Tips On Downsizing To A Smaller Home
Are you thinking about downsizing? Whether your home has turned into an empty nest or you’re just looking to simplify your life, we’ve got tips on downsizing to a smaller home that will help you out!
How to Downsize
Get Started Now & Sort It Out
Start planning for downsizing sooner than you think you need to. If you even have an inkling of wanting to downsize to a smaller home, start now. This isn’t something you want to rush through at the last minute when a crisis occurs.
Look around your home and decide what you really want to keep and what you’re ok with selling, giving away, donating, recycling or throwing away. As you’re looking around at the items in your home, ask yourself these questions:
- When was the last time I used it, or will I use it in the next 6 months?
- Is this something I absolutely can’t live without?
- Would it benefit someone else more?
- What’s it worth? Am I better off keeping it or not?
- Will I have space for it in the new home?
This process can sometimes be overwhelming. If you need some objective help, hire a professional organizer or declutter expert.
If you, or someone you are helping to downsize, is a hoarder, you can find help with hoarding here.
Put a sticker on it. Buy some various colored round stickers. Assign a color to each category – for example, sell is green, give away is orange, donate is yellow, recycle is blue and throw away is a red sticker. Once you have determined if an item is a keeper or not, put the sticker on. Put them on in a place that you can see easily, but won’t hurt the item if you need to take it off (you can easily remove sticker mess with Goo Gone or rubbing alcohol).
If you’re giving something away, write the name of the person who is the recipient on the sticker.
If you don’t want to put stickers on everything, set up boxes, bins, trash cans or bags, or even just an area of the room to separate things. You can also use a 3-compartment laundry bag for sorting clothes or smaller items.
Sometimes it’s easier to throw stuff away as you go, instead of putting a sticker on the item, but do whatever works for you.
Start with one room. Pick the easiest one to start with to get you into the groove.Then move onto the next room or area. Typical areas that attract clutter are closets, junk drawers, attics, garages, basements and home offices.
Try on all your clothes. Take some time and try everything on that you haven’t worn in a while to see if it still fits. If it doesn’t, and you’re not emotionally attached to it, out it goes.
Keep that stuff that you can’t live without, no matter what. Speaking of emotionally attached, we all have some things in our home that have sentimental value, make us smile, remind us of a certain time, memory or person, or take us to a different place. Don’t get rid of it if it really means something to you. You’ll just regret it if you do, and that’s no way to begin your life in a new home.
Turn boxes of photos or slides into digital albums. Many people have boxes and boxes of family photos that have been passed down through generations. Before those photos get too aged, damaged, or lost, consider getting them digitally scanned and organized.
If you don’t have time to do this yourself, there are many companies out there who offer this service (like GoPhoto.com). You can still put these original photos into a scrapbook, but do that after you get them scanned so you’ll always have a digital copy. And don’t forget to back up those digital copies in several places. Digital photo albums are easy to share with other family members too!
How To Downsize Sentimental Items
How Long To Keep Documents
Going through and decluttering your home office drawers or filing cabinets can be daunting. Paperwork can quickly get out of hand and you may be scared to throw something away that you might need at some point.
There are guidelines for how long to keep financial documents, tax returns, bank statements, etc.
Use this handy table from Business Insider as your guide for determining if you should keep it or shred it.
If you have paperwork you need to keep, but don’t necessarily have to have a paper copy, consider scanning it and keeping it digitally. Most printers these days have a scan capability, or there are portable scanners you can purchase too.
Just make sure you create a good digital filing system so you can find it when you need it.
Get Some Help
Once you figure out what’s staying and what’s going, ask your friends and family for help.
Have them help you get rid of the items you’re not keeping.
Delegate and assign people to help you plan a garage sale, take things to a recycling center, Goodwill or other non-profit, or dump.
Focus On Your New Home
How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Think about the number of bedrooms you’ll need for yourself and any guests that might want to stay with you. It’s always good to have more than one bathroom, just in case something happens to your main toilet.
How much space do you need? When you downsize, you generally get rid of quite a bit, but make sure there’s enough floor and storage space for everything you absolutely can’t live without.
Do you need a garage or carport? If you’re moving to an area with inclement weather, it’s good to have some sort of shelter over your vehicle as you’re getting in and out. Keeps the car cleaner too.
Would you like a yard or garden? Part of downsizing may include a low-maintenance lifestyle that doesn’t include yard work. But if you enjoy gardening, ensure your new home has an area for it so you can continue doing things that are important to you.
One Story or Two?
This is a big decision. Overall, a one-story home would better suit those who want convenience and ease for aging in place.
However, there’s no reason you can’t get a two- or three-story home that has or will accommodate an elevator or stairlift, as long as the master bedroom & bathroom, kitchen, living room, dining area and laundry are all on the first floor to keep it very accessible.
Try to avoid multi-level homes that have a step or two to access living spaces, such as a sunken living room. While the design aspects may appeal to you, the stairs are just a fall hazard and won’t be wheelchair or walker accessible.
Location, Location, Location
Where do you want to live? What part of the country (or world) do you want to live in? Is weather a concern for you? Do you want to live in a warm or cold climate?
In town or rural? Would you prefer an urban loft, suburban condo, beachside bungalow, golf course vistas, forest cabin, or rural farmhouse? If you’re looking to get away from it all, just consider what you may need to access on a daily basis – see “What’s nearby?” below.
