Guide to Downsizing for Seniors: Tips and Tricks to Reduce Stress

Downsizing is a stressful process for both the older people going through it as well as their family and loved ones. Use this guide to downsizing for seniors to develop a plan and reduce as much stress as possible.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
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After retirement, many older adults start contemplating either moving to a senior living community or downsizing – moving to a smaller and more manageable house. However, it’s not like they love the idea of saying goodbye to their castles. Still, many are forced to downsize because their current homes are no longer suitable for their needs – too much clutter, poor lighting, stairs, or a layout that doesn’t suit people with limited mobility. After all, it’s not like many homes are constructed with aging in mind.

Effects of Downsizing For Seniors

Moving is a task that many know too well, but downsizing for older adults is a unique experience and requires special consideration. For older adults, downsizing out of a long-lived home can have adverse effects on their mental state. While some won’t crumble, you should take all the precautions and make all the necessary preparations to make sure that your senior loved one is ready to downsize.

Helping your senior loved one downsize can be overwhelming and the sheer volume of decisions to make, such as where to put stuff, what to give away, what to keep, and finding a new place can be paralyzing.

couple taking time to look at a family album while packing boxes to move

Tips to Take the Stress Out of Downsizing

But downsizing doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom; the following tips can help senior parents downsize with as little physical and emotional stress as possible.

1. Evaluate The Reasons For Downsizing

First things first sit down with your senior parents or grandparents and have an open and honest conversation regarding why downsizing makes sense for them. Talk about the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to downsize as well as the reasons for driving the action.

By openly discussing the issue of downsizing, not only are you preparing your senior parents emotionally, but you also make it possible to have a clear goal. Of course, give older adults time to digest the changes that are about to occur and provide them with space to adjust.

Here are a few reasons why downsizing might be an excellent fit for seniors:

  • Maintenance: More often than not, adults over the age of 60 want help with gardening, housekeeping, and other tasks. Moving to a smaller home means you’ve got less home repairs and maintenance to deal with, plus smaller houses are usually more manageable.
  • Health Issues: Age and health issues readiness was probably not a consideration when your parents or grandparents were buying their home in their thirties. Unfortunately, wisdom isn’t the only thing that comes with aging; health issues also start cropping up like rabbits from magic hats when people age. So for seniors with health issues such as reduced mobility, vision impairment, and other medical problems, downsizing can suit their needs.
  • Cost Of Living: High cost of living is the last thing older adults want to deal with after their retirement. Retirement is a time for aged adults to relax and reward themselves for a lifetime of work. Downsizing is an excellent way to cut the cost of living.
  • Transition To Assisted Living: Letting go of things that have so many memories attached to them can be nerve-racking. So if you are planning to move into an independent living facility, downsizing drives seniors towards a smooth transition into assisted living facilities.
clipboard with checklist on a moving box

2. Create A Plan

Downsizing is a life-changing decision, and as with any other essential decisions in life, start with a plan.

You might be asking:

  • How do I even begin to suggest downsizing to my Dad?
  • What happens after they agree?
  • What will we keep, throw away, and what will we donate?

By creating a plan, you can simplify the downsizing process and prepare your senior parents emotionally.

Here are tips to help you create an efficient downsizing plan:

Tip 1 – Start Early

Downsizing is not something you wake up one morning and decide to do. Give yourself and your senior loved ones plenty of time. Getting rid of belongings and moving at the same time is often an emotionally and physically charged process. You don’t want to rush and make the process stressful than it already is; instead, plan the downsizing process for a few weeks – or months.

Tip 2 – Declutter

You have a plan and you have decided to start early. Good, you’re off at a great start. Now you can move on to organizing the chaos. You might want to tackle room by room and declutter. A list can come in handy when decluttering and will make sure you don’t drift aimlessly through the house.

Tip 3 – Let Go Of The Guilt

Accept that downsizing is challenging, then start from there. Guilt can eat at you when downsizing and you could easily find yourself stuck. So let go of the guilt and let go.

seniors sorting boxes for donating to charity

Tip 4 – Donate

Throwing away items that your senior parents loved is just cruel. Instead, donate items to non-profit or family members. When you donate, you’re letting aging adults know that their possessions are valued, and someone else will find value in them.

Tip 5 – Involve Your Kids

It’s easy to lose focus when downsizing and find yourself wanting to keep items based on the idea that your kids or grandkids will want them. To prevent holding on to various belongings, involve the children in the downsizing process.

3. Don’t Throw Things Away Prematurely

Sometimes, the downsizing process can be so stressful that you’ll want to throw everything away. But don’t cave! Take a break and get back to sorting out your belongings after you clear your head. Downsizing is already stressful enough; you don’t want to add regret to the mix by throwing things prematurely.

4. Work With Trusted Experts

What do you do when you have a toothache? You schedule an appointment with your dentist. So, it makes sense to call in the experts once you find your way in over your head with the downsizing process. Some of the experts to call when downsizing include:

  • Professional movers
  • Appraisers
  • Auctioneers

Another wonderful resource to consider hiring a Senior Move Manager. Senior Move Managers are experts in the downsizing and “right sizing” process ans are certified by the National Association of Senior Move Managers. Sometimes, having a neutral third party can help ease tensions and reduce the stress of making decisions.

Experts like these can help you with the downsizing process from start to finish and take the load off your shoulders.

5. Find A Smaller Space That Suits The Needs Of An Older Adult

What is your vision of the next living space for your senior parents? Before you pick a new home for a senior loved one, make sure you ask them what they want. After all, your senior parents are the ones who will live in that house. The new space you choose should align with the goals and aspirations for the next phase of your senior parent’s life.

Here are details to consider when picking a smaller house or apartment for older adults:

  • Size & Proportions: When downsizing for seniors, look for homes with room proportions that suit their needs. Do they spend a lot of their time at their desk? Do they have medical equipment that needs to be accommodated? If so, make sure the new place has room for the desk but on a smaller scale.
  • Amenities: What specific needs does your senior loved one have? Do they need a place with extra security? How about recreational facilities or a pool? Plan the new house or apartment around what they need.
  • Open layout: Older adults often have issues with mobility, hearing, and vision impairments. Choose a space with one floor, open layout design for the safety and comfort of your loved ones. Open layouts facilitate natural movement in the house.
  • Renovations: Do you need to add railings in the new space? What about a resting spot? When helping senior parents downsize, pick an area that is easy to renovate. Some renovations for seniors when downsizing includes:


Downsizing for seniors can be gut-wrenching and emotionally draining but it can be done gradually to reduce stress. By taking one step at a time when downsizing, even if you decide to an assisted living facility, you and your senior loved one will have a smooth transition.

Tell me about your experiences downsizing for seniors that you love. What tips and advice can you share to help others going through this experience?

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Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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2 thoughts on “Guide to Downsizing for Seniors: Tips and Tricks to Reduce Stress”

  1. Very helpful compilation of tips and considerations for individuals and family members facing the important decision of downsizing.

  2. Want to start downsizing

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