Downsizing to Prepare for a Move to Assisted Living

Board care for elderly takes prep time.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Bunches and Bits.

The transition to assisted living is a challenging time. One task that will need to be completed is deciding what to do with the valuables and property you have accumulated over a lifetime. Unfortunately, moving to assisted living usually means less space, and you’ll have to sort out which belongings you’ll keep and which you’ll discard. The process will inevitably become emotional as you relive the memories your current home holds, all the while knowing that things are now changing. Below are some tips to keep in mind when going through this monumental task.

1. Remind yourself that change is inevitable. As hard as it may be, change is something we need to face. But you do have options in choosing how you react to it, and this can make all the difference. Focusing on the sorrow you feel may leave you stuck in sadness. Encourage yourself to see the opportunities and benefits of this transition. Getting rid of items can feel liberating and rewarding. There is the potential to meet new friends among those you’ll be living with now.  And by moving to the care of assisted living you may be able to look forward to better health in the supportive environment it offers.

2. Begin as early as possible. Going through an entire home is no small task. While this is completely manageable spread out over the course of several weeks, trying to do this all in a few days or even a week can be highly stressful and overwhelming.

3. Break the task down into small steps. Just as waiting until the last minute could prove to make this process unbearable, trying to take on the entire task at once could make your head spin. Going room by room will make your life a whole lot easier. Take things one drawer or one closet at a time if you need to.

4. Consider how life is changing when evaluating items. A new home and lifestyle means new needs, and many things that seem useful or valuable now may just be a burden in your next home. Will this item require maintenance or care that you no longer want or are able to provide? Are there size considerations to be made? Will there be space for this belonging in the new place? Will you ever use it? There’s only so much room for possessions, so make sure the ones you do bring serve a purpose, even if that purpose is simply to bring you joy or comfort (i.e., a family picture).

Figuring out what to do with these objects once you have begun downsizing can also become an issue. You have several options here, including donating to charity, selling them in a yard or estate sale, or giving them away to a family member or friend. Sometimes it can be very satisfying to give your belongings as gifts to those who will find them meaningful. Donating to charity can also be just as fulfilling.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of letting your attachment to objects overrule practicality. In the end, what we really need are the simple things: family and companions with which to share old memories and make new ones. Working to enjoy life and savor the moment can make things seem less important.