Downsizing For Seniors: 3 Good Steps To Follow (Easy Guide)

In Living small by Kate Holmes

The older you get, the more time you’ve had to accumulate stuff and especially things that really mean something to you.  So, what is the best way to downsize when you or your family member is a senior?

Downsizing for seniors is going to take more care and preparation. However, the benefits of downsizing for the elderly far outway any frustrations during the process.

One of the most important things to do is to remember the end goal and keep that in mind!

Here is an easy step-by-step guide for downsizing for seniors.

Set Reasonable Goals Before You Start

One of the most important steps to downsizing is to set goals that will work for you.  While you may have a vision in mind of your end-game, working slow and steady is the way to go.

Downsizing doesn’t always come easy to everyone, especially seniors, so know what you are capable of.

Setting short-term goals is the best way to start on the path to downsizing.

But, what are the short-term goals you should focus on?  More importantly, what is the timeline that you want to work with?  An important tip is to pair your short-term goals with clear deadlines.  This way you have some accountability which will help you to reach your long-term goal.

Let’s say that you have given yourself one full year to reach your long-term goal.

What is the best way to plan out your year?

Here is a great guide and timeline for short-term downsizing goals:

1) Month 1: Sorting Into Categories

The first month into your downsizing journey will be the most important.

This is the month that will set you up for success and put you in a good shape to reach your goal.  This will the month where the bulk of your planning and lifting will happen.

The first thing you will want to do is to take stock of what is really important to you when it comes to your possessions. 

In order to properly do this, you have to be able to actually see your stuff.  Separating things into categories is the best way to go!

You want to start with the easiest things to sort first.  This is going to be clothing, books, dishes, and odds and ends.  You want to make three separate piles that will be to keep, toss and donate.  Keep are the things that you absolutely do not want to part with.

Items that are in good condition should go with the donate or sell pile.

Start boxing up the things you have sorted out.  If you are planning on making a move at the end of your journey, start boxing up things that you want to keep.  The idea is to only have the items that you need every day.  Sometimes when things are out of view for so long we realize that we no longer have a need for them!

Do You Have To Let Go Of That Item?

One thing that many people struggle with when downsizing is not knowing when to let go.  Your journey is going to be met with a lot of obstacles and sacrifices.

One piece of advice we can give you is to take it slowly and to give careful thought to the things you need in your life.

When you start with little things like clothing, it is easier to imagine the process as a whole.  One important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do anything that you are uncomfortable with.

This means that it is okay to hold onto the things that have emotional value to you! So did I Morten (the founder of GoDownsize) when he downsized all the way down to 100 things (see the list here!).

But, it is always a good idea to continue to challenge yourself.

This is why the process of storing certain things out of sight is a good practice.

You never know what you are truly capable of lettings go if you don’t push yourself to the limits.

This is perhaps one of the hardest things, especially for seniors.  But, remember that getting rid of things that are important doesn’t always mean they are destined for the trash.  Instead, think of it as a way to give your most loved items new life.

You have had nearly a lifetime to enjoy it – perhaps it’s someone else’s turn!

2) Month 2: Turn A Profit

The second month of your journey is the perfect time to figure out what to do with all of the stuff that you want to get rid of.

One important thing to remember is that you don’t want to make more waste than good.  One of the perks of downsizing is the positive impact that it can have on the environment.

It would be counterintuitive to put in all this hard work just for a bunch of stuff to end up in the overflowing landfills.

But, how can you still be environmentally conscious while still getting rid of your stuff?  You have plenty of earth-friendly options!

Take your time and really plan out how you want to use the stuff you no longer have a need for.  One great tip we have for you is to use this as an opportunity to fund your new downsized life.  Whether you want to move to a smaller place or are interested in taking your life on the road – you will need the funds.

Did you know:
You can typically sell 20-30% of your stuff online on sites like Craigslist and make a little fortune!

Having creative and financially responsible ways to downsize is going to be key!  For seniors, one of the hardest parts of the process is knowing how to network properly.

In the digital age, it has become less about face-to-face interactions and more about the bottom line.  Here are some of the best ways for you to utilize your salesman skills and make a killing during your second-month stage:

Ready To Let Most Of Your Stuff Go?

The best way to make some money from your journey is to have a fire sale.  Seniors have the opportunity to make some serious money back from this new endeavor.  This is because there are much more opportunities to have high-priced items for sale.

