Downsizing 101: 7 Tips for Scaling Back

If you’re a baby boomer, chances are you’re at least starting to think about downsizing and moving to a smaller living space. And that’s doubly true if you’re considering a move to senior living, where the options are generally less spacious than most homes. 

For many, such a move will be something to look forward to. In fact, in a Trulia poll last year, 21 percent of baby boomers identified their ideal living space as smaller than their current home.

Either way, many will soon take up the challenge of cleaning out their present homes and scaling back on a lifetime of belongings. That idea can be daunting for those who enjoy and treasure their possessions, but many also find it liberating to divest themselves of burdensome “stuff.”

“Intuitively, we know the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and relationships, experiences and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life,” writes Graham Hill in the New York Times. “After a certain point, material objects have a tendency to crowd out the emotional needs they are meant to support. I sleep better knowing I’m not using more resources than I need.”

Ready to get started on a simpler life? Consider these suggestions:

  • When possible, start months ahead and sort one room at a time. That gives you time to think and is less draining than attempting everything all at once.
  • Measure the storage space and rooms in your new place to determine how much you can keep. Taped-off floor space might provide a helpful visual while sorting.
  • Talk to family members and friends about items they might value then consider gifting them with those keepsakes. Knowing a beloved item is going to “a good home” may help you part with it.
  • Start with giant boxes labelled “keep,” “donate,” “gift” or “throw away.” As you sort, make regular trips to donation centers and dumpsters. Toss anything that’s chipped, broken or stained (an exception may be stained but sound clothing, which Goodwill re-processes). Recycling is always admirable but may be overwhelming when divesting of an entire household.  
  • Consider hiring a company to digitize photos and/or important documents you might unexpectedly need later.
  • Consider an estate or garage sale, consignment stores, or online listings for unwanted but valuable items such as antiques, collections or quality furniture pieces.
  • Before planning to donate, contact the organization to confirm what it does and doesn’t accept. Many offer free pick-up. Remember receipts for tax purposes.

Finally, when all is said and done be at peace about your decisions. Give yourself credit for completing a massive task on your own terms.

Author Marie Kondo describes the rewards of such downsizing in her 2014 book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."

"I have time to experience bliss in my quiet space, where even the air feels fresh and clean,” she writes. “Although not large, the space I live in is graced with only those things that speak to my heart. My lifestyle brings me joy.”

Brookdale Senior Living can help you find a new home you’ll be proud to live in. Contact us at 855-350-3800.

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