Independent Living Downsizing Checklist for Seniors Planning to Move

May 25, 2021
Senior couple sitting on a couch in the middle of moving house

Preparing for a move to an independent living community may seem overwhelming. But it can also be a great time to downsize and sort through closets, basements and attics so that unused and unwanted stuff doesn’t move with you. Keeping only that which you will continue to use or want to keep for sentimental or other value means the move will be quicker, easier and much less stressful. When planning a move to independent living, follow this checklist for downsizing.

1) Compare spaces: Old and new.

Moving to independent living usually means the new home will be smaller than the current home. Fewer bedrooms, smaller formal living spaces, and less square footage overall often means some large items like furniture will no longer be needed.

An easy way to assess what stays and what goes is to go room by room. For example, if the current home has four bedrooms and the new home has two, make a list of furniture that will be moving and furniture that will not. Similarly, compare living room, dining room and kitchen areas to help whittle down what furniture will fit and what will not. Starting with the largest items helps make it easier to visualize and manage the move and to find new homes for those items you no longer need. For more tips on downsizing room by room, check out the lifestorage.com blog, “How to Downsize Your Home [Free Checklist]

2) Inventory appliances and equipment.

Many independent living homes include appliances like stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, and so on. But many family homes have more than the usual appliances, including second refrigerators, freezers, or generators that will not be needed in independent living.

Other items might include big-screen televisions and other electronics, exercise equipment that’s being replaced by on-site exercise facilities, and large toys (think Big Wheel!) your grown kids left behind. Whether they are no longer wanted or needed they can either be sold with the home, gifted to family, or donated to charity. Since large items like appliances and furniture are difficult to move, consider donating them to a charity listed at move.com that will pick them up.

3) Clean those closets.

Out of sight, out of mind, is perhaps the biggest reason “stuff” accumulates so quickly in spaces with doors that close. Bedrooms, basements and other rooms with closets should be dealt with one at a time to determine what treasures or trash are within. One way to make the job more manageable is to enlist the help of family members, especially when the closet likely holds items belonging to them.

A rule of thumb is that if something has no value, throw it away, like old shoes and clothes that aren’t charity-worthy. By separating the junk from that which someone might want, the volume goes down quickly. When someone who is helping says they want something, be sure they take it with them when they leave so that it doesn’t go back into the pile, making you sort it twice.

Cleaning closets can relieve seniors of tons of stuff they didn’t even know they had and help them minimize what they know they need. For help with closet cleaning, the sixtyandme.com blog, “22 Tips for Cleaning Out Your Closet After 60 – Downsizing the Tried and True Way,” can help.

4) Attack the basement.

Not for the faint of heart, basements often represent the largest number of items to deal with simply because, they, like in closets, are out of sight, but the space is much bigger. For those with finished basements, the process will include a combination of 1-3 above, so that things of value that are needed or not needed can be separated from trash.

For basements that are unfinished, the boxes and bins that have piled up may be addressed with the help of family so that each person has the chance to remove what they want to keep. Keep in mind that basement dwellers such as old sporting goods like golf clubs, bats and balls, and winter gear like skis and sleds, can be given away or donated if no longer needed. Others, such as Christmas decorations, may require downsizing so that only the amount needed (and special pieces) are retained and the rest given, donated or thrown away. Before taking on the basement, read junk-360.com’s blog, “How to Declutter and Clean a Basement,” to make it more manageable.

5) Don’t forget the garage!

The garage is often the last place seniors look when downsizing for a move to independent living. But the garage is also full of items large and small that will no longer be needed after the move. For example, lawn care equipment like mowers (push or rider), seed spreaders, rakes and shovels, etc., will likely be moot as lawn care is often provided in independent living. Other garage inhabitants might include ladders, shelving units, workbenches, planting pots, and hand and power tools. Some may make the move but many will not, depending upon space and need. For those who will have a garage in independent living, it’s a good idea to hang on to some tools and gardening supplies for small repairs and patio/deck gardening in independent living.

A move to independent living can be one of the best moves a senior will ever make. At Ganton’s Countryside, our experienced staff is always ready to help and advise when it’s time. For more information about Countryside, please call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.

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