Downsizing for Seniors: How to Prepare, Pack, and Move
While many Americans choose to “age in place,” many more are deciding to downsize. Sometimes, this is out of necessity -- for example, due to a medical condition, or due to the larger house being too expensive to maintain. Other times, it’s by choice, maybe to be closer to a loved one or because they’d like to use the money for something else. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t want to clean that big house anymore! Whatever the reasons, if you see downsizing in your future, here are a few tips to make sure it all goes smoothly.
Over the years, possessions accumulate, and it can often be difficult to get rid of them. But if you’re moving into a smaller home, you’ll almost certainly need to declutter. It’s best to start early because it may take longer than you expect. Try getting three containers for items you’ll toss, keep, and sell/donate. Work through your house one room at a time and sort items into these containers one-by-one. After a little while, look through your “keep” boxes once more; you might have had a change of heart about some items. Psychology Today has a great tip for those sentimental items you won’t ever use, but don’t want to get rid of -- take a photo of them. That way you can save space, but you’ll still be able to reminisce.
Finding Your New Home
Before you start researching homes, ask yourself this question: What am I looking for? What sort of neighborhood would you like to live in? What about accessibility -- are you okay with stairs, or would you be better with a bungalow or an apartment? Also, make sure you have a budget in mind. Home prices vary depending on the quality and location of the property. Once you have your requirements, find out what’s on the market. Start by finding a great agent and talking to them about the sort of home you want. You can also have a look at property websites to get an idea of what’s available.
Start packing as early as you can, and get some help doing it if necessary. To minimize disruption, start by packing up the rooms and items you use the least, and remember to label each box with its destination in the new place. It can be really helpful to get a floorplan of your new home and measure your wardrobes, beds, tables, and other furniture. Do this as early as possible; it’s likely you won’t be able to keep all your furniture, so give yourself enough time to sell or donate the pieces you won’t be taking. Also, the Senior List recommends that you pack an “essentials” box -- that is, a box containing things you will need on your first day, such as toilet paper, soap, bedding, coffee, and trash bags.
If you’ll need help moving, be sure to arrange this as soon as possible rather than leave it to the last minute. If you can enlist friends and family to help out, great -- but if not, book a moving service. Note that between $25 and $50 is customary as a tip for full-service movers, so have some cash available. Make sure that your essentials box is the first thing you unload, and put it to one side so that you can easily access the things you’ll need. Once you’re in your new home, remember to notify all relevant businesses and organizations about your new address, including banks, the post office, your pension provider and insurance companies. Moveline has a comprehensive list of places to contact here.
Moving is notoriously time-consuming and stressful, but in your senior years, it can be even more difficult because you may have more possessions and lower mobility. But don’t worry -- all you need to do is get started early, and don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it. You can start today by picking a room and working on your decluttering!
Written by: Michael Longsdon