23 Downsizing tips for seniors + free checklist

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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After decades of collecting your life's most cherished memories, it can be difficult to imagine leaving the home you’ve adored. But on the days you spend cleaning vacant bedrooms and pushing yourself to make it up the stairs, you may come to the conclusion that a change is needed. Downsizing from the home you've grown to love can be incredibly challenging. After all, it’s a place you’ve spent years making memories in and hosting unforgettable holidays with your loved ones. 

We’ve put together downsizing tips that will help you stay organized and cherish all the time you have left. There are also tips for move preparation and repurposing sentimental items you want to hold on to. Continue reading to learn how you can make lightening your life's load a lot less stressful or jump to our senior downsizing checklist below.  

Is it time to downsize?

Deciding whether it is time to downsize your home is a major decision. There are many factors to consider to determine if this makes sense for your lifestyle and wellbeing. Take into account your current family needs, retirement plans and monthly cash flow. Consider the following questions to determine whether downsizing is the road you want to go down:

  • Are you constantly hosting gatherings? Think twice about downsizing if you have a passion for hosting holiday parties for family and friends. Your new space may not accommodate a gathering of equal size.
  • Do you feel a sense of isolation? Having large amounts of property just for yourself can become lonesome. Transitioning to a senior living community can provide more social interactions through daily events and activities.
  • Are there spare rooms throughout your home? Unused rooms in your home create unnecessary upkeep responsibilities. Consider downsizing your home to cut down on the time you spend cleaning unutilized areas.
  • Do you despise lawn maintenance and garden care? If you have no interest in botany and don’t have the energy for constant lawn maintenance, downsizing could relieve you of those responsibilities.
  • Can you afford to stay in your home for the next 5-10 years? If you’re struggling to keep up with your mortgage payments, downsizing to a more affordable home can relieve those financial burdens.

Senior downsizing and decluttering tips

Downsizing and decluttering allows you to enjoy a more simple, secure and stress-free lifestyle. Listed below are downsizing and decluttering tips that will increase productivity and reduce the stress of moving.   

1. Start early

Organizing, packing and moving your belongings will probably take more time than you expect. Begin preparing for your move at least two to three months in advance so you’re not in a last-minute time crunch.  

2. Devise a plan 

Creating a detailed plan makes the relocation process much more manageable and enjoyable. Having to make last-minute decisions or pack possessions frantically only leads to unwanted anxiety and stress. 

3. Set a timeline 

Timelines ensure the plan you created is achievable by the time your move-in date approaches. If you’re moving out of state, think about how long it may take movers to transfer your belongings to your new home.   

4. Document your favorite setups 

Taking pictures of familiar spaces will allow you to recreate them in your new space. Having a sense of familiarity will help you adjust to your new environment. 

5. Lay out your new floor plan 

Having a desired layout for your new floor plan will help you decide which furniture pieces you want to keep and get rid of while downsizing.


“Downsizing always takes longer than expected, so start preparing as soon as possible. The quicker you finish, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits of a simpler household.”

- Ema Hidlebaugh, founder of Minimize My Mess

6.  Plan for problem areas 

It’s smart to strategize how you’ll tackle the larger areas in your home to ensure you’ll have time to move everything you need. You’ll likely need help maneuvering larger items back and forth, so enlist the help of friends and family or hire a professional for assistance. 

7.  Start small

Pack less frequently used and sentimental possessions first, such as decorations and souvenirs. This will help you decide on the items important enough to hold onto. You’ll want to save your necessities for later, as you’ll be using those up until your move out date. 

8. Discard of duplicates 

You don’t need three different types of tongs and whisks in your kitchen drawer. Duplicates only add to the clutter that makes moving stressful, so don’t be afraid to discard them.

9. Adopt the “one year” rule 

If you have trouble deciding whether to keep an item or not, think about if you’ve used it within the last year. If you haven’t, you probably won’t within the next one either, so get rid of it.

10.  Design a labeling system 

Label each moving box by room and the contents inside. This will eliminate any confusion as you move the boxes into your new space.   


11. Digitize memories 

Photos and letters are pieces of memorabilia that are easy to hold onto. To save space, scan and digitize your most beloved photos and old letters onto a device for you to look at anytime.

12. Consolidate collections 

Your six Grandma of the Year mugs take up more kitchen cabinet space than you’d think. As you downsize, take your favorite two within the collection and photograph the others for a lasting memory you can go back to.  

