Downsizing Tips: Seniors

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Downsizing Tips: Seniors Can Live Big in a Smaller Home

For many older adults, downsizing is a depressing experience that heralds a negative change in their lives, perhaps brought on by illness or loss of mobility or due to financial reasons. But it doesn’t have to be a task with negative connotations. Rather, downsizing can be a healthy move that relieves seniors of overwhelming physical burdens and frees them to do something new with their lives.

Going through one’s belongings, many of them precious and full of memories, can be an emotionally painful process but, done thoughtfully and with careful consideration, downsizing is a liberating activity if you have no more room or further use for many of the belongings accumulated over the course of a lifetime. Here are a few tips to help make downsizing go as smoothly as possible.

Finding the right home is a matter of price, location and size. Do plenty of online research to get an idea of properties that fit your needs in every way. If you live in Minnesota or other parts of the Upper Midwest, homes in Plymouth, Minnesota, sold for an average of $347,000 over the last 30 days.

Don’t delay

Start downsizing as soon as you know a move is pending. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to accomplish, especially if you’ve been dreading the idea for a long time. And downsizing is usually a time-consuming job, however use the time to carefully sift through your items. The last thing you want to do is discard or give away belongings that still mean something to you. Start early, take your time and if it takes a month or more, so be it.

Start small

Don’t bite off too big a chunk in the beginning. Starting with a busy room chock full of objects can be daunting and discouraging, and may even tempt you to give up. Try starting with the laundry room or a couple of closets, small spaces with relatively few objects that bear deep emotional meaning so you get accustomed to disposing of belongings. Leave the basement, garage and attic for last since these are usually storage areas where large and meaningful items are kept.

Bear your new home in mind

If you’re moving from a four to a three-bedroom house, you’ll have a whole room’s worth of stuff that can be downsized since you’ll have no room for it. Many smaller homes lack external storage space and have limited storage room inside, so downsize with that in mind. Remember, just because you’re downsizing doesn’t mean everything goes to the garbage. Make separate piles based on what you’ll donate; what you’ll recycle and what you plan to take along with you. Don’t forget about consignment stores or charitable organizations including Goodwill, the Salvation Army or facilities for homeless or abused children, which can always use donated clothing items and furniture.

Don’t be wishy-washy

This is a hard one for a lot of people. Fight the temptation to add a “maybe” pile for items you’re having trouble with. It just means you’re keeping the clutter and adds to your load when moving day rolls around (moving companies usually charge by weight, so the more you can offload, the better). Be decisive and bear in mind that whether you donate or throw stuff away, it all amounts to less clutter, which should be your objective.

Sell it online

If you’re not into consignment stores or yard sales, why not try selling some of your excess stuff online? There are many venues to choose from, including eBay, Craigslist or a community-based sell-or-swap site. 

Don’t worry if you struggle at first with feelings of nostalgia, regret, or even guilt. It’s perfectly natural, but try to remember what you’re trying to accomplish and how much easier it’ll be to move with less to pack and unpack. You may even be able to get rid of excess furniture before moving, which will save room and the task of figuring out where to put that old loveseat/pull-out bed that’s as heavy as a piano and twice as bulky.


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