Moving to a retirement community is an exciting time. It’s a chance for a fresh start in a smaller, easier-to-manage space. But when it comes to sorting through your possessions and packing up for the move, it can be difficult to know where to start. Just the idea of sorting through decades of memories and belongings can make the downsizing process seem daunting.
The fact of the matter is, moving is hard—at any age. Downsizing to a retirement community is often a long and complicated process, especially if you’ve lived in your current home for many years.
When it comes to downsizing a larger home, it’s best to start small and tackle just one room at a time. This way, you can do a little each day without becoming overwhelmed.
Another tip is to use plastic bins or boxes and sort through items one by one, deciding what to keep, store, toss, and donate. To help you and your family navigate this process, we’ve compiled a helpful guide with suggestions for what to save—and what to let go—when moving to a retirement community.
What to keep
Chances are, your new home or apartment in an independent living community will have significantly less square footage than your current home. With fewer rooms to fill, you’ll need fewer furniture and décor. Start by measuring your current furniture to see what will fit in your new space. Some people prefer to buy all-new furniture when they downsize to independent living, while others want to hang onto a few familiar pieces. The choice is entirely up to you and what will fit in your new space.
While you can’t take everything from your current home, here are some basic items to bring to independent living:
- Couch or loveseat
- Small kitchen or bistro table and chairs
- End tables/nightstand
- Coffee table
- TV and entertainment center
- Kitchenware — dishes, glasses, utensils, cutlery
- Décor — picture frames, artwork, plants, clocks
- Clothes — pajamas, casual clothing, a few formal outfits, sweaters, jackets/coats
If you can’t use the furniture you already own, one idea is to recreate the look and feel of your previous home by incorporating the same décor, pictures, and books in your new space. The key is to establish a comfortable, familiar environment without crowding the smaller space with too much “stuff.”
What to store
It’s not always possible to downsize an entire home all at once, especially if adult children live far away. One solution is to store some pieces in a storage unit or another family member’s home temporarily. A storage unit can also be a place to keep sentimental items or heirlooms that you want to give to family, such as a china collection, photos, antique books, or other memorabilia. This way, out-of-state family members will be able to sort through these belongings and determine what to keep at a later date. Some independent living communities also offer on-site private storage space for residents to store belongings like golf clubs, holiday decorations, or out-of-season clothing.
What to toss and donate
Finally, it’s time to decide which items to let go. Obviously, things like unneeded paperwork can be shredded and tossed. But remember, not every unwanted item should go in the garbage can. Most clothing, furniture, books, and household goods can be donated to a local charitable organization. Even if you can’t use a certain item, someone else is sure to see its value and put it to good use.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding what to donate vs. what to keep:
- Do I use (or wear) this item regularly? If not, donate it!
- Do I have multiples of this same item? (i.e., duplicate shirts or coffee mugs) If so, donate one to charity!
- Does this item hold sentimental value? If not, see if a family member would like to keep it before putting it in the “donate” pile.
- Does this item have significant financial value? If so, it could be resold in an estate sale or online auction site.
- Will someone else use this item more than me? If so, donate it to a good cause.
Remember, you don’t have to downsize alone
If you and your family are feeling too overwhelmed by the prospect of downsizing a larger home, don’t be afraid to seek help from a senior move manager. A senior move manager is an expert who specializes in helping older adults and their families with the entire downsizing process, from planning the moving day to packing boxes to assisting with the actual move. Some professional move managers can even organize auctions or estate sales to make the downsizing process easier.
At Bethany Village, our Transitions Coordinators help residents moving to an independent living apartment or home navigate the downsizing process from start to finish. We’ll sit down with you and your family to create a detailed moving day schedule and connect you to trusted local resources, including senior move managers and professional organizers. We want to make the transition to Bethany Village as seamless and easy as possible so you can get settled and start taking advantage of everything our community has to offer.