For an older adult who’s looking forward to retirement, downsizing should be a positive, empowering experience that heralds the beginning of an exciting new chapter in life. However, getting rid of old belongings that have been with you for decades is a key part of the downsizing process, and that can be an emotional blow for many seniors.
If you’re serious about simplifying and having more time to do what you enjoy, then decluttering your life is a necessary first step, no matter how much you may dread the experience. Here are a few tips to help you set the downsizing work in motion.
Do Your Research
Think through your needs before diving into the home buying market. Consider your needs, such as how much space you really need, what your accessibility requirements might be, and where you want to live (new town, new state, etc.). Spend plenty of time online looking at prospective homes and comparing prices to find the right property.
Remember, downsizing is about living more simply and less expensively, so carefully consider the cost of homes you’re considering. There’s little point in downsizing to a smaller home if it’s going to cost more to live there. And factor in the potential cost of upkeep — avoid houses that clearly require maintenance work and upgrades in the near future.
Accessibility is often a major point of consideration for older adults moving into a new home. For someone in a wheelchair or who uses a walker or cane, staircases and narrow doors and hallways won’t work for you. Bathroom accessibility is also very important. If your mobility is limited, getting in and out of the shower or bath could be a problem, so bear that in mind as you look for a new home. The cost of retrofitting a bathroom to suit an individual in a wheelchair is about $20,000, according to Angie’s List.
As soon as you know you plan to move, get started with the decluttering process. Don’t delay — the longer you wait, the harder it’ll be to make these decisions. Accept that it’s going to be a big job and an emotionally taxing undertaking. Go room by room, handle each item, and consider whether you’ve used or displayed it within the past year. Unless it has profound sentimental value, it’s time to let it go. Make separate piles for what you’re keeping, what you’re throwing away, and what you’ll donate — and don’t deviate from those categories. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to include a “maybe” pile. Before you know it, 70 percent of what you’ve gone through will be in that pile and you’ll have gotten nowhere.
Downsize based on square footage; if you’re going from a three to a two-bedroom house, there’s no sense in taking three bedrooms’ worth of stuff with you. Take measurements, photos, and video of your new home, and bear it in mind as you declutter so you can determine what furniture goes with you based on available wall space and square footage. This is important information because there’s no point moving a couch or big coffee table if there’s no place for it. Downsizing should produce more flow, more space to move around, and less stuff to clean, dust, and polish. The same goes with wall hangings, many of which may not fit.
The Right Movers
A bad moving experience can easily ruin what should be an exciting time of your life, so be diligent about your homework when selecting a moving company. Read customer reviews and make sure they’re licensed and fully insured. Your mover should have experience working with seniors — there are companies that specialize in moving older adults and working with senior move managers to ensure everything goes as planned.
Downsizing to a smaller, more livable home should be a time of optimism, the beginning of something new and exciting — and it can be if you don’t jump into it without forethought and careful planning. It’s well worth the time and effort to do it properly.
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Written by Michael Longsdon. Have a question about downsizing and moving seniors into their next home? Contact Michael at email@example.com for more information!