Older man and woman sitting with estate planning attorney

Tips on How to Downsize When You’re a Senior

Moving to a new home, even when you’re excited at the prospect, is accompanied by a good deal of stress, especially when you’re an older person. So much to think about — selling, buying, leasing, or renting property, deciding how to approach downsizing, and trying to coordinate and organize the complicated physical, emotional, and financial steps involved. 

Moving was overwhelming when you were stronger physically and had not yet accumulated so much. Now, it may seem to be impossible. Don’t worry. It’s not! You just have to take advice from those who know. These advisors may include your children and other family members, a knowledgeable realtor, an experienced mover, and your estate planning attorney, who will help you reassess your estate plan for your next adventure. 

Common Reasons Seniors Move

A great many older individuals or couples decide to move in order to:

  • Lower costs now that they’re living on a fixed income
  • Downsize because their present home is too big and its upkeep too expensive
  • Have a more accommodating environment, e.g. without stairs or with more services provided (e.g. for repairs, landscaping)
  • Live near their children or grandchildren
  • Live in a more comfortable climate

Once you have decided to move, you are likely to feel relieved that you have made the decision. Still, there is hard work to be done.

How to Move as a Senior Without Going Crazy

The best way to keep from feeling overwhelmed is to think of moving as a gradual process. Break that process down into manageable steps and keep reminding yourself everything you get rid of will make you less encumbered.

1. Always start with the things you feel most comfortable parting with,

the things you know you won’t have use for once you move. For example, if you are looking for an apartment and you’ve been living in a private house, you might want to begin by getting rid of garden equipment and supplies. 

2. Measure the furniture you plan to take with you

There’s absolutely no point in bringing the credenza you’re so fond of if it won’t fit in any of your new rooms. 

3. Become a minimalist

Think of taking absolute necessities with you, not nostalgic items that will be difficult to move and will add clutter on the other end. Think how delighted you will be to sell some furnishings or jewelry or collectibles (think tag sale) to have more cash in hand, how generous you will feel providing loved ones with meaningful or useful items to start their lives as young adults, and how wonderful it will feel to give away belongings to those in need or to benefit a worthy cause. 

Remember that the more you pack and take with you to your new digs, the more you will have to unpack and find space for when you get there. Also, remember that putting things in storage is not usually cost-effective.

4.  Organize by Sorting into Basic Categories

Use colored stickers or tags to indicate which stuff goes with you, which will be given to particular friends, relatives or neighbors, and which will be donated to charity. If you see 

more of the colored markers in the “take with” category, you are doing something wrong. 

Most people will tell you that as much as they thought they were ruthless in ridding themselves of unnecessary possessions when they got to their new home a large percentage of “necessities” ended up in the trash.

5. Tricks to Give Yourself a Boost

Remind yourself that you’re accomplishing a lot by:

  • Sorting through large items first
  • Focusing on each section of your home individually so you can check off “linen closet” or 
  • “framed pictures.”
  • Spend a certain period of time each day packing, then take a walk or read to keep moving from becoming a ceaseless grind.

6. Put Together a Carton for the First Few Days and Nights

so you can work gradually with the unpacking as you did with the packing. This box, like all cartons, should be carefully marked and should include linens, a few clothes, a frying pan and tea kettle, medications, bandaids, and toiletries — in other words, what you need to carry you through as you settle in.

Contact Our Experienced Elder Law Attorneys When Planning a Move

If you don’t have a completed estate plan at the time of your move, now is the time to have our attorneys prepare all the necessary documents. If you do have an estate plan, this is a good time for us to look it over in terms of this meaningful change in your lifestyle. Contact us now so we can make sure everything is in order. After a period of tumult, it’s a good idea to make certain you have all the right papers in the right place.