The best way to go would typically be to have a yard sale.

However, if you are planning on making the jump to a smaller place, you should consider having an estate sale.  Unlike yard sales, estate sales have the chance to bring in even more money. 

This is because you get guided by the help of experts.

The process of having an estate sale will start with hiring an estate sale company.  They will come to your home and help you value items that you want to sell.  This is also a great way to get the best price for special china and antique furniture.

Best of all, the experts are on the hook for setting up the sale which means you won’t have to lift a finger.

However, there is a downside to using this type of service.

First of all, you will have to pay.

The more experienced the company is, the more money it will cost.  Most companies want an up-front payment as well as a percentage of sales.  But, you have to keep in mind that you will be making more money than you thought if you go this route.

Not only do these companies do the work for you, but they also do an amazing job of marketing your event.  It goes far beyond lawn signs.

They will post your listing across social media and forums so that you get the more foot traffic than imagined!

Cast A Wider Net

Seniors are not always in the know when it comes to the latest ways to broadcast.  This is where having the help of friends and family come in handy.  It was once said that there is a buyer for everything.  Even your obscure knick-knacks that you thought you could only love, will have the perfect home out there somewhere.

This is especially true if you have older items that are no longer in production.

Chances are that someone out there has been looking for just that special item.  So, how can you connect with people who may be interested if they are not near you?  Social media of course!

If you find that you’re a little lost when it comes to how to promote your special sale items through social media, ask for help!  Family members who are familiar with how social media marketing works will be a great asset to you.

Listing special items for sale through platforms like Facebook, allows you to reach a much wider audience.

Another way you can ensure that you are getting the right value for special items is to have them appraised.

This is the best way to get an accurate listing price.  However, the expert can do much more than just give you a sale price.  They may already know a collector who would love to buy your item.  This is another great way for seniors to network through the connections they make!

Repurpose, Reuse, and Recycle

People often think that downsizing means having to add to the already growing trash problem.  However, that is not the case.  The idea is to de-clutter the way you live while still trying to get the most out of used items.

When trying to figure out how to avoid throwing things away, remember your three R’s!

  • Repurposing is the idea of taking something old and giving it new life in a totally new way. 
    One great example of repurposing is the art of taking old wood and turning it into functional pieces like furniture.  Old bikes can be repurposed as garden pieces and even suitcases can be transformed into bar stools.
  • Reusing is taking something and using it for the purpose that already exists.  For example, glassware can always be used as glassware.  We live in a world where trends are forever evolving.  One thing that never goes out of style is vintage.  People would pay a lot of money for glassware that is in good condition. 
    So, think twice before you toss!  There may be profit hidden in your stash.
  • Recycling is another great option for your toss pile.  Carefully go through and check to make sure that none of the toss items can be recycled. 
    You want to start by sorting out the reusable materials like glass, plastics, and metals.  From there you can either schedule a pick up with your local recycling center or sell back in demand materials for a small profit.

3) Month 3: Prepare For The Big Move

If you want to downsize only your stuff and have no plans to move, you can skip this step!

However, if you want to fully emerge yourself in the downsized lifestyle with a drastic move, this month is your time to shine.

Once your clutter is in order, you can really start planning for the next chapter in your life.  

For seniors, this step is a little harder.  This is why it is so important to remember to have assistance from friends and family.  While this can be the most stressful part of the downsizing process, it can be much more than that.  I find it to be the most rewarding part.

This is the time to really challenge yourself when it comes what type of home you are comfortable living in.  So, what is the best process for downsizing to a smaller home for seniors?

Here is a great guide for what to expect as well as some helpful tips to make the process go smoothly.

What You Need Vs. What You Want

A great thing about being older is that by now you already know what is truly important to you when it comes to a home.  However, downsizing to a smaller home will have its own set of expectations.

For you, the most important thing will be to know exactly what you NEED from a new home.

The first thing you will want to figure out is how much space you want.  Are you looking for a two bedroom flat, studio apartment, or are you going “all in” with a tiny house or RV?  Knowing exactly what you want will help you to be able to find your new home faster and without regrets.

The best way to be sure that you will be getting what you want is to make a list.  In fact – make two lists.

Make a list of your needs.
This should include rooms numbers and sizes as well as features that really matter to you.

