The upside of downsizing: a comprehensive guide
United’s guide to downsizing lightens the load of helping your loved one make a move
Downsizing is a formidable endeavor. If you’ve lived somewhere for any length of time, accumulation of stuff is inevitable. Despite best efforts, junk drawers remain chaotic, detritus clogs hallways, and projects in various stages of completion are scattered across every horizontal surface available. It often feels like there’s just not enough time in the day to keep up with the clutter.
For those tasked with helping loved ones downsize, it’s difficult to know where or how to start. The entire operation is complex. It can be stressful, time consuming, and emotionally draining, not just for those who are downsizing, but also for those helping as well.
Even if you’ve been proactive in talking with your loved one about their plans to transition to a seniors’ community, downsizing a family home is a long journey with some inevitable bumps along the road.
To help navigate the twists and turns, United Active Living has compiled some tips, tools, and resources. Check out our guide to help you keep track of everything you’ll need to facilitate a smooth transition to a new, welcoming community.
Breaking down a big job into smaller tasks makes a big difference: if you’re helping someone downsize, every time you visit, take it task-by-task: empty out a junk drawer or two, or clear out a corner in the basement or garage.
Discard expired toiletries, food, or household goods, donate unused hobby supplies, and start sorting through closets. Getting some of the smaller items out of the way will help you and your loved one when it comes time to make decisions about the more important belongings.
- Group items into categories: keep, discard, donate, and sell
- Bring a few boxes or storage bins with you so you’re not scrambling as the move date nears
- Find out how and where to dispose of household items and hazardous goods
- Find places in your community to donate used items
- Begin contacting moving or downsizing companies for estimates
Sharing is caring
If your “discard” and “donate” piles are stacking up, offer relatives or friends who haven’t got a decorating budget a chance to upgrade their spaces from flatpack to heirloom furniture, kitchenware, linens, or artwork. It can be invigorating to see old items find new purpose in a love one’s household.
- Take pictures and videos of rooms before rooms are packed up so you can reminisce with your loved ones after the move
- Notify loved ones, family, and friends and invite them to be involved
- Gather sentimental items and valuables and store them safely
- It’s okay to pause and share moments in the home to acknowledge special memories and inevitable feelings of loss or nostalgia that often come with the territory of downsizing.
Go from analog to digital
Sitting down with a warm drink and going through photos and mementos is a great way to reconnect.
While you’re at it, use a bulk photo scanning app like Photomyne, or outsource the digitizing process to a local photo scanning business to create a digital scrapbook you can share with family and friends, and can be easily accessed without storing bulky photo albums, or rummaging through boxes. (For those who still cherish the analog photo experience, here are some space-savvy solutions!)
Now is also a great time to gather and bundle all important documents, such as your loved one’s identification, will, power of attorney, medical documents, insurance policies, and banking information. If you’re making digital copies, be sure they are stored securely.
Take inventory of utilities, phone and internet, and any other subscription-based expenses, and make note of when to cancel or update the service providers and which ones you’ll need to notify of your loved one’s change in address.
- Gather important documents and medical information
- Change of address for important services
- Update utility companies/subscriptions/insurance/mail deliveries/health care providers
- Arrange mail forwarding with Canada Post
What’s old is new again
The cumbersome dining set might not work for you, but it might be *just the thing* for someone else. After you’ve selected your most treasured items, consider holding an estate sale or auction. These experts can get the best value for whatever you choose not to take, and you can use the extra funds to cover moving costs, donate to the charity of your choice, or even for a special housewarming celebration for your parents in their new suite.
- Take inventory of valuables and do a walk through before the sale
- Reference the sold listings on eBay or other auction sites to gauge market value of items your loved one wishes to sell
- Think about entrusting one-of-a-kind possessions, such as music collections, instruments, or artwork to consignment shops that specialize in serving those particular interests
- If you prefer not to enlist professional estate sale services, consider using a DIY guide to ensure your estate sale runs smoothly
- Do a final walkthrough after the sale, and before the final clear out begins (you never know—there still might be something in that crawl space!)
Prepare for moving day
Chances are, you’ve moved beyond the days of warm beer and cold pizza to entice people to help with a move. If that’s the case, it’s probably a sign to leave it to the pros.
There are several local Calgary moving companies that specialize in downsizing and moving seniors. They can assist you with everything from start to finish, and you can get back to that mug of hot cocoa. (Here are some examples of Calgary-based services: Seniors Relocation Solutions, Destinations Seniors Downsizing, Five-Star Seniors Relocators, YYC Downsizing, and, Genie Senior Services)
- Connect with a moving service that works with your schedule and budget
- Create a floorplan with your loved ones to help with placement of their furniture and belongings in their new home
- Complete modifications to their new home before the movers arrive
- Label boxes clearly with contents and room destination
- Make travel arrangements for your loved ones on moving day
- Pack a bag of essentials including a couple changes of clothes, medications, and personal items
- Arrange for care and transport for pets
Rest and reflect
Moving can be physically and mentally exhausting. Make sure you take some time to process your own feelings and seek out support from friends, family, peers, or a counsellor. Give your parents or loved one time and space to adjust to their new surroundings. Help them get familiar with the new space on their own terms, and offer support if they feel apprehensive to engage with other residents, or feel too anxious to participate in community programming.
Most importantly, acknowledge your loved ones’ hard work and perseverance through the transition. Once everyone has settled in, take the time to remember their home fondly, while considering how you can create new special moments that bring warmth and family traditions into their new home.
- Ask if your loved one’s community has a caregivers’ support group
- Accompany your loved one to programming, meals, or outings until they have connected with other residents and are comfortable navigating the community on their own
- Communicate and connect with the community’s care team so you are aware of how your loved one is transitioning to their new home along with any sudden health changes
- Consider rotating out sentimental objects occasionally, so your loved one can re-connect with their special things without feeling overwhelmed by clutter
Interested in seeing how your parent, family member, or friend can fit all of their treasures into a spacious suite, and still have room to connect with family and friends? United’s older adult communities offer exceptional amenities, unbeatable dining experiences, exclusive programming, local partnerships, and relationship-based care that shine a light on the upside of downsizing.
Stop by a United Active Living community to see how a team embracing other duties as assigned is transforming the experience of aging.
Speak with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange tours of our Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities. If you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community, send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a future visit. We are happy to help!