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Elderly couple photographed in front of their new home.

Here's What You Need to Know About Downsizing


It seems that after the age of 50, questions like, “Do I really need all of this?” begin to run through the mind. From our large family homes to what it holds -- the kids' old stuff and our closets full of clothes from decades ago -- we become more aware of the quantity and realize that it’s increasingly difficult to keep up with. Downsizing just makes sense for a more flexible and enjoyable life, but that doesn’t make the process simple or easy.

Downsizing: What is it?

The term “downsizing” describes moving from a larger home or living space to a smaller one and getting rid of extra things we no longer need. A large space that was once crowded or just right for our families is now much too big for one or two people to live in and keep up with. It can be scary for some, a little intimidating, or completely overwhelming. Although it does come with an array of considerations, we walk you through the processes to make it go smoothly.

Sorting All the “Stuff”

A large home usually equates to an abundance of “stuff” that filled it; clothes, multiple sets of silverware and kitchen utensils, appliances, multiple furniture sets, tables, dressers, and beds. Then there are the closets and drawers full of clothes and shoes, and sometimes, basements full of forgotten stuff that was put down there as storage. Therefore, there is some tedious, but necessary, sorting to do. Even if you don’t leave your current residence, you can begin downsizing just in sorting out your belongings.

In sorting, keep it simple: decide what’s of value to you at this point in your life and what is no longer necessary to keep around. Use color coded stickers like this to make sorting simple:

  • Red (Keep)
  • Orange (Maybe)
  • Blue (Toss)
  • Green (Donate or giveaway)

You can do this even more effectively if time allows or you plan ahead: sort through things without making any final decisions. Then put the stuff you think you don’t need or want anymore to the side for 30 days. If you find that you go back to that stuff for certain items, you may reconsider where you had placed them. Also, if you notice there was something in the other pile that you thought you needed to keep but you never touched, you can do some rational swapping.

Using boxes for what you’re going to keep and bags for what you aren’t for even more simplicity is also a good organizational tool. Be sure to properly dispose of the items you choose to not keep. Some items may be necessary for selling, others for donation, and if need be, tossing. If you have items of higher value, you can always have them appraised so you know their worth before trying to sell. As much as possible, give to those in need, whether that’s family and friends or simply to charity.

Looking For A New Place

Most older adults and seniors choose to downsize because their current home and living situation is too much to keep up with. In searching for a new place it’s important to keep that in mind. Reducing maintenance and overall living costs by moving into a place more maintainable, or completely maintenance-free, and smaller. Ask yourself whether you want to move into another home, an apartment, or specialized communities. If you don’t know right away, explore your options. You can even look into spaces that are already furnished, making your move that much easier.

Always keep in mind the market of real estate, costs and financial factors that may affect your decision, and most importantly, consider your lifestyle. Search for a place that best fits where you are in life right now and where you see yourself in the years to come. Be sure to choose a place that will not only fit you and your lifestyle needs, but the belongings and items you chose to keep. Consider how and if the furniture and items you have will fit in the new space.

Elderly couple sitting in their home with moving boxes.


The keys to the best packing processes are:

  1. Ask for help
  2. Label your boxes
  3. Put aside (don’t pack away) essential documents, keys, contracts or leases, medicines, cash, and your cell phone
  4. Be sure to pack expensive items appropriately (e.g. safe deposit boxes)

Asking relatives or friends for help can greatly reduce the amount of stress you may feel from making this big change. Help with sorting, packing, and even donating or selling your items can smooth the transition. Labeling your boxes and bags, both that you are deciding to take and get rid of, will make this process more efficient. You’ll know exactly what goes where and there won’t be any confusion. It also helps those who might be offering you a helping hand, too. Everyone will be on the same page.

It’s important to make sure you are prepared for the move, leaving any documents and keys that you may need in the process. Other things like cash, cell phone, or medicines should be left out as well. High value items should be stowed away properly, especially if you are utilizing a moving company and your eyes won’t be on your things at all times, just as a safe precaution.

The Old House

There are a few options in choosing to move out of your current home. You can either sell or keep it in your family. Either way, be sure to acquire the necessary paperwork and hire the best professionals to help you in your transition, such as a realtor. If you started and completed your task of decluttering, it will not only reduce the amount you’ll have to lug around with you to your new place, but will also help better value your home. It makes it look clean and organized so potential home buyers can picture their things in their potential home. Selling your furniture as well as selling your house is an option. In fact, most home sellers find it much easier to just sell their home furnished. If this is possible, make sure to only show the most attractive and least worn furniture.

Couple moving boxes into a moving truck.

Let’s Move!

You’ve finally made it. You’ve sorted your items, you’ve packed them all away and donated what you no longer need. The house is out of your hands and your new place is waiting for you. It’s time to move. Hire a trusted moving company to help you move your stuff. Have a written and signed contract with the moving company as precaution in case of any damage or loss of possessions during the move. Again, this is another great time to ask for help from friends, family, or potentially someone at your new home, when moving in to help get you sorted and settled.

Moving crew helping a family move.

Planning ahead, taking it step-by-step, staying organized, and asking for help are the keys for downsizing that is simple and most effective. Americare is here to help you every step of the way, if you need guidance on moving to a new home, facility, or have questions about what that may entail, we have a great article explaining our five types of offering living. You can also speak with an elder care advisor for more information 573-544-0745.

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