Moving is tough for anyone, but it can be completely overwhelming for seniors who need to downsize to a smaller home.

To begin with, they’re almost always leaving a home they’ve lived in for decades. In many cases it’s the “family home” where they raised their children. They usually need to dispense with favorite furniture and keepsakes. Some are facing health issues while others don’t have family nearby to help them move.

Fortunately, the world of senior living has attracted many terrific companies that can help with the transition.

According to Lucy Donaldson, founder and president of PRC Senior Transitions, moving is more than physical change. It can be highly emotional as well.

Lucy’s company helps people manage the entire moving process, from sorting and disposing of sentimental possessions to designing a floor plan for the new home. Her team helps seniors decide which furniture to keep, where to place it in the new home, and which items will be sold or given to charity. Once everything has been moved, the PRC staff helps people unpack their possessions. They also hang pictures, make sure television, phone and Internet services are working, and handle other tasks.

Downsizing is difficult and adopting a decisive, if not ruthless, mindset is important. If you or your parent is facing a move, here are a few tips for making the process as smooth as possible:

How to Downsize

  • Go through the easy and obvious areas of the house first.
  • Downsize a little at a time. Start several weeks before your scheduled move.
  • When sorting your belongings, decide first whether you want something or not. Decide later what to do with the unwanted items.
  • Move only what you really use or wear. Most people only wear about 20 percent of the clothes in their closet.
  • Use colored dots, stickers or post-it notes to identify which items will make the move, which will be given to family or friends, what goes to charity and what can be disposed of altogether.
  • Bring only the furniture and other items that are the right size for the new place. That beloved breakfront may not fit or could completely dominate your new space.
  • Avoid furniture shopping. Use the furniture you already have in different ways in your new home.
  • For sentimental items that have been passed down through the family for generations, bring as many as you like as long as you have space for them.
  • If a book is being read or used regularly, it can be moved. If not, think about donating it to your local library.
  • Moving is NOT a good time to go through family photos.
  • Ask your tax adviser which records you need to keep and for how long. Use a professional shredding service rather than try to shred everything yourself.
  • Lucy’s number one tip? Be proactive. Start the purging process even if no move is in sight. Sorting, donating and disposing of items ahead of time greatly reduces the stress of downsizing for the entire family.

Downsizing can be Liberating

“Some people would like to bring the whole house, but that just isn’t practical when you downsize to a smaller space or a senior living community,” Lucy says. “Our goal is to help seniors decide what they really use and what they should leave behind. We also make sure the items they bring are the right size for the new place.

“No doubt about it – moving is difficult,” she adds. “On the other hand, people tell us they feel revitalized after the move. They’re ready to take on new activities and experiences because they feel liberated from the old way of doing things. They’re excited for the next stage of their lives.”

Don’t forget to share this post! Click here to get our free list of downsizing tips. For a lighter look at downsizing, see Downsizing: Taking Care of Family Heirlooms.

Downsizing in senior living