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    A Difficult Day: Advice for Seniors on Downsizing

    At some point, senior citizens must confront the need to downsize. That means leaving a home that holds a lifetime of memories and deciding what to do with all the possessions you’ve accumulated. It’s an emotionally wrenching ordeal, one that many seniors just aren’t ready to face. Whether you’re motivated by retirement, the death of a spouse, illness, or an inability to deal with such a large space, downsizing is a necessity. But it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. Careful planning and organization can alleviate a lot of the stress and psychological upset that scares older adults off.

    Good timing?

    Just dealing with all the clutter is enough to dissuade many people from committing to a move. Yet there’s no denying the benefits of reducing or eliminating all that cleaning and the high utility costs, not to mention coping with a lawn that somebody has to mow, weed, and fertilize. You may have the best reasons in the world to relocate, but you need to consider factors like the real estate market, real estate taxes, and what you hope to get out of downsizing. Once you’re satisfied that it’s the right time to move, it’s time to start planning and organizing.

    A good plan

    Set a realistic date for your move and prepare based on that schedule. Begin with a notebook or list to help you identify all the preparations you’ll need to make, and keep track of each one. Once you’ve completed a task, cross it off and congratulate yourself for having reached a milestone. If you’d rather not handle all the planning duties, consider hiring a senior moving manager to do it for you. Senior move managers are project managers who are experts at organizing moves for senior citizens and helping them downsize in a dignified way. Take it slow and make sure you’re eating regularly and getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. Neglecting yourself can only make things more difficult.

    Getting organized

    Organization is the most important part of the downsizing process. Deciding what to do with your belongings can be a very stressful experience, especially if you don’t have a plan for arranging things so that you can make clear, objective decisions. Consider starting with those possessions you know you won’t need and can discard. That gives you a sense of accomplishment and the emotional strength to continue. Then go room by room, organizing the items in each one according to whether you plan to throw away, sell, donate, or keep it. Once you reach the packing stage, identify each pile with colored tags or stickers for easy identification. This exercise will also help when moving into your new home; you’ll know exactly what goes where.
    Official documents
    It can be easy to overlook your “must-have” documents: your birth certificate, social security information, tax records, and other self-identifying papers. Protect them in a safe or strong box and scan each one and keep an electronic file on your hard drive. If you’re more comfortable keeping important records close to hand, place them in a plastic binder that you’ll take with you on moving day.


    Downsizing is hard work for an older adult. It may seem like your life has been whittled down and uprooted. Gather packing supplies well ahead of your move but let the heavy lifters do the hard work. Hire a reputable moving company to do the loading and unloading. They’re insured and experienced at taking care of people’s valuables. Investigate the reputations and records of any company you intend to hire, and make sure you have a signed contract. If possible, contract with a company that has experience moving elderly individuals. If you have dogs or cats, keep your pets in a separate room or ask a friend to watch them for the day. Keep toys, blankets, or other familiar items near your furry friends to help keep them calm during the big day.

    A difficult task

    Seniors face a difficult task when it comes to downsizing, one that everyone dreads. Yet with good planning and organization, everything should go without a hitch. The best thing is to get the job done as quickly as possible, so you can begin the hard work of getting on with a new life.

    Teresa Greenhill

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