When you downsize, you start a journey that can be stressful, exciting, and bittersweet. Creating a detailed plan and staying organized can go a long way to facilitating a smoother and low-stress transition. Here’s some advice on how to downsize with minimal stress.
It’s never too soon to start planning. Start by making lists, like what to keep or give away and things you need to do (like transferring subscriptions or shutting off utilities).
Make a sketch of your new home to use as a guide, especially if you know you’ll struggle to sort through your possessions. Once you quantify the available storage space, create a spot in your home in which to put items you’re keeping.
Declutter, purge, and sort
People accumulate a large amount of “stuff” throughout their lives. It’s not easy to say goodbye to things that hold a lot of memories. Take time to reminisce and wax nostalgic as you’re sorting well-loved toys or finally tossing kindergarten artwork that’s 30 years old. There’s no shame in crying or walking away to work in another room until you’re less emotional.
Plan to tackle your home one room at a time. Experts also recommend devoting a couple hours each day (over a week or more) to the process. Don’t rush. Divide your possessions and furniture into three categories: keep; donate, give away, or sell; and toss.
When you have sentimental items, but you’re not sure if there’s a place for them in your new home, take a picture and create an album so you can preserve the memories. Experts recommend using the “only handle it once,” or OHIO rule. Decide which pile to place a possession and then move on.
Do you have heirloom dishes that you’re leaving to your daughter or a carved chest you’d like to give your son? Instead of waiting until the items are dispersed through your will, why not give them away now? You’ll have fewer things to move, your loved ones will enjoy them sooner, and you’ll know the items will be appreciated and well-loved.
Shred outdated and unneeded documents. Then, gather and store those documents you do need to keep in a file, safety deposit box, or somewhere else safe until you’re ready to move. Such documents can include deeds, wills, birth certificates, social security cards, passports, powers of attorney, medical records, military records, life insurance information, and banking information.
Packing to move
Before you move, create a layout of your new home so you can decide ahead of time where you’ll put your possessions. Label each box appropriately to make setting up your new home a much smoother process for everyone.
When you’re packing, follow these steps to stay organized:
- Use a color-coded system to label your possessions; then label the boxes to match.
- Create a floor plan of your new home that’s also coded to the boxes you’ve packed so that the movers and helpers can easily identify where everything goes.
- Pack (and clearly label) “open first” boxes with your toiletries, important paperwork, bed linens and towels, and anything else you need to unpack when you first move to your new home.
If packing is too much work, consider hiring a full-service moving company. Not only will they move your possessions to your new home, they’ll also pack everything up for you. Check out SeniorAdvisor’s checklist for questions to ask when you’re interviewing each company.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, many larger cities also have senior move managers. They’ll coordinate every aspect of your move, including:
- Organizing, sorting, and decluttering your furniture and other items.
- Coordinating auctions, estate and consignment sales, and donations to dispose of possessions you’re not planning to keep.
- Contracting the movers.
- Supervising professional packing and unpacking, and setting everything up in your new home.
The National Association of Senior Move Managers is a great place to start looking if you want to hire these professionals. Its current membership has 1,000+ members who manage over 100,000 moves annually.
Change is rarely easy, and moving is an emotional process. Saying goodbye to your home and long-held possessions hurts, but there are many benefits to downsizing, including less maintenance, a smaller mortgage, and more time to relax. So take a deep breath and start planning.