Next, make a list of your wants.

These are the extra things that you can live without but, will make life so much better if you have them.

While downsizing is about sacrifice, that doesn’t mean that you can’t really enjoy your home.  This way when the time comes to do some house hunting, you will have a better sense of what you are looking for.  It is important to remember that in the end, you might not get everything you want.

But, you should get everything you need!

Consider Working With An Expert

Once you have your dream new home in mind, it is time to consult an expert.  It is a common misconception that when buying and selling a home, you only need a selling realtor.  However, the benefits of using a buyer agent are huge!

This is especially true for the elderly.

This is because many seniors have not purchased or sold a home in many years.  The real estate market is constantly changing and there is so much new to know about the process.  For extra measure, try finding a buyer agent that is willing to wear both hats.

Not only will they be able to properly market your house, but they will also be able to keep an eye out for listings for your new home.  One thing to keep in mind is that working with an agent means that you will have to pay for the service.

However, it will be totally worth it in the long run!

Helpful Tips For Seniors Looking To Downsize

Knowing the best steps to take when looking to downsize is only half the battle.  There will be plenty of roadblocks you will meet along the way.

The best way to prepare for the unknown is to have all of your bases covered.  Here are some helpful tips for seniors who are looking to downsize for the first time:

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help!

Asking for help is not a generational thing.  Everyone needs help sometimes, and as a senior, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.  Chances are, there are plenty of family and friends who would be willing to donate their time to your cause.

For extra measure, try connecting with other like-minded people.

It is always scary to do something for the first time.  Luckily for you, there are plenty of people willing to share their insider information on downsizing.

Networking forums for people who are either adverse in downsizing or are starting their journey is a great resource for you.  There you can get help and advice and even some creative inspiration along the way.

Re-Define Downsizing

Sometimes the best thing to do is to go back to basics.  One of the first steps of downsizing is figuring out what it looks like to you.  You may find that along the way what you thought was downsizing doesn’t actually work for your life.

You can’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board.  If your long term goal was always moving to a smaller place but, it isn’t working out – you can change your mind.  You may even find that removing clutter from your home was enough for you.

Downsizing is all about change.  So, don’t be afraid to change the rules.

What Does Downsizing Really Mean To You?

Before you can begin downsizing, you will have to define what downsizing means to you.

Downsizing comes in a variety of extremes from small changes to drastic life changes.  So, when you imagine yourself downsizing, what does that look like to you?

While downsizing by definition is a wide spectrum, there are common ways people choose to do it.

Here are some of the most common ways people downsize their lives:

1) De-Clutter To Gain Control

On the most basic ways to downsize is to make simple adjustments to the way you are currently living.  This is a great way to “dip your toe in the water” when it comes to living a downsized life.

This is the process of sorting through your stuff to turn a large pile into a small one.

The point is to strip yourself down to the necessities and to remove unneeded clutter from your life.  This not only will give your home a more open feel, but it will also be less work for you in the long run.

2) Downsize Your Home

Another way to downsize your life is to commit to the movement completely.  This is the extreme way to downsize since it means moving to a smaller place.  When it comes to downsizing your actual home, there are many reasons to do so.

For seniors, the main reason to downsize the home will be to help make life a little easier.  Less square footage means that there will be less to care for.  This way seniors can enjoy this new stage in their life without having to worry about a large home to care for.

3) Somewhere In The Middle?

If you’re not sure exactly how you want to downsize, perhaps you should find some middle ground.  Maybe you’re not prepared to move, but still, want to be committed to the cause.  An easy compromise is to start slow.

Start with the decluttering aspect of downsizing and maybe set a long term goal.

Let’s say you are not quite ready to let your large house go.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t start planning for the day you are ahead of time!  This is also a good way to take stock of the amount of space you truly need.

Giving yourself time to really understand how downsizing will change your life is a great way to set yourself up for success.

Wrapping It Up!

Age is just a number.  It is never too late to decide that you need a little change in your life.  There is a misconception that seniors are “stuck in their ways”.

However, all the life experience has taught them that change is not only welcomed, but it’s also necessary.

Just remember to work within your physical limitations.

You shouldn’t be on the hook for lugging heavy boxes and furniture all over town.  That’s where the help from your young family will come in handy! 

Good luck.