One of the side effects of homeownership is the tendency for belongings to build up. When you have the space to put things in, that space has a way of filling up with stuff. For seniors who have lived in the same house for years, the quantity of items that fill the home could be pretty sizable.
When a senior decides with their family that it’s time for a move to assisted living, one of the challenges of the move is switching to a much smaller space. You have to figure out what to do with all that stuff you’ve acquired over the years and make some hard choices about what to keep and get rid of.
To help you through the process, here are four steps that will make it easier to clear out your stuff before the move to assisted living.
- Determine the high-priority items that you know you want to keep.
Be strict with yourself here. Assisted living doesn’t come with a lot of storage space, so you need to get used to the idea of having less stuff.
Start with necessities. You need a certain number of outfits, any medications and supplements you regularly take, your toiletries, and things like bath towels and bed sheets. Most assisted living facilities won’t provide a bed so you can bring your own unless you need to trade it out for a smaller one that will fit. Furniture like bedside tables and drawers will also be useful, and there may be enough space for your favorite chair or sofa as well.
Next consider the items you own that have an emotional significance. Pictures of family and meaningful gifts from loved ones should be given priority space.
And lastly, you’ll probably have enough space to hang onto a few nice-to-have items. That could be your TV, a few favorite books (although if you have a large collection, most won’t make the cut), or items related to a favorite hobby (like a sewing machine, for instance).
The goal here though is to keep the list fairly short and have a clear idea of the priority of different items, so if you find you have less space than you thought, it will be easier determining what can go.
- Invite family over to pick out items they’d like to have.
Your family members may well have their own list of items in the house that have emotional significance for them. For many of the items you don’t have space for, they may be able to keep them in the family by taking them into their homes.
Invite them over to go through the house and select items they either personally want, or would like to keep in the family and know they have enough storage space in their homes to do so.
- Determine any items you can sell.
You’ll probably still have a good number of items left. Now is when you get to make a little money. Figure out which of the items are in good enough condition to sell. You can list them on Amazon, ebay, Craiglist or Nextdoor to find buyers. You could also stick with the old-fashioned option of a garage sale, or do a bit of both – start with a garage sale and list what’s left over online.
While selling your stuff requires some work, that extra money will be nice to have once you start paying for assisted living. If some items don’t sell, that’s fine. You can take care of them with the next step.
- Donate what’s left over to charity.
Pack what’s still left to take to Goodwill or a local shelter. Goodwill sometimes even provides a pickup if there are a lot of items being donated. There are likely a number of other organizations in your community that can benefit from the items you’ll no longer have space for. Talk to people at your local women’s shelter, organizations that work with refugees, or homeless shelters about the kind of needs they have. Your extra blankets or furniture could make a big difference to someone who has a real need for them.
At this point, hopefully you’ve reduced your belongings to just those that will fit into your assisted living space. If you find yourself missing certain items you got rid of, remember that your room will be much more pleasant for not being cluttered. And many of the things you had in your home weren’t really items you needed anyways. A move to assisted living gives you a chance at a new start; cutting down on the things you own could actually feel a bit freeing.