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Even if plans haven’t been finalized for moving, start downsizing and clearing out the clutter. When you’re moving from the house you’ve lived in most of your life to a retirement community with a reduced amount of space, downsizing can be stressful and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Armed with the right resources, you can take advantage of your upcoming move to take stock of your true needs, sort through any clutter and enjoy the feeling of a fresh start.

Start slowly and start now

“Unlike what they say about pulling off a Band-Aid quickly (so it doesn’t hurt), downsizing is actually less painful when done slowly and methodically,” explains Elaine Frost, owner and founder of Trusted Transitions, a seniors move management service based in Toronto. “The key is to give the individual the right amount of time to say ‘goodbye’ to things they’re getting rid of, and bring closure to this chapter of their lives.”

Make your move

So even if plans haven’t been finalized for moving, start downsizing and clearing out the clutter anyway. Begin with the basement or rooms that aren’t accessed often, and get into the habit of giving away or throwing out something every week.

Do your giving while you’re living

There is a good feeling that often accompanies giving things you no longer use or need to those who will appreciate them. “Some people also get a kick out of selling their old stuff,” says Frost. “Especially when they realize that people are willing to pay for the things they otherwise would have had to throw out.” Find charities or causes that resonate with your values and research consignment stores that will sell gently used furniture, trinkets and clothing. It can be hard to see once-cherished possessions thrown in the trash, she advises. It feels much better to find them a new home.

Be realistic about the limitations of space

“Sometimes a person must visualize the amount of space they’ll have before they can plan which items they’ll move and which ones they’ll leave behind,” Frost advises. “What I do, if I’m concerned that a client is over-packing, is measure out the actual square-footage of the new kitchen or new closet and tape off that area in the client’s existing home.” Seniors should consider which pieces of furniture will improve life in their new place of residence, and which ones (i.e. an extra coffee table or arm chair) will just make things more crowded and prevent them from moving around freely and safely.

Make the move quickly

When it comes to packing and moving, it is generally recommended that the process be as quick and undisruptive as possible. “From our experience, the best thing to do is pack up the house the day before the move, so you’re not living amongst boxes for weeks, and then unpack and set up the next day, so the new space is completely livable when you move in,” says Vicky Riley Keys, president of Red Coats Moving Solutions, Inc., which specializes in move management for seniors and boomers. Riley Keys’ team takes care of this entire process and the client is free to be as involved or uninvolved as they wish. “When we pack someone’s house, we always take photographs or create diagrams of how things are positioned so we can unpack in a similar way. We want them to be able to go to a cupboard in the new kitchen and find the glasses easily,” she says. “We want the new place to feel like home right away.”

Bring in the right people

Sometimes soliciting outside help is the best tactic. From move management teams who will oversee downsizing and moving, to financial planners with expertise in helping seniors budget and plan for retirement, to mobility experts who will help set up a space so it’s easy and safe to navigate, asking for help from the right people will make the transition easier.


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