How to downsize your home, whether by choice or necessity, can be a daunting task. Having recently gone through this process, I’m sharing 10 downsizing tips for seniors, retirees, empty nesters or anyone choosing to move to a smaller space? These are tips that worked for us or that we realized after the fact would have been helpful.
Like many of us in the sandwich generation, we are smack in the midst of helping my parents downsize their existing home as they move to a much smaller space, a little more than 1/3 of their current space. Wow…what an undertaking!
And actually, they will be moving temporarily into an apartment that is 1/4 the size of their current home…so we really have had to get creative.
When you think that we are distilling the possessions they have accumulated over 60 years of marriage down to the bare essentials; it goes without saying that it has been stressful and emotional.
We’ve learned a great deal through the process and are gladly sharing our downsizing tips for seniors or downsizers in the hopes that it makes the undertaking easier for someone.
10 Downsizing Tips
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1. Start early
There are many takeaways here…if somebody were to ask me how to downsize your home, I would definitely say that of all the downsizing tips, if you only do one make it this one…you can’t start too soon. My father was in the Navy, which meant that we moved every couple of years for 25 years. One would think that having to pack up your possessions every couple of years would make you very aware of superfluous belongings…not necessarily so. Of course, many of the things that were kept were sentimental and hard to part with, but many are not.
And most of those ‘things’ were things that were stashed in the attic or in drawers/cupboards and so weren’t really within eyeshot on a regular basis.
So as you look around your attic and storage spaces, really ask yourself…’ If I had to downsize my home, would I want to take this stuff?” The first downsizing tip is that this process would be much easier to handle over a longer period of time than it is over a short period of time. Having to do it quickly is quite stressful and very emotional. With a longer period of time, you can help diffuse the onslaught of the concentrated stress and emotions.
2. Be Realistic
My parents will not be entertaining large groups of people in their much smaller space, as such many the pieces that mom used for those purposes were passed on to me, to someone else who could use them or have been donated. That was a difficult realization for mom, but a very important one nevertheless.
And mom probably had accumulated just about the entire color wheel of embroidery floss but came to realize that she is enjoying needlepoint much more so out went all the embroidery floss.
3. Get Help and Guidance
Downsizing your home is so difficult because so many items have an emotional tie, it’s been very helpful to have objective viewpoints from others. Mom has benefited from my daughter and I saying, “No Grammie…that’s too ‘Grandma-ish'” to some of her clothes and friends counseling her that, while she might think she really needs to take that dish, does she really?
With all items, do heed Marie Kondo’s advice of examining everything and asking ‘does it bring you joy?’ My parents’ clothing and shoes had to be significantly pared down for their new, much smaller closet. We were pretty ruthless and they only kept the items that brought them 100% joy; there is no room for 75% items. I had read Marie’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, several years ago and still employ some of her guidance and downsizing tips for seniors that might be useful to you as well.
4. Be Creative
Storage was clearly going to be a challenge in their new, smaller space and so we had to get very creative in thinking of our downsizing ideas and finding ways to ‘make’ storage space.
We turned a small armoire that previously held sweaters into overflow kitchen storage and liquor cabinet.
After all the items that needed to be in the cabinet were put in their place we realized that we could better utilize the space by adding another shelf.
And once all the shelves were in we saw that we could use a wine glass hanger to utilize the space above their placemats. The wine glass rack will hold up to 9 wine glasses and opened up some space in the already tight kitchen storage. By purchasing bed risers and by raising their bed just a smidge, we are able to get rolling plastic bins under the bed. When the dust ruffle is on the bed, you can’t see the risers. With this set, we were able to raise the 4 outside legs of the frame and support the 2 middle support legs.
We especially like these bins as they have hinged lids, meaning that the bin doesn’t need to come all the way out from under the bed to open the lid. These bins will be their ‘linen closet’ in the temporary space.
Instead of housing books and magazines in their nightstands, these boxes will hold their underthings.
Mom purchased these wicker ‘suitcases’ years ago and they have housed scraps of fabric for several moves. The scraps have been removed and now they will be repurposed to hold items that she might not need every day, but still wants on hand (extra placemats, toilet paper, table cloths, etc…) The beauty of something like these is that they could also be used as a makeshift table.
5. Know Your Measurements Plan Ahead
Painters tape marks how much space will be in their new ‘temporary’ apartment. When considering how to downsize your home, it’s helpful to focus on the dimensions of where you’re going. This really helped mom visualize what can be stored where.
6. The Kitchen
It takes one to know one, so I can honestly say that it is very easy to accumulate too many kitchen gadgets. We really went through the kitchen with a fine-tooth comb and knowing how much space she actually had made it easier to get rid of stuff that won’t fit. While having a special knife for grapefruits it’s not worth the extra space when a regular knife will do just fine.
With drawer space at a premium, napkins will be held in a basket on the counter.
My daughter and my niece, who will both be setting up apartments in the near future, really scored as Grammie whittled down her kitchen to the bare necessities and rid it of duplicates.
7. Objects with sentimental value.
Over the years, mom was gifted with a collection of birds by several of her close friends. She will not have space for all of them in her new abode, so she will choose 1 or 2 to take with her and will make the rest available to close friends and their families.
Parting with sentimental items that have been accumulated over a lifetime is difficult, there is no denying it.
8. Know Where to Donate
If you’re in the process of planning to downsize your home and you have to pare your possessions down a great deal, it is surely helpful to know where and to whom your ‘discards’ will go. We had ‘piles’ all over my parents’ home… a pile for me, a pile for my brother, a pile for the grandkids, a pile for a friend, a pile of books for the library and local schools, a pile for the local homeless shelter, a pile to be eBayed…you get the drift. Check out this post for suggestions of where to recycle and donate.
Making several runs to actually donate the items was definitely helpful to see our progress.
9. Keep Track of your Donations for Tax Purposes
The very last of my downsizing tips would be to keep track of your donations as you go along for tax purposes. I have made a form to help keep track of your donations that is available in the Subscriber Benefits Library. Site Subscribers have access to that library here.
Don’t forget, If the donation value exceeds $250.00, make sure to get a receipt from the charitable organization.
10. Digitize Photographs and Artwork and display on Digital Frame
Mom and Dad have been struggling with what to do with all the photos they have accumulated over their lives; from black and whites of their parents to the current graduation photos of their grandkids. The hard truth is that they just don’t have room for all the frames throughout their new home. All these precious images were digitized (I used Costco…$19.99 for 64 images, .32 for every image after 64) and purchased this digital frame. The timing couldn’t be better…a Mother’s Day gift from my brother and me!
You really don’t realize how many frames you have and how much space they take up until you move to a smaller space. Digitizing them is a useful downsizing tip for seniors and makes a great gift!
So, if you find yourself wanting to or needed to downsize your home, I do hope these downsizing tips for seniors or anyone moving to a smaller space will be helpful to you. Bookmark this page or pin the following image for your future reference.
Been through the Downsizing process? What are your downsizing tips for seniors, retirees, empty nesters or anyone choosing to move to a smaller space?
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