Can you be social? Many studies have shown that the most important aspect of successful aging includes having an active social life.
One particular study involving SuperAgers (over age 80), suggests that having perceived high-quality social relationships not only helps with avoiding loneliness, isolation, and depression, but may also be an important factor in the maintenance of cognitive function.
Your new home should be near others you enjoy engaging with.
Are people or activities you love nearby? Where do your closest family members or friends live? If you love the opera, is there an opera house or performing arts center nearby or easily accessible?
When considering a new home location, check out the neighborhood and see what’s nearby.
Is the area walkable? Can you walk to the grocery store, drug store, farmer’s market, restaurants or a nice coffee shop?
Is it near a doctor’s office, medical clinic, urgent care or hospital? As we age, it’s good to be closer to our physicians and medical facilities since we seem to have to visit them more frequently. Is there a good rehab center nearby for post-surgical care? Find and compare nursing home ratings.
Is there reliable public transportation available? Consider if you will be close to a bus stop, train or light rail station that will take you where you want to go.
Are police and fire personnel close by? When there’s an emergency, the faster the police or paramedics can get to you, the better.
Can you get food and groceries delivered? Sometimes you just don’t feel like going out, are ill and can’t make it, or it’s stormy out. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your favorite takeout or some chicken soup and tea delivered to your door?
Many local grocery stores deliver and that can be a real timesaver and convenience, but they don’t always deliver in all areas. It’s a good idea to check by inputting your potential new home’s address into their website before you purchase your home or sign a lease.
Is the area pet-friendly? Will your new home accommodate your pet? Is the property completely fenced, and are there any sidewalks, parks, nature paths or other safe places to walk your dog?
Is there an 24/7 emergency vet nearby? Bad stuff always seems to happen after normal business hours.
Does Your Home Fit You?
Some of the reasons people downsize to a smaller home are that they’ve realized their current home is just too big, too difficult to maintain, or the costs of heating and cooling it are just too high.
Another reason is that your home may not fit you anymore. Have your needs or abilities changed?
As people age, stuff happens. Stuff like medical conditions, diseases, accidents, and short-term and long-term disability. We often don’t have as much energy as we used to and may not get around as easily. We may have to have surgeries, and may need to hold onto things to keep our balance and avoid falling. Make sure your new home will accommodate your current and future abilities.
Think about what environment will fit you best for your next home. Homes that incorporate simple home modifications, assistive technology devices, and universal design concepts can make your life easier, help keep you safe and independent, and bring you peace of mind. When done right, this could be your home for a lifetime.
Downsizing Tips for Seniors
In addition to the other tips on this page, consider downsizing into a senior-friendly village or community.
Villages are areas in a community that are aging-in-place friendly. They provide services to seniors who prefer to live independently, but who may need additional support. Villages have a strong volunteer program that provides transportation to doctor appointments, enhanced health and wellness programs, home repairs, educational programs, social support, and discounts on goods and services. Currently there are over 200 open and active Villages and more than 150 in development in the U.S. Find out more about Villages here.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) are senior communities which are described by AARP as “part independent living, part assisted living and part skilled nursing home.” CCRCs are generally pretty pricey, including a high entrance and monthly fees – anywhere from $100,00 to $1 Million – but offer luxury living and a convenient tiered approach to accommodate residents’ changing medical and support needs.
55+ Communities are prevalent throughout the United States. They only allow residents age 55 and over, and cater to an active senior’s lifestyle. They’re often golf communities, and may be gated, have a clubhouse, pools, tennis and exercise facilities, social activities, restaurants, media centers, fishing lakes and more. Some have assisted living care for an extra fee. There are both purchase and rental options. Find out more about 55+ community living.
Wherever you decide to live, consider choosing a realtor that is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SERS). These realtors have extra training and specialization to counsel clients age 50+ “through major financial and lifestyle transitions in relocating, refinancing, or selling the family home.” www.seniorsrealestate.com
Packing & Moving Day
Time to party. Beginning 2-3 months prior to your move date, invite people over to help you consume the food in your fridge, pantry, freezer, etc. If you eat this stuff, you don’t have to pack it or move it. Have a bingo night, card night, movie night, sport event party, BBQ, moving party, whatever. You can also donate non-perishable food items to a nearby food bank, homeless shelter, church, or other non-profit.
Pack an “Open Me First” box (or 2). Put things like toilet paper, paper towels, soap, the coffee maker, coffee, can and bottle openers, paper plates, utensils & cups, basic tools, a flashlight, a few snacks, pet food & bowls, and a change of clothes into these boxes. Brightly colored boxes will stand out, or you can just put fluorescent duct/packing tape around these special boxes so you can find them easily.
Keep personal items like medications, glasses, laptop, tablet, phone, and legal papers on or near you – don’t pack them. If the moving truck goes off the road and ends up in a river, at least you’ll have your critical items.
Want more moving tips? Check out The Top 50 Moving Hacks of All Time.
Home Sweet (Downsized) Home
It’s time to enjoy your new clutter-free home! We hope you’ve found these tips for downsizing to a smaller home useful. Please feel free to share this information with whoever you think might benefit from it.
Unpack, get rid of the packing boxes, pour yourself an adult beverage and congratulate yourself on a great decision and job well done!