Downsizing with ease

How to turn this often dreaded process into a positive experience

Julia Collins
August 11, 2020

If you're thinking about moving to a retirement community and worried about how to downsize your home, don't let this deter you. Certainly, one of the most dreaded but rewarding aspects of moving at any age is sorting through what to keep and what to toss. You'll likely have to donate some things you don't really need, but the advantages of maintenance-free living far outweigh any steps necessary to achieve this dream. Moreover, knowing that most people who've gone through the process claim they "don't miss a thing" may help you approach the process with a positive outlook.

Tips for downsizing your home

1. Audit your belongings.

Decluttering your home starts with some basic questions: Will I miss this item? Does this hold good memories or bad? Does this piece bring me joy? What ten items in this room are necessary to my well-being? Is this broken, can it be fixed, and will I actually fix it?

Alli Krug, a personal moving consultant at Lantern Hill, an Erickson Living-managed community in Union County, N.J., suggests a slow and steady approach. "Take it one small step at a time with clearly defined tasks," says Krug, who provides complimentary coordination of all realty and moving needs, including downsizing services for seniors, home staging, packing, and selection of a real estate professional to those moving to Lantern Hill.

Set your timer for 30 minutes and tackle one drawer, one closet at a time. Place two bins or bags by your side. Place clothes in good repair that you no longer wear or that don't fit in one (to donate or consign) and worn out or dated items in the other (to toss in a textile recycling bin).

2. Measure everything.

If possible, obtain a floor plan of your new space or measure the rooms and create your own to-scale drawing. Then measure the furniture you want to bring and begin placing it onto your floor plan.

There are computerized programs that can create the layout for you. Or, if you're moving to Lantern Hill, Krug can help. She conducts in-person or virtual visits for each person moving to the community, depending on that person's comfort level. For in-home visits, she comes equipped with a measuring tape, a magnetic floor plan of the apartment home, and to-scale furniture