At some point, many seniors come to a stark realization: The space they find themselves in, together with the amount of furniture and personal belongings they’ve filled that space with, must be trimmed down substantially.

Whether you want to be closer to your family or need to lessen the physical burden of owning a bigger house, downsizing can work a profound change in your life. It pays to go about this carefully and strategically. Use the following tips to make the transition smooth and pleasant!

 

Know where you’re going.

 

As elder care attorney Christopher Lindsay suggests, it’s important to start with the end in mind: “Unless you know where you’re going, though, you won’t be able to decide what you’ll need when you get there. So take time to consider this step carefully, taking into account your budget, your physical abilities and needs, your personal preferences, and the concerns of your loved ones.”

Also, make several site visits to your new home if possible. Whether it’s a smaller house, an apartment, or a senior community, take some time to create a floor plan for your new space. Try to visualize where your current belongings will fit into the new space. Make note of anything you’ll have to replace due to a smaller footprint.

 

Don’t wait until the last minute.

 

This can be a profound life change, so give it the time and attention both it and you deserve. In addition, you should allow yourself sufficient time to move at a comfortable pace and enjoy the memories the process will inevitably evoke. Otherwise, you might end up rushing and making poor decisions about what to keep and what to toss, for example.

 

Proceed strategically.

 

Carve up your house and belongings into small, manageable chunks. Don’t start with an overwhelming area such as your basement or attic. Work up to those rooms.

Also, think in terms of how you’ll live ultimately. Consider the rooms you’ll have compared to the ones in your current home and weed through the things you won’t need as a result. You can also start from the ground up and design each room the way you want it to be, and inventory or mark those items accordingly.

If you have trouble deciding what to keep, ask yourself whether it’s something you’ve used in the past twelve months. If not, there’s no function to it, so only keep it if it fulfills a deep emotional need.

Finally, aim to handle each item just once. Forget about putting things in a “to be decided” pile. Make a “take” or “discard” decision, then put it in the appropriate place.

 

Look for ways to “rehome” items instead of throwing them in the garbage.

 

Wherever possible, give items to children, friends or “rehoming” organizations such as Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity Restores, if they’re still serviceable.

Alternatively, consider giving away treasured belongings to your heirs and friends now, rather than passing them on through your will. You’ll see two major benefits here: removing the items from your home so you don’t have to pack and move or store them, and getting to enjoy your loved ones as they enjoy their gifts.

You can also consider selling items of decent quality through sites such as eBay and Craigslist. You probably won’t make a fortune, but you could easily offset the expenses you’ll incur in relocating. Plus you get the added benefit of knowing your belongings will be earning a second life of usefulness, which is always a good feeling.

 

Go easy on yourself.

 

Remember you’re in control. Go at a pace that feels comfortable to you.

If you need assistance to rein in an overwhelming project, hire professionals. The National Association of Senior Move Managers has hundreds of companies and members that can offer professional assistance in making your downsizing move as smooth and hassle-free as possible. And when you’re ready to make the big move, don’t forget to look for a broker who’s a specialist in helping seniors make great real estate decisions.

Finally, look for the joy in the process. Eliminating what no longer serves a useful purpose in your life allows you to create a lifestyle you truly cherish and that serves you completely. It’s also a great way to clarify for yourself just what’s important to you, and what isn’t. Focus on the beauty and fun of weeding through your belongings, or the ultimate outcome, and you’ll find yourself breezing through the act of downsizing.

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