Downsizing a Home: It’s About so Much More Than Moving
As men and women retire, many opt to downsize their homes. AARP research finds that about one in six adults ages 50 and older say they plan to move within the next three years.
The next step varies. Some wish to downsize to a smaller home that requires less maintenance or want to live closer to — or with — family. Some elect to move to senior living communities to tap into an organized social network or take advantage of maintenance-free living with added services or amenities. Finally, some in need of more constant care move to assisted living facilities or nursing homes.
Regardless, the prospect of downsizing can be a difficult one. Moving is stressful at any age, but for those who have lived in one place for many years, sorting through possessions accumulated over several decades is an overwhelming physical task. It’s also a very emotional one, given how attached we get to certain possessions.
Starting the process
Even if a move isn’t on the horizon, seniors may want to begin paring down — what’s called downsizing without moving.
Many seniors find that taking the time to be intentional about what to keep, donate or discard helps them enjoy their current home so much more. Plus, doing so can quell the overwhelming stress of a necessary move later on.
Given that 87 percent of adults ages 65 and older wish to stay in their current home or community, it can also help prepare for their evolving care needs in the future. For instance, it increases maneuverability throughout the home, should their mobility eventually become limited. It also allows easier access to necessary items and prevents out-of-control clutter (or, worse, hoarding tendencies).
Unless there’s a looming deadline (i.e., you’ve already sold your home), think of decluttering as merely a new habit. Designate a particular day and/or time for sorting through possessions and avoid marathon sessions that’ll burn you out. Tackle just one task, drawer or room at a time to help you remain focused.
Involve friends, family or caregivers for support, as necessary. It can be an unexpected joy to reminisce over personal items, such as photos and letters, that you haven’t seen in years. If you need a more objective perspective, consider hiring a professional organizer or senior move manager.
For additional tips and resources, AARP’s HomeFit guide will walk you through preparing your current home for downsizing or for aging in place.