13. Create yes or no piles only 

Sifting through years of memories can make getting rid of sentimental items pretty challenging. Avoid making “maybe” piles when deciding whether to keep belongings or not. You'll end up adding another lengthy process after you realize you haven’t really gotten rid of anything. 

14. Donate used items 

Once you have a solid no pile, donate your household items to a nonprofit organization so they can be regifted to someone in need. This is a great way to repurpose your unwanted possessions and remind yourself of their value. You can also offer your vintage pieces to friends and neighbors. 

“Your friends and family would much rather help you with the moving process while you are still able. This is a great opportunity to bond with children or grandchildren that shouldn’t be overlooked.”

— Geordie Romer, veteran real estate broker for Windermere Real Estate/ NCW

15. Get help from family

Finding extra helping hands can make getting everything done for the transition easier. Plus, seeking the help of family and friends can present an opportunity to make new memories together. 

16. Host a yard sale

One of the easiest ways to repurpose some of the things you don’t want to take with you during your move is to put together a yard sale. You’ll be able to make a profit, and your items will find a new home. This is also a great chance to say goodbye and share next steps with neighbors and community members. 

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Moving tips for seniors

Regardless of whether you're living independently and looking to downsize, relocating to a senior living community with your spouse or just moving closer to loved ones, uprooting your life is always hard to handle. Here are some tips to make the transition smoother for everyone involved:  

17.  Plan for a safe moving day  

Moving day can quickly become chaotic. Prioritize your safety by using proper lifting techniques, creating a clear pathway in and out of the home and avoiding heavy boxes. 


18. Keep track of important documents

 Organize your medical records, birth certificates and passports into a folder. Place in a secure location that is accessible throughout the moving process. 

19. Prepare an essentials bag 

There are certain items you need to have easily accessible throughout your move. Create an essentials bag that will provide constant access to important items such as: 

  • Sleepwear
  • Bedding
  • Medications
  • Toiletries
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Kitchen and meal supplies

20. Take some time to reminisce 

You'll be going through bins filled with a lifetime’s worth of treasured memories. It’s perfectly fine to stop and take some time to feel nostalgic thinking about those happy moments in your life.

21. Focus on what’s being gained, not lost

It’s okay to acknowledge that change can be difficult. When approaching downsizing, it can help to think about the additional time you’ll have to spend with friends and family or to do the hobbies you love most when you’re not having to deal with as much home maintenance. 

22. Get adjusted to your new neighborhood 

Venture out to meet your new neighbors and get to know your new surroundings. Once you're familiar with the people and places, you’ll be able to feel more comfortable and relaxed.

23. Remember to stay connected 

Make plans to meet with your friends and family. It can be difficult moving to a new location, so having some familiar faces visit or call from time to time will make it a bit easier. 

How to repurpose sentimental items

We all hate saying goodbye to the things we love the most. Your dingy band T-shirt and son’s 30-year-old soccer trophy tucked away in your garage probably mean more to you than anyone could imagine. That’s why thinking of new, creative ways to repurpose special belongings can make the moving process less emotionally draining. 


Here are some ways to repurpose commonly valued household possessions: 


Reach out to your local jeweler to see if they would be able to transform a broken earring into a new and improved bracelet or necklace. There's also the option of incorporating the pieces into art to display around the house. 


You’ve worked hard for your life’s accomplishments, and it makes sense that you don’t want to get rid of the awards given to you or your children. Think about turning nameplates and metals into wall decorations. You could even make a coat rack by attaching a flat piece of wood to a trophy head and mounting it to the wall. 


Turn broken or unused dishware and china into garden decorations or flower plots to add a unique element to your outside decor.


Be creative and turn unused or old T-shirts into new pillowcases for your bed or couch. You could even combine several to make a comfy panel blanket.  

Cards, notes and letters 

Frame your most valued love letters and notes on your wall to cut down on clutter. There’s also no better time to create a scrapbook than when you have an endless amount of treasured cards from the people you love most.  

“Understand that the more miscellaneous items you give away, the more sentimental belongings you can keep.

— Sara San Angelo, founder of Confessions of a Cleaning Lady

Downsizing home checklist for seniors

If there’s one takeaway that you should keep with you, it’s that downsizing is no easy task. Use these steps to guide you through the process. To keep track of everything you’re doing, use our downsizing checklist below to help you get everything done.


Printable downsizing checklist
Download here

With this checklist and a well-thought out plan in place, downsizing doesn't have to be a monstrous project for senior homeowners. Take some time to think everything through and you’ll thank yourself later.   

Sources: Secure Self Storage