How To Downsize And Organize For Seniors

If you are approaching your golden years, you know better than anyone how your needs are changing, especially when it comes to your home.

You may be considering moving closer to family, reducing the size of your living space or minimizing expenses as you transition to a fixed income.

Or, you may simply need some help organizing and cleaning your existing home to make life easier and safer.

Depending on your circumstances, downsizing can be a great opportunity to get rid of belongings you no longer need or want. But, I know that going through a lifetime of belongings – many of which represent fond memories – can be both emotionally and physically draining.

Downsizing and organizing a home can be an extensive process, and it’s difficult to know where to even begin. Below, I’ll share some helpful tips to get you organized before you begin downsizing so that you can begin this next chapter in your life.

Know When It’s Time To Downsize

More than 76 million are considered Baby Boomers in the United States. The oldest portion of seniors in this generation are now entering they’re early to mid-70s.

If you or a member of your family is a Baby Boomer, you’ve likely thought about downsizing. As many seniors are beginning their retirement and are still active, it seems like the perfect age to reduce your living space and belongings. Yet it’s not an easy task – for any age.

That makes knowing when it’s time to downsize a little harder, because you may not yet see the need for downsizing your space or belongings.

Here are some signs that it may be time to start exploring downsizing:

  • When your fixed income can’t cover expenses
  • When you are having difficulty maintaining your home
  • When you no longer use all of your space
  • When you need help physically
  • When your priorities change, such as wanting to move or travel more

Even if you determine you don’t want to leave your current home, re-organizing it and downsizing some of your belongings may help address some of the issues outlined above as well.

Know Your Options For Disposing Belongings

Before you begin the downsizing process, it’s helpful to research and designate places you would like your unwanted belongings to go. Establishing this first will keep the downsizing process organized and provide a guide for you as you sort through each space.

Ways you can dispose of your items include:

  • Give away to family members or friends
  • Donate to charities
  • Sell through garage sales, estate sales or online marketplace sites, such as eBay or Craigslist
  • Toss in the trash or recycling bin

Many charities will come to pick up your belongings in bulk, especially larger items like furniture. If you think you will be throwing many items away, some garbage services and municipalities allow you to rent large trash bins.

Also, keep in mind you’ll want to incorporate how you will dispose of these items into a plan. For example, will you pick one room in your house and store everything that will be donated there until you have completed the downsizing process? Or will you fill up a carload at a time and drive the items to a charity?

Create An Effective Downsizing Plan

Once you know where you would like to send your unwanted belongings, the next step is to create a plan that gives you direction when going through your items. Think of it as like a roadmap for success.

First, establish a plan for sorting. This includes:

  • Going through each room and removing any large pieces you no longer need. For instance, if you’re moving to a two-bedroom condo, you no longer need furniture for a third bedroom.
  • Breaking up each room into a project. Start with the room you use least, such as a spare bedroom.
  • Within each room, establishing smaller projects. This may include a closet, jewelry box, dresser drawers or bookshelves.
  • Deciding when you will sort. Sometimes it’s helpful to establish one morning a week when you will accomplish at least one project. Or, there may be certain days of the week when family members are available to help.

Next, assign tasks to yourself or anyone else assisting. This will help keep your downsizing or organization project focused.

As part of this, make sure you allow yourself enough time to complete your tasks. This includes saving time for reflection or re-evaluating items after doing an initial sweep of your home.

How To Decide What To Keep

If you’re like a lot of seniors, you’re probably struggling with deciding which items to keep and which items to let go of as you transition into this new time in your life.

Some items will be easier than others. No matter what, it’s important to organize with purpose. Most people will create Yes and No piles, but you should resist the urge to create a Maybe pile. This only prolongs any decision making, and in the end, you likely will have a Maybe pile that’s larger than the other two.

Instead, take your time with each item, but in the end, make a decision.

You may be asking yourself, “How do I do this?” When looking at an item, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I regularly use this?
  • Will I have room for it in my new home?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Do I have a duplicate already of this item?
  • Has this been sitting in my closet, unused for a long time?

It’s also a good idea when evaluating your items to start small. Avoid big rooms initially, since they tend to hold the most items you’ll need to sort through. Also, prioritize your comfort as you’re going through items. Your basement or attic may be chilly or too hot at certain times of the year, which can add to your frustration levels and hamper your progress.

Build In Adequate Time For Downsizing

Downsizing is a major event, no matter what stage of your life you are in. As mentioned above, that’s why giving yourself ample time to take on a sizable project like this is important.

You don’t want to feel rushed, because that can turn a stressful project into an even more stressful situation.

Here are a few tips to help you build in adequate time for downsizing:

  • Don’t try sorting through your whole house in one day, or even over a few days. Take at least a few weeks, maybe longer depending on the size of your house.
  • Build in breaks – during the day and even for days at a time – to allow yourself to rest and mentally recharge.
  • If you are assisting your parent with downsizing, allow your parent to have the needed time to go through each item and deal with the process of letting it go.

Take Advantage Of Help

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the downsizing process. After all, you’re sorting through a lifetime of belongings.

Good news – there’s help available, and there’s no shame in reaching out for help.

A professional downsizing expert can help you both establish a plan and execute the plan for downsizing your home. An expert also will help you:

  • Identify and pack possessions for relocation
  • Separate items for sale
  • Pack and transport items for donation
  • Transport remaining items for disposal

When looking for a downsizing expert, make sure the company:

  • Has experience specifically in providing downsizing services
  • Is insured and can provide references
  • Can meet any time restraints you have
  • Work with your family members as well, while ensuring your needs are met

Final Thoughts

Downsizing can be an overwhelming and stressful process. There are many benefits to downsizing the number of your belongings, however, from reducing your expenses and level of home upkeep to giving yourself more time to spend with loved ones or take part in activities you enjoy.

By starting small, staying organized and getting help when you need it, all your effort will be worth it in the end.

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