How to Clear Clutter When You “Right Size” into Senior Living

downsizing before a move

We seem to spend the first half of our lives accumulating things. It started when we were old enough to speak and increased as we started watching Saturday morning cartoons. “I want My Little Pony,” or “I want Transformers,” repeated in whining tones until our parents gave in or scolded us, became a large percentage of what we called “conversation” back then.

As we grew up and took control of our own finances, we still fell victim to the “wants.” A new car, a bigger house, furnishings for the same. And then, we had our kids asking us for things, helping us to fill our home with even more “stuff.”

Then we approach the second half of life, and we realize the burden of having to care for, clean, store and move all these “things” we worked so hard to accumulate. It’s time to downsize.

If you’re moving into a senior living facility, there are many good reasons to downsize or, “right size,” as many people say:

  • Fewer personal belongings to pack and transport makes moving less expensive, faster, easier and less stressful
  • Your senior living housing may be a one- or two-bedroom apartment, smaller than the house where you raised your family
  • You have finally realized you don’t need all these things to lead a fulfilling life

Now, looking back at decades of items, where do you begin?

Take the “Expert” Approach
The home improvement and de-cluttering shows have it right. Establish three piles: keep, donate/sell, throw away. The criteria is easy: If you don’t love it (not like, but love), won’t use it, or it won’t fit in your new space, it gets sold, donated or thrown away.

You’ll want to set up a large staging area. This could be the foyer or living room of your home if it’s large and relatively empty, your basement or — if the weather is nice — your front yard or backyard. You can use your patio or driveway, or lay tarps on the lawn.

Get Help
De-cluttering and rightsizing is no easy task. Ask for help if you need it. Adult children can be of some assistance, but if you’ve had a child you’ve accused of being a packrat her whole life, or who will get overly sentimental if you suggest donating her Care Bear collection to the local children’s hospital, keep her away. (We’ll talk about what to do with your adult children’s stuff in a little bit.)

The best person to help is a friend, neighbor, or even a professional organizer who can be objective about what to keep, what to get rid of, and the estimated value of items you wish to sell.

Is Their Money Hidden in Your Home?
As you go through your belongings and make your piles, be aware of items that could have great financial value. If you have family heirlooms, jewelry, very old furniture, china, artwork or decorative items that you believe could be worth a lot of money, get them appraised.

Once you know their value, you can decide whether to move the items to your new home if you will use them and, if they fit in the space, sell them or give them to family members. It’s a waste of money to put these items in a storage facility, regardless of their monetary or sentimental value. Ultimately, your children will end up going through the storage facility and keeping or selling them. Give them to your children now. You’ll save money on storage fees, they can begin enjoying the items right away and, best of all, you can get to see them enjoying these family heirlooms.

The Upside to Right Sizing
As you go through what you previously thought of as “clutter,” memories are sure to re-surface. Take your time de-cluttering and allow yourself to appreciate each item. Just don’t become emotionally detached. When you get rid of things, you will still have the memories associated with them.

As you begin the next chapter of your life in a senior living community, you can enter knowing that your home is decorated exactly the way you want and that you are surrounded with items you love or that have a purpose in your space. It’s a simpler, better way to live.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (866) 662-0435 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.