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Moving into a retirement community offers many advantages: less time and money spent on upkeep, a worry-free lifestyle, a wider range of activities, and more. But a move can be stressful for older adults — not to mention physically exhausting. It can seem that the tasks associated with a move will just be too overwhelming. However, with a little help and the following tips, the process can be much more manageable.
It can be daunting to organize years’ worth of possessions and furniture, but starting the process well in advance will help eliminate the feeling of being rushed to prioritize and pack. Starting early means being in control of the process.
So often, people jump into the downsizing process and begin sorting items with a lot of sentimental value, which can quickly leave them feeling emotionally exhausted. Start the process with items that don’t hold as much emotional value, and then move on to more important items.
Focus on ‘Rightsizing’
Plan carefully for which possessions will actually fit in your new living space. One of the most common complications on move-in day is bringing too much. Calculate the percentage difference in square footage from your old and new residences so you have a point of reference for how much you can bring along.
Separate possessions into groups: Keep, donate, sell, and discard. Color-coded stickers are an easy way to quickly identify which category an item belongs in.
Allow yourself time to experience your feelings. Remind yourself that the meaning attached to possessions is in the memories, not the item itself. Allow yourself to relieve the memories as you sort, but also remember that not all items attached to memories need to be kept.
When it comes to giving things away, it can be helpful to define your goals. Your goals could include “I want my things to go to people who will use and appreciate them the most” or “It’s important to me that everything is fairly and evenly divided among family members.” Defining these goals can help bring clarity to your purpose in giving things away.
Work in blocks of time, and make a point each day to take a break from sorting. Go for a walk, see a movie, or meet a friend for a meal. You’ll feel recharged and ready to take on more when you get home.
It can be overwhelming to think of sorting through your entire house at once. Set small goals for each day, and complete your goal before moving on to the next task. The junk drawer in the kitchen or the hall closet can be great places to start.
When starting the downsizing process early, there’s no need to disrupt your home and your life. You can begin in an area that you don’t use every day, such as a guest bedroom. One tip for sorting clothes is to push all the hangers to the middle of the closet. As you sort items, move items to keep to the right end of the closet and items to donate to the left end of the closet. This way if you need to take a break from sorting, you aren’t left with a pile of clothes to clean up later.
Know who will be there from your new community to greet you. When a new resident arrives on the day of his or her move, it is important to ensure that someone will be there to answer questions and handle last-minute issues.
Completing the downsizing process and moving to a new residence is worth celebrating! But it’s also normal to still experience feelings of loss. It can be helpful to recreate some of the arrangements you had in your previous home – placing books or pictures in the same way, or displaying pictures of important people in your life. Give yourself time to adjust and look for ways to get involved in your new community and meet your neighbors.
A final word of advice: don’t do it alone. Family, friends, neighbors and professional services can all provide valuable help! Downsizing doesn’t need to be a draining process; in fact, it’s a necessary step closer to an unencumbered home and a positive new life.
For more information on downsizing or living a life connected at Cristwood, visit cristwood.org or call (206)546-7565.
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