. Experts suggest going through these areas and picking out the items that simply must stay with you – and get rid of everything else.
- Eliminate duplicates.
People have a tendency to collect multiples of things. Think of the numerous sheet sets in the linen closet – and the dozens of spatulas in your kitchen. Think of this as an opportunity to streamline your supply and get rid of the clutter. Take some time to think about what you really need on a daily basis – do you need a full set of 12 pans, or do you find you only use two or three on a regular basis? If you’re wary of getting rid of something because you use it once a year or you “might need it,” consider giving it to a close friend or family member so that you can borrow it if you need it in the future.
- No “maybes” allowed.
You’ll want to create three piles as you’re going through your space: KEEP, DONATE and TRASH. Notice there is no pile labeled MAYBE. When you’re going through a lifetime’s worth of stuff, you’ll discover items that tug at your heartstrings that are impractical but you hesitate to get rid of. You may be tempted to create a “not practical but put in storage because I can’t get rid of it” pile. Don’t do it. That MAYBE pile will end up being bigger than the other three piles combined. Yes, it’s very difficult to do, but you need to take a hard look at every item you pick up and then make a quick decision. Listen to your gut. If it’s too hard, enlist a friend or family member to help you make those decisions you don’t want to make.
- Preserve your collections in unique ways.
Lots of us enjoy collecting items, whether it’s Waterford crystal, teapots, antique dolls or snow globes. It can be hard to let them go, but these things will take up a lot of space in your new place – or worse, they’ll go into storage and you’ll never see them again. One good way to keep your memories without taking up space is by creating a photo book that you can keep in your new home. Choose some of your very favorite items to keep, and take good-quality pictures of the rest of them. Then, you can turn those photos into a beautiful coffee table book that you can show off to visitors and family members.
- Sell things you don’t want – by yourself, or with help.
It’s never been easier to sell your own belongings these days. That doesn’t mean that it’s always the most effective use of your time, though. It all depends on what things you have, how much you really want to sell and how much you need or want the money. Selling things yourself through Craigslist or Ebay will take a much longer time, but it allows you to reach a wide audience and potentially get more money for your items. A yard sale will allow you to get rid of things quickly, but you probably won’t get a lot of money for your things. If you have high-end or high-price items, consider trying a consignment shop – they handle the heavy lifting (sometimes literally) for a percentage of your earnings. You can also hire an estate sale company to run a sale, which can be the easiest way to do things. At the end of the day, your goal is to get rid of everything – so choose the avenue (or avenues) that work best for your style.
- Will away your belongings while you’re still alive.
Are there items that you’ve been planning to leave to your children or grandchildren when you’ve passed on? Instead of waiting until that time, consider gifting those items to them now. Not only does it help you get rid of stuff, but it also allows you to see your loved one enjoying the item while you’re still alive. You may also want to ask your family if there’s anything in your home that they want – you may be surprised at what has meaning or value to them.
- Give yourself plenty of time to remember.
There will be times that you’ll want to stop and take a walk down memory lane, like when you’re going through the kids’ bedrooms or sorting through boxes in the basement. It’s okay if you need to take some time and let nostalgia take over for a little bit. Feel your feelings and give yourself the space to cry, laugh and remember.
- Make it fun.
Many hands make light work, and this is the perfect opportunity to transform a chore into a family event. Invite your children and grandchildren to help out. Ask them about their favorite things, and tell them the stories of your favorite items as you go through your rooms. It’s a chance for you to bond one last time in the home you know and love, and can be a great way for you all to make way for new memories in your new space.
If you want the very best for your parent or loved one, consider The Village at Gainesville, a senior living rental community that offers independent living, assisted living and memory support. Contact us online or call us at 352-548-3507 to learn more about our variety of residential options.