When it comes time to retire, many people choose to simplify their lives so they can kick back and relax during the third act of their life.

Wether you’re helping a loved one transition into a senior living community, making a move into a smaller home, or anything else, it may be time to downsize!

But like most seniors, you probably have a house filled with memories, furniture, and stuff—lots and lots of stuff. So thinking about downsizing can be incredibly daunting, but the matter of the fact is that you won’t want to haul all that stuff to your new, smaller home. For an easy transition, follow these downsizing tips to help downsize your home, keep the important things, and start retirement on the right foot.

8 Helpful Downsizing Tips For Seniors (During A Retirement Move)

Portrait of happy senior couple packing cardboard boxes while moving to new house; downsizing tips

Start Small

A little bit can go a long way when organizing your stuff and choosing what to get rid of and keep. Downsizing starts there. Cleaning out a few drawers each weekend might not feel like a big impact, but it’s amazing how checking off that one thing can mean you made significant progress. Drawers are especially tedious to go through because you might find actual valuable things and “keeps” among the junk.

Once you finish the drawers, move on to clothes and shoes, then kitchen clutter, and so and on. The small things take the longest to sort through, so start small first. You can utilize the Marie Kondo method of sorting and decluttering, where she determines if something “sparks joy” or adds value to your life, and that’s how you know to keep it. Sometimes things are sentimental and make us smile, so they deserve to be kept. While other items we might be hanging on to cause we think we might use it or we’ve just had it forever, but if they don’t spark joy and give you purpose, go ahead and toss it. Save the bigger items like big pieces of furniture and gadgets and appliances for last.

Start Early

The best way to avoid unwanted stress or a time crunch is to start decluttering and to downsize your stuff as early as possible. If you know you’ll be retiring in a few years and know you want to move, get started. You may think that you should wait until you actually retire because you’ll have more time to do this stuff, but saving it all until that time can be unbelievably overwhelming. If you have the time, energy, and the health to do it now: why wouldn’t you?

Starting small and starting early can save you a lot of pain and strife down the road when you are trying to manage moving, packing, and decluttering all at once. If you can spare a few weekends to go through drawers, closets, the garage, and a few of those other tedious areas, you’ll be surprised how much faster everything will go when the time actually comes to move. Plus, starting early can mean you have more time to get valuable items appraised and valued to sell instead of scrambling at the end and ending up having to bring them with or donate them for free.

Garage sale yard sale old unwanted items and utensils; downsizing tips

Value and Sell Possessions

For furniture, appliances, or other high-price items, you will want to find out if they are worth trying to sell. Couches, lamps, and other items might not be as modern as they should be to sell currently, but if they are antiques or like-new condition vintage home decor, you can probably get some decent money for them from the right buyer. You might have to do a little bit of research to determine how much you could make off of your nice items. If you start to find that your things will only sell for a couple of bucks, it might not be worth the effort to sell, but it can definitely be donated.

Set Aside Donations

As you start going through your stuff, make a designated area for donations and collect a large pile that you can donate closer to the time you are ready to move. Great items to donate include clothes and shoes in good condition, furniture and appliances free of scratches or other damage, and books or other entertainment items. Places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army make it really easy to donate things with drive-thru dropoffs, but finding local nonprofits to donate to can be an even better, more charitable way to donate. Do some research to find the right place, and check which items they will or will not accept. Sometimes they have too much of something or only collect seasonal items at certain times of the year, so looking before you go can save you a ton of time. 

Senior couple sitting on sofa in home playing tablet and relaxing together. They are smiling and enjoy to spend their time together with happiness. Happy retirement life concept; downsizing tips

Plan Your New Space

Even if you don’t know exactly where you might move, you can still do some space planning and determine what items could be used in each room in your new space. Maybe you know you want a small 1 bedroom condo with a small living space, 1.5 baths, and a balcony. You can easily decide how much stuff you’ll need for that amount of space. Get rid of everything else, or sell it to buy new stuff for your new place.

Stick to Deadlines

To stay organized and prevent burnout, make sure you make lists, set deadlines, and get stuff done when you intend to. For example, if you don’t make a list or deadline, you might head into the weekend not knowing where to start. Then, you start too many things at once, get overwhelmed, and don’t actually complete any of the tasks. Then, with weeks to go before your big move, you’re stuck with a pile of stuff to still get done because you “winged it.”

Set up a plan and a cleaning schedule calendar that can help you stay on task and actually check off your to-do list. Like we said initially, start small and take care of drawers, closets, and other small clutter that is just a pain to do especially if you wait until the end. Jot those down for the first few weeks, then move on to clothes and donation drop-offs, then larger items that you want to sell, then finally start packing away stuff that is ready to go to the new place. Then when the day arrives, you’ll have completed everything early and are ready to go.

Get a Storage Unit

If you really want to get ahead of the game, rent yourself a public storage unit to put things you want to keep but aren’t necessary to have in your home as you transition. The storage unit can also be a great way to hang on to valuable heirlooms and other things you want to pass down to children and grandchildren.

Things like small end tables, lamps, office furniture, trinkets, and other non-essential items can be moved into your rented storage unit weeks before you need to move them to your new place. Keep in mind; storage units can get somewhat expensive the larger the unit you rent, but it can be worth it to save you the time and energy that it will take to move them all at once down the road.

Delivery man checking list on clipboard near car; downsizing tips

Hire a Moving Company

And last, but definitely not least, hire a moving company! You can, of course, hire your friends and family to help you along the way, but coordinating everybody and everything can be a stress you’re not willing to handle. Full-service movers can actually pack up your entire house for you and move it all at once. Professionally trained packers will use delicate care and diligence to ensure your fragile items and everything you love are packed away with bubble wrap, tape, and all of the things required to keep them safe during the move. All you have to do is lock up the old house and show up to the new one.

As you transition from being a homeowner to a downsized retiree, these tips can help guide you through as peacefully and stress-free as possible. As you enter into the next chapter of your life, embrace the help of others and utilize the tools available to you. Keep Sunflower Communities in mind for your future as well with our beautiful senior community-living options.