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Navigating Senior Living: Downsizing and Decluttering for a Joyful Home (Part 2 of 4)

Mar 12, 2021

Moving to senior living requires planning, preparation and, in the case of your living space, a lot of downsizing and decluttering. This can be an exciting opportunity to transform your lifestyle, but it also can be a bit overwhelming, says Barbara A. Keller, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Peter Becker Community.

“Many of our residents move to Peter Becker Community after decades of living in a family home, so as you can imagine there are a lot of personal belongings to go through,” she says. “I always suggest starting the downsizing process as early as possible. Even if you don’t plan on moving to senior living in the near future, it’s a good idea to begin the process so it’s not completely daunting.”

That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t downsize and declutter in a relatively short amount of time. Barb says that by making a game plan, being organized, having help and setting a deadline can allow you to downsize and declutter much quicker than you might have expected.

“As I like to say, it’s never too early or too late to start,” she says.

Downsizing Tips for Seniors

Give yourself plenty of time.

While it is possible to downsize somewhat quickly, don’t expect to be able to get done in a day or a weekend. “One truth of downsizing is that we all have a lot more stuff than we think,” Barb says. “And even though you don’t want the process to drag on, you also don’t want to rush it.” Instead, give yourself several weeks (or months), breaking the process down one room at a time. This will give you time to really focus and feel less stressed.

Go through and make note of the “keepers.”

Instead of going through and looking at what you want to get rid of, make a list of everything you know you need to keep. This can help you determine what really will be essential in your new space. It’s also important to know how much space you’ll actually have. If you are moving from a five-bedroom house to a two-bedroom condo, you won’t need ten sets of sheets, for example. Go through rooms that you know you won’t have in your new home and eliminate as much of what’s in there as possible.

Start with a small space.

It’s best to start in a small room that doesn’t have a lot of emotional attachment to it, like a linen closet or a laundry room. These “bite sized” areas don’t often hold a lot of space and you can get through them relatively quickly. You’ll gain a sense of satisfaction from getting one room checked off your list, as well as get your momentum started to go through the rest of the house.

Eliminate duplicates.

This is especially true in the kitchen, where you have a handful of ladles, thirty place settings, several cookie sheets and sets of pans that you only use once a year. Think about what you really use on a regular basis and see about reducing the rest. Even if you always use that crockpot once a year over Christmas, you can give it to a family member who will probably let you borrow it when it’s time to use it. (And you’ll probably find you don’t need it, anyway.)

Make only “yes” or “no” piles.

You’ll be going through years of memories as you sort through your belongings, and you’ll find that some bring up happy memories or tug at your heartstrings. Although it’s tempting to put it to the side and say “maybe, if I have space” – don’t do it. You’ll end up with an enormous pile of “maybes” and only draw the process out further. Take a hard look at every item you go through and make a quick decision – yes or no? Listen to your gut. If it’s something you use regularly, then by all means, take it. But if it’s something that you haven’t used in years or simply isn’t practical, it’s time to let it go.

Preserve collections in a creative way.

Many people have treasured collections that have a lot of personal meaning to them. For example, you may gather collectible plates, or have a thimble collection from all the vacations you took as a family. While they are meaningful, these items will also take up a lot of valuable space in your new home. Instead of taking everything, choose a few items that have the most meaning to you and take pictures of the rest. You can then turn those pictures into a lovely coffee table book that will preserve your collection without the clutter.

Give yourself “memory time.”

As you go through each room, you will have moments when you want to stop what you’re doing and walk down memory lane. Maybe it will be when you’re going through your kids’ old stuffed animals. Or you’re cleaning out your boxes filled with art projects from their younger years. Take the opportunity to sit and reminisce. Laugh, cry and feel what you need to feel. Take a break or move onto another room if you need to. (This is why it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time to complete the process.)

Make it a family affair.

Yes, you can declutter and downsize all by yourself, but why not invite the kids and grandchildren over to make it an event? Not only will you have extra hands to help, but it’s also an opportunity for all of you to share memories about favorite items (and pass along family history and stories). It’s also a good time to pass along family heirlooms or other mementos – you get the benefit of one less thing to pack while also allowing yourself the gift of seeing your loved one use the items while you’re still present.

Consider hiring a professional.

Sometimes it’s much easier and simpler to ask the professionals for their help. At Peter Becker Community, our friends at Specialty Moves by Design specialize in helping people make the move when they’re going through a life change (like moving to a senior living community). Their expert team can help with everything from downsizing to selling things you don’t want, packing up everything and helping you move to your new space.

“We want this move to be a joyful one, and that starts with a joyful downsizing process,” Barb says.

Join us for a free event!

To learn more about how to downsize joyfully, we’d like to invite you to join us on March 17 for a free, virtual event. Presented by Jill Kearney, Founder & CEO of Specialty Moves by Design, will share expert tips on how to get you more easily to where you need to be. Register here.

Your Moments Are at the Heart of What We Do

At Peter Becker Community, it’s our mission each day to celebrate your individuality, whether you reside here full-time or are here as a temporary resident of our Health Care Center. Our support and encouragement are always expressed one-on-one. As a Continuing Care Retirement Community, we provide an environment that empowers you to remain active and independent, while ensuring your future needs will always be met. As a not-for-profit community, we are focused exclusively on the well-being of our residents.

We offer a full range of services – from independent Residential Living, to Personal Care, to Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation services, to compassionate Memory Care in our secure Memory Care neighborhood. Life here is good – it’s enriched by the time, choices, connections and involvement you’ll discover at our Continuing Care Retirement Community.

With our spectrum of activities, amenities, dining options, maintenance-free living and so much more, you’ll discover you spend more time enjoying our lifestyle and less time worrying about the details of life. You’ll find choices to build a secure life, connections that build closeness, involvement in the world at large and time to explore it all.

For more information about the services provided at Peter Becker Community, or to schedule a personal visit to our Continuing Care Retirement Community in Montgomery county, please contact us at (215) 720-1087 to begin the conversation.