8 Tips for Downsizing to a Retirement Living Community

How moving from home to a senior living community is an opportunity to simplify your life

Senior man packing and labeling a moving box

Moving is one of life’s most stressful events. In fact, a OnePoll survey found that the average American thinks moving is more stressful than divorce or having a child.

Moving to a smaller space can turn up the stress even more. Understandably, emotional ties to your home and belongings make parting with some items very difficult.

While moving is stressful, it’s also the first step toward new opportunities, and there are a few things you can do to make the process go as smooth as possible.

1. Adjust your thinking about belongings

According to Kimberley Bilotich, founder and president of Magnolia Transitions, a senior move management company that specializing in downsizings, the first step in making a move to an independent living community is getting in the right mindset.

Before you even think about pulling out that packing tape, take time to honor your feelings about the move. It’s perfectly normal to feel mixed emotions. Try not to get stuck there though. Bilotich says reframing your thoughts around objects can help.

“Objects, people and memories are not the same,” she says. “Tell yourself, ‘I can get rid of stuff and still keep relationships and memories.’”

You can also think of parting with excess belongings as an act of love for others. Bilotich names a few ways letting go of items can feel more like love than loss:

  • Releasing the burden of sorting items for the next generation
  • Helping a spouse feel less stressed and weighed down
  • Helping people in need by donating items
  • Freeing yourself to be more mobile and flexible

“One of the hardest parts of downsizing is parting with years of extra belongings, and the emotional attachment that comes with those belongings,” she says. “Once you’re in a good space emotionally, start tackling the practical aspects of moving.”

2. Start small

Thinking about sorting and packing up an entire house can feel overwhelming to anyone, especially if you’ve been living in the same space for decades. Bilotich recommends making a list of all the rooms in your house and focusing on one room at a time.

“Do not think about the entire house,” she says. “Start with an easy space or room, and work your way up.”

Chipping away at smaller pieces keeps anxiety in check and makes it harder to become overwhelmed.

3. Ask yourself these 3 questions

When going through belongings, it’s easy to get stuck in thoughts like: “One day, I might wear that dress that I haven’t tried on in 15 years.” Or, “I haven’t used that bread maker since the ’90s, but you never know.”

If you’re hesitant to part with an item, Bilotich recommends asking yourself three questions:

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Do I use it?
  3. Do I need it?

If you answer yes to these three questions, put the item in the “keep” pile. If not, it’s time to let someone else who needs it put it to use.

4. Reduce, reuse, recycle

Before you move onto the next room, categorize your “discard” pile. Sort it into four parts:

  • Offer to family and friends
  • Sell
  • Donate
  • Recycle/trash

Depending on the timeframe between taking inventory of your home and moving, you could have a yard sale or use online services like eBay for items you wish to sell. Make it a positive experience by putting money from sales into a few items to spruce up your new space.

If you have sentimental items that you’re on the fence about, consider sharing them with friends and family. For instance, maybe someone is in the market for a new armchair or a piece of artwork. When you go to visit these people, you’ll see your items being enjoyed by those close to you.

5. Evaluate the items you keep

Keeping a few pieces of furniture and décor is a nice way to ease the transition from one home to the next. You’ll want to make sure these items fit into the new home’s floor plan. If you’re moving into a Holiday by Atria community, each community’s website offers a list of available floor plans.

6. Celebrate small victories

Small victories add up to big ones. After you finish sorting through a room, check it off your list and pat yourself on the back before moving onto the next one. Do something nice for yourself. Go on a walk. Treat yourself to a favorite snack. Call a friend. A little self-care will motivate you to keep the momentum going.

“Make sure to congratulate yourself after each room,” says Bilotich. “Each finished room is significant progress toward your final goal!”

7. Make your new home feel like home

With a few mementos, you can seamlessly make your new home in an independent senior living community feel warm and welcoming. Sort through family heirlooms and childhood photo albums to find items that truly make a house feel like home. They should be the first ones brought to your new residence.

Use your big move as an excuse to update décor or play the role of decorator. Retailers like IKEA, Walmart and Target specialize in inexpensive décor that works nicely in smaller settings such as independent senior living apartments.

8. Focus on the positive

Your house may be where your son brought home a blue ribbon from field day in the third grade or where your daughter celebrated making the debate team, but even wonderful homes have quirks that can be nice to leave behind.

Whether it’s cleaning rooms that have turned into storage or clearing the gutters, chores become more cumbersome as we age. Moving into a retirement community takes daily tasks off your plate so you can spend more time with family and friends.

Finding joy in a fresh start

Letting go of unnecessary items can be therapeutic. Physical decluttering can make your mind feel less cluttered as well. A senior living community can alleviate a lot of stress that comes with tending to a large house while still offering the freedom and privacy of having your own home.

Looking for your next home? Holiday has communities across the country – find the one that’s right for you.

Top Articles