The Bristal Assisted Living Blog

Posted by The Bristal  |  September 13, 2022

Preparing for a Senior Move: Where to Start With Downsizing and Decluttering

Planning for a move to an assisted living community can be a daunting endeavor. The most overwhelming task may be the thought of downsizing your parent or loved one’s belongings to fit into their new, often much smaller, space.

For many parents and caregivers alike, the thought of downsizing can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the hardest part of any large task is often taking the first step.

Here are some tips and resources to help you take the first step in helping your parent start the next chapter of their life.

How to Get Started Downsizing

Confirm Availability (or Join Waitlist)

Before you start the process of downsizing with your loved one, it’s important to communicate with your chosen assisted living community regarding timelines and availability. For many communities, you must join a waitlist before being offered an opening.

Work with a representative from the community to determine which living options are available and if there is a waitlist your parent will need to be added to. Your contact should also be able to give you a general idea of how long they may be on the waitlist or when they may expect to move in.

Focus on the Positive

Regardless of how your parent feels about moving, the thought of downsizing can cause them to feel overwhelmed. First, make it clear to them that they’re not alone ― you (and any other family members or paid professionals) will be helping them. You will all walk through this process together. Listen to their concerns and reassure them of your support.

In addition, frame downsizing as a gateway to positive change. Say things to get your loved one excited about the move. Emphasize the benefits that will result from downsizing and moving to a new home, such as a maintenance-free lifestyle and more opportunities for social interaction.

Related: 6 Ways to Make it Easier to Transition to Assisted Living >>

Break the Process into Smaller Sub-Steps

If you’re looking at the process of downsizing from a big-picture perspective, you may be wondering, “How are we going to go through an entire home’s worth of stuff?”

Instead, take a practical approach and break the process down into smaller sub-steps. For example, instead of trying to tackle the entire house, start by downsizing just one room at a time. Your list of sub-steps could look something like this:

1. Go through the master bedroom

  • Decide which furniture to move to assisted living
  • Go through items stored in the closet
  • Go through clothing items in the closet and/or dresser
2. Go through the dining room
  • Go through collectibles displayed in the dining room
  • Go through artwork displayed on the walls
  • Go through photo albums stored in the closet

You can break tasks down as small as you need to. The key is to focus on one sub-step at a time, and don’t move on to the next step until the first is complete.

Schedule Time for Downsizing

Another strategy to help you get started is to have a regular time in your schedule to devote specifically to downsizing. You can be as flexible as you need to. Maybe it’s 20 minutes every day, or perhaps it’s one hour three times a week. Mark it on your calendar and mentally prepare yourself for the task at hand.

What to Do with Your Parent’s Belongings

As for the logistics of what will happen to each item, you and your parent have several options to choose from. As you go through belongings, it can help to label each item with its intended destination.

Here are some suggestions:

Move it to Their New Home

Depending on how much space your parent will have in their new home, this will likely be a small group of items. Essentials like dishware, toiletries, and floor or table lamps are good examples of items to pack for the move.

Related: Packing List: What to Bring With You For a Move to an Assisted Living Community >>

Give it to a Family Member or Friend

For items your parent may be sentimentally attached to, gifting them to various family members or friends could be a good option. This may also be ideal for family heirlooms that your loved one wants to stay in the family.

With your loved one’s permission, have several family members over to their current house and invite them to choose any items they may like to have. In addition to finding a new home for some of these treasured belongings, this will give your parent an opportunity to share memories and stories behind such items with family members.

Donate it to a Charity

Donation is another great option for items your loved one doesn’t need but are still in good, usable condition. Choosing to donate can give both you and your loved one a feeling of “paying it forward” to others in need. To make it even easier, you can often work with charities to arrange a pickup ― sometimes directly from your loved one’s home.

Here are some possible charities and services in the tri-state area to consider donating to:

Sell it - Online or Locally

You will probably want to reserve this option for items that have monetary or collectible value. Jewelry, collectibles, and antiques are all items that fit into these categories.

Of course, there are many ways to go about selling. You can opt for a more traditional route by holding an estate sale or auction, which will move larger quantities of items, or you can pick and choose select items and sell them online or locally.

Where to Get Help with Downsizing and Decluttering

If you and your loved one are finding the downsizing process to be unmanageable, it may be time to seek out some help from experts. Senior move managers are experienced in all aspects of the senior move process, from downsizing to settling in after the move. You can find a directory of senior move managers in your area by checking out this tool from the National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers.

Find More Caregiving Resources at The Bristal Blog

If you found this information helpful, check out other useful articles on topics like caregiving, transitioning to assisted living, and Alzheimer’s and dementia. To get started, here are some more tips for decluttering and downsizing, and downsizing suggestions for seniors.


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