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When It’s Time To Move: Tips to Help You Navigate the Process

As seniors age, housing needs inevitably change. For many older people, living in the family home where they’ve raised a family may no longer be feasible because of health, mobility or financial concerns. Other seniors may desire a simpler lifestyle, with more time to pursue activities they enjoy without the worry of home maintenance and yard work.

Each individual’s situation is different, but for most seniors there will come a time when downsizing and moving to a smaller place — an apartment, an independent or assisted living community, or perhaps clear across the country to live near the kids and grandkids — makes sense.

Making decisions about what to do with your furniture and other possessions can be stressful, both emotionally and physically, but moving is manageable taken in small doses over a period of time and with a little planning and organization on your part. We’ve gathered a few tips to help you make the move as painlessly as possible.

• Start Early: It’s unrealistic to think that you can pare down the contents of your home in just a couple of weekends. Give yourself the gift of time so that you can make wise decisions about the items you want to keep and take with you, give away to your children, grandchildren and friends, donate to a thrift store or charity, or sell.

• Start Small: Pick one drawer, one closet or one collection of items. Go through those things and decide if they will go in the “keep” or “let go” box. When you’ve finished, move on to the next. Enlist the help of any children or grandchildren who are willing to assist you. This can be a great bonding time, as you share stories of your life, how you acquired some of the belongings in your home and why they hold a special meaning for you.

Be Realistic: Downsizing from a large home to a small apartment means that you won’t be able to take all your belongings with you. Knowing the size of the rooms and storage space in your new home will help you understand what furniture, clothing and keepsakes will fit.

Family Heirlooms: You love Aunt Dot’s wedding china, your grandma’s button collection, and are very sentimental about the 40-year-old couch — with just a few stains, but still perfectly good — that you and your husband purchased just after you married. But let’s face it, your family may not feel the same way. Ask family members if they have special pieces they’d like gifted to them, but don’t be offended if they don’t want any of your belongings. Each generation has its own ideas of what a home should look and feel like. If it’s going to be hard to part with these items, take a photo and write a description of each piece so that you can look at it later and enjoy the memory of it.

• Create Lists: Make a list of all the things you have to do. Along with deciding what items to keep, give away, donate or sell, moving to a new home includes filling out change of address forms at the post office, transferring magazine and newspaper subscriptions, arranging to have the utilities shut off at your old home, contacting home and car insurers, and multiple other tasks. Lists help you stay organized!

• Pack A “First Day” Box: Follow this great advice from the American Senior Communities organization and you’ll be prepared when you reach your new home with all of the items you’ll need that first day and night: toiletries, prescriptions, cleaning and kitchen supplies, toilet paper, and basic tools like a hammer and screwdriver. You might also add your nightgown or pajamas and a change of clothes for the next day. Having all of these items in one place will help your move go smoothly as you settle into your new home.

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