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Downsizing Tips for Seniors

While life in a senior living community can feel like a vacation — someone else cooks, cleans up, shovels and mows the lawn —there’s no question the process of moving is a lot of work. Make downsizing easier with these tips and tricks.

Start early

It’s relatively easy to sort out the furniture you’ll want to take with you but don’t forget about sorting through the contents of every drawer and shelf. If you can, start four to six months and aim to work in two or three-hour chunks so the task doesn’t become too exhausting physically or mentally.

Choose how to sort

Conventional organizers recommend tackling one room at a time. Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo, author of the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, advocates sorting by category. Start with clothes, then books, papers, other stuff and finally, items with sentimental value. Kondo suggests asking yourself, “Why should I keep this?” By holding on to items that bring joy or satisfaction, you’ll surround yourself with things that bring something positive to your life and your new space.

Make three piles

File each item under Keep, Donate or Trash. Don’t keep a Maybe pile: it just prolongs the process, plus making yes or no decisions helps you feel more accomplished. Be ruthless about multiples: you’ll only need one frying pan, one or two sets of sheets, etc. Choose what you actually use: if you drink orange juice from plastic kitchen cups, pick those over cut-crystal glasses you rarely take out of storage.

Use measurements to guide choices

Measure the storage area in your new suite, then tape off the equivalent space on the floor of your home. Fill that visual template as you go. Choose multitasking furniture as much as possible (some ottomans double as storage and a coffee table). Take pieces that make your suite feel like home without adding clutter.

Edit your collections

If your collections won’t fit the new place, pare down by choosing one or two favourite pieces to highlight. Plan to display items on walls if possible: tabletop displays consume valuable space. Do keep supplies and items that support your favourite hobbies: you’ll have more leisure time once chores are passed off to the staff of the residence.

Let go of some sentimental items

It’s easy to become attached to long-time possessions: it feels like abandoning memories or letting go of items connected to our identities and our past. Kondo’s philosophy on parting with presents is to remember the purpose of a gift is to be received — it’s how the gift-giver conveys his or her feelings to you. That part has been fulfilled so you can part with it guilt-free. It might also help to give away treasured items to those in need so they become a blessing to someone else. Or take pictures of treasures: you can give away the item but keep the memories in an album or on a memory stick.

Ask for help

Get your children or grandchildren to assist or call in professionals. Many organizing, moving and other pros can objectively help with the process of de-cluttering and downsizing. Selling items online can be time consuming but if your items are valuable, it might be worth hiring a service to run an estate sale on your behalf.

Celebrate the process

There’s no question that downsizing can be tough. But you’ll make it more pleasant and manageable if you build in time to rest and cherish memories along the way.

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