Downsizing to Senior Living: Letting Go of Your Belongings as You Age

Letting Go of Belongings

Retirement means less work and more time for yourself and all the things you want and love to do. But it often also means it’s time for downsizing and letting go of possessions that you have accumulated, but no longer serve a purpose – especially if you’re making a move to a senior living community. Basements, attics, garages, and closets all hold boxes and bins of items that once seemed useful and important, but now are just “stuff” taking up space. The hard part is learning how to let go, especially of those things that hold sentimental value. Here are tips to remember that will make letting go much easier.

Downsizing: What’s yours is yours

When beginning to sort through belongings that are no longer used, one of the first stumbling blocks is the feeling that items received from others must be kept. Seniors may feel that because something was a gift, giving it up might seem ungrateful. But the reality is that once it is given, it is up to the recipient to decide what to do with it. Although it may be difficult at first, seniors should feel free to make the decision to give away or otherwise dispose of these possessions without guilt. More about dealing with guilt can be found in the blog, “Downsizing Without Guilt.”

Whose stuff is it?

Seniors who have raised families may soon realize many of the items stored in their homes actually do not belong to them, but rather to their children. As these boxes and bins of others’ belongings are unearthed, it’s time to let the kids know they have “X” amount of time to claim them before they are going to charity, a garage sale, or the trash bin. Keep in mind that children may have left the nest and these belongings behind years ago so they may not even remember them. Provide them with an overview of what you found and let them decide if they want it or not and be firm about when it must be removed. More about letting go of children’s belongings can be found in the blog, “Rightsizing: How I cleared my closets and dumped all the stuff my kids didn’t want.”

Sentimental connections

Items with sentimental value are usually the most difficult to part with and as a result, they just keep piling up. One way to choose what to keep is to define the emotional value of possessions by making a list and scoring how much joy each brings. Also try to assess who else might enjoy having each item so that it becomes an heirloom to pass along. If it is something you love but will ultimately go back into storage, it’s time to find it a new home where it will be displayed or used by someone who will appreciate it too. More help with downsizing sentimental belongings is offered in blog, “How to Get Started Decluttering Sentimental Items.”

Rightsizing isn’t downsizing

Throughout the process of assessing what to keep or let go of, adopting the concept of “rightsizing” can help guide seniors so they have a clear goal. Rightsizing isn’t just about space, but about core values like what kind of life they want to live (i.e., more travel, more hobby time, more volunteering, etc.) and what they need (or don’t need) to accomplish that lifestyle going forward. 

For seniors who plan to move to a smaller home or a senior living community without all the responsibilities of the family home, this often means letting go of large items like lawn mowers and other maintenance equipment that will no longer be needed. Other considerations include furniture from bedrooms, and from communal spaces like formal dining rooms and large patios or decks. By choosing only what is needed to fill the new space comfortably seniors will find rightsizing meets all their needs. For a deeper look at rightsizing for seniors, check out the blog, “What Is Rightsizing?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

One of the most difficult aspects of letting go of belongings is that it can quickly become overwhelming. To best tackle the job, enlist family or friends to help for a day or two. Perhaps a teenage grandchild can assist with the basement while an older friend or family member can take on closets. Still others can take loads to local charities like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or help with a garage sale once the sorting is finished. Just having a helping hand not only takes some of the physical weight off, it can also help seniors stay on track and make essential decisions. By doing the job a little at a time with help, seniors will soon wonder why they didn’t do it sooner! 

Letting go of belongings can be tough but also rewarding, especially when making a move to a senior living community like North Chandler Place. To help you better understand senior living options and financing all types of senior care, we created a comprehensive guide. We invite you to download A Family Guide to Funding Senior Care & Housing with our compliments!