As you begin to prepare for your move to a senior living community, there are several ways to make this a smoother transition for you and your family. One thing is certain – it’s never too early to start the downsizing process. If you’re moving from a home to an independent living apartment or assisted living space, it’s likely you will need to make decisions about what to bring with you.
While some older adults see downsizing as an opportunity to streamline, others find the process more challenging. Here are some tips to make the downsizing process more manageable:
- Start early – ideally a few weeks or even months before the move – so you have time to sort through everything and decide what to keep, sell or give away. This can be an emotional process that triggers memories, so take time and try not to rush it, if possible.
- Gather important medical, legal and financial documents and records and store them safely. Whether you decide to bring them with you or keep them elsewhere, you want to make sure they don’t get misplaced in the shuffle of packing and moving.
- Before you begin sorting, establish a system for placing items into clear categories – what you plan to keep (bring with you when you move), sell, give away or donate, recycle or throw away. Then label items using colored sticky notes, or move them into piles for each category.
- Ask the senior living community for a list of what items are provided as well as its recommended packing list and exact space measurements. Sketch a to-scale map of the floor plan, then cut to-scale rectangles, squares and circles to represent furniture so you can see what will and won’t fit. Since storage space will typically be more limited, focus on bringing items that you use frequently (if you haven’t used an item in more than a year, it’s probably not a priority to bring along).
- Systematically go through each room and categorize every item. Begin with less-frequently used and smaller spaces (like a spare bedroom, laundry room or closet) before tackling spaces that you use daily or that contain more items (such as the kitchen or garage). Expect the process to take time. If possible, spend a few hours and then take a break. Downsizing can be a sentimental journey.
- Be practical about what you need to bring with you, but also be sure to keep items such as pictures, artwork, heirlooms and mementos that will make your new space feel like home. If you must part with larger items or collections, you may wish to take pictures of special pieces before you sell or give them away. It can be easier to part with items if you’re giving them to a family member or friend, so label these items with the name of the recipient.
- If the task is overwhelming, consider getting help. You can contact an estate liquidator, who can appraise, price and sell items on your behalf, or you can post items for sale online. If you can afford to delay selling the house until after you move to your new community (possibly getting a bridge loan to cover the down payment until your house is sold), it may be a relief to avoid juggling visits from realtors and prospective buyers.
When moving into your new place, you will be eager to get to know your living space and meet people, while at the same time missing the place you are leaving behind. Moving is a transition. It takes time to become familiar with the environment, make new friends and establish your new routine. Stay positive, be open to trying new things and take advantage of the services, support and opportunities for socialization, dining and activities. Embrace your new space.