What Is Your Plan? Decluttering and Downsizing for a Move to Senior Living

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Decluttering can be a stressful and overwhelming experience, especially when downsizing for a move to senior living like The Clare. Chances are, you’ve collected countless pieces of furniture, knick-knacks, documents and more over the years, and it can be difficult to know where to even begin.

Anna Gielmi, a professional organizer, shares four common reasons people are hesitant to get rid of their things:

– They believe they might need it.

– It has sentimental value.

– They want to sell the item.

– They feel guilty if a friend or a loved one gave it to them.

downsizing for a move to senior living

While these reasons certainly make sense, downsizing typically carries more health and wellness benefits in the long run. For example, Gielmi believes physical clutter creates mental clutter. By decluttering, you will establish more peace and harmony within your home and your life. However, doing so can be difficult when our belongings feel like they are part of our identity.

Therefore, it’s important to focus on what you’re doing in your life right now and get rid of things that do not make up who you are today. Decluttering should become a lifestyle, Gielmi says, and can be done little by little every day. The key is being brutally honest about what you need and what you don’t because delayed decisions reinforce the keeping of things.

When decluttering, there are a few essential supplies Gielmi always has on hand:

– Garbage bags

– Cardboard boxes

– Markers

– Stick-on labels or post-it notes

– Packing tape or paper

Starting with smaller areas is the best way to go, Gielmi says, and she stresses the importance of allotting enough time and energy to finish what you start.

downsizing for a move to senior living

It is also crucial not to simply shuffle things from place to place within your home, she says. Instead, look at the item and determine its primary purpose. She likes to think of a home as if it were a department store; each item should go in its designated location. When you are finished decluttering a room, close the door for a sense of satisfaction.

The Resident Downsizing and Decluttering Experience

Clare resident Renee Zellner moved to the community from Cleveland two years ago. Before coming to Chicago, there were many ways she went about downsizing for a move to senior living. First and foremost, she determined what she wanted to keep and which items held significant meaning for her.

“After I chose what I wanted to bring, I asked my daughters, their husbands and my grandchildren to select items they wanted to have,” she says. “Once everything was accounted for, I put post-it notes on what was for sale and for whom.”

downsizing for a move to senior living

After this, Renee says she sold the majority of her books online, donated items to charity and had her paintings and ceramics appraised and then contributed to museums, charities and auctions, depending on their value. Once she completed her decluttering process and knew what she planned to bring to Chicago, she was ready to start her new life at The Clare.

“I am happy I brought as little as I did,” she says. “My one-bedroom apartment feels so spacious and minimal. It really has become a refuge and an oasis for me.”

During transitions, whether they are short term or long term, downsizing and decluttering proves an essential process. Gielmi believes it allows you to reflect on habits that may no longer suit you, to find ways to keep things orderly that fit your reorganizing style and to learn to be comfortable with empty spaces. Her motto is this: “Be kind to yourself. The process takes time, and perfectionism leads to procrastination.”

downsizing for a move to senior living

Luckily at The Clare, residents have the help of Lynne Weiss, the community’s full-time move-in and design coordinator. She assists residents with space planning for their new home and downsizing for a move to senior living. Plus, she makes sure the items you love in your current living space can remain in use, even if this means creating a new purpose for the item.

“Many of the people who we help with downsizing end up so much happier,” Lynne says. “They often feel saddled with all the things they’ve kept over the years, and once they realize that giving away their furniture and items make others happy, they start to feel good about it. Downsizing can be a very freeing experience.”