One of the biggest challenges when downsizing to a senior living community for retirement is figuring out what to do with your belongings. Chances are you have more things than will fit in your new place.
What should you take with you? What should you do with the rest?
These can be thorny questions.
First of all, there’s the matter of sorting through all your things. Once you start, you may be surprised just how much you’ve accumulated over the years. So much so, that you may feel more than a little overwhelmed.
Thinning out your possessions is physically demanding work. And if you have health issues or you simply don’t have the stamina you once did, it can wear you down.
Not only that, it’s emotionally demanding, particularly if you have strong attachments to items you know you won’t be able to take with you.
9 tips to ease you through the downsizing process
1. If you can, give yourself several months to sort through your things. But if that’s not possible, call in reinforcements. Ask family or friends to help. Or consider hiring a senior move manager.
2. If you already have a senior living community lined up, get them to send you a floor plan of your new digs. Compare the room dimensions with measurements of the furniture you’re considering taking with you. You don’t want to discover that things won’t fit on moving day!
3. The senior living community can likely also provide you with a list of things you’ll need and other things you won’t. For instance, if you’re moving into a building where meals are provided and your new apartment has a kitchenette instead of a full kitchen, you may only need to bring a microwave, a kettle, a few dishes, and some utensils.
4. If you can, avoid the temptation to put things in storage. There’s a good chance that’s where they’ll stay. And one day, someone will have to go through them anyway. You’ll just be passing the headache on to them, whether that’s a relative or your future self. Besides, who wants to pay unnecessary storage fees in the meantime?
5. Recognize that some items you consider to be valuable won’t be seen that way by others. For instance, you may want to find a good home for the family China and silverware, but your kids or grandkids don’t want them. Or you may think you should be able to get good money for some of your antiques, but you discover there isn’t a market for them anymore. This can be upsetting, but in the end you may simply have to adjust your expectations.
6. It can be especially hard to let go of things that belonged to a late spouse. If they were a collector, you may want to consider taking a special item from their collection with you as a memento.
7. If you’re selling your current home, think about engaging a real estate agent who’s helped other seniors downsize. Look for one with an SRES® designation (Seniors Real Estate Specialist). They should do more than just list your property. They’ll help with other parts of the downsizing process as well. And they should be able to refer you to other downsizing experts as necessary.
8. On moving day, be sure to set aside anything you need that day – like medications, toiletries, a coffee pot – so that the movers don’t pack them in a box. Also, consider setting aside an item or two that will make the new place feel like home soon after you get there. Perhaps a few family photos or a familiar mug.
9. Above all, be kind to yourself. Downsizing to senior living is unlike any other move you’ve made in the past. You’re bound to experience all sorts of different emotions. That’s all part of the process. Just be sure to lean on people you trust when you need support.
For more on this topic, check out our free Choosing The Right Community guide.