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Managing the Emotions That Come With Downsizing

A senior sits in their house with packing boxes all around them

Most older adults know a day will come when it’s time to downsize. Some people dread it. Others take it in stride as a necessary step to the lifestyle they want. Whichever way you look at it, downsizing — or rightsizing your life — can tug at your heartstrings and play with your emotions. To help you get through it without feeling overwhelmed, here are some tips for dealing with the emotions of downsizing.

Dealing With The Emotions of Downsizing

Recognize your feelings. Sorting, organizing, decision making, and disposing of things you no longer need or want is hard enough. But if you don’t recognize the emotional toll the downsizing process can take, it will be even more difficult. Allow some time to reflect on the memories personal items bring back before deciding whether they should stay or go.  

Think of it as an adventure. You may be moving to a smaller home, but it’s more suited to your future needs than where you live now. Most people who’ve made the move to a senior living community find it liberating once they’re settled in their new residence. There are new friends, new opportunities and new adventures to experience. And none of the responsibilities of home ownership.

Have a plan. It’ll help you feel more in control of the process and ease your anxiety. If you have a moving date in mind, you can plan workdays to get the job done without exhausting yourself. Define goals for each workday on your calendar and write down who will need to be involved to accomplish those goals. Involve friends and relatives early so they can be ready to help when those days arrive.

Start early. Give yourself time to approach the process methodically. Start months ahead of moving day and sort one room at a time. If you aren’t rushed, you’ll find downsizing to be much less stressful.

Start small. A laundry room or linen closet are good places to start. Avoid diving into a kitchen or garage right off the bat. Garages and basements are often repositories of things you were emotionally attached to but haven’t thought about in years. And kitchens can be full of hand-me-downs and duplicates that take time to sort. Start with the easy rooms and build your confidence before you tackle the harder stuff.

Identify why it’s important to you. Be able to articulate each item’s purpose. Is it necessary? Is there sentimental value to the item? Is it of significant financial value? Would a family member or friend appreciate it or use it? If you’re having trouble deciding, enlist the help of family members, friends, or a professional. If you’re helping parents sort out their belongings, check out our blog post: What to do with your parents’ possessions before moving to a senior living community.

Feeling overwhelmed? Call in the professionals — If you’re struggling, find yourself short on time, or simply prefer to have a professional help you decide what to do with your possessions, senior move managers are available to help.

Keep your eye on the prize.

Dealing with the emotions of downsizing isn’t easy. But downsizing your home can rightsize your life. For many older adults, a senior living community offers a lifestyle that better aligns with their wants and needs. Knowing what you want for the next chapter of your life and taking positive steps to make it happen can be energizing. Keep your reasons for moving in mind and downsizing will look a lot less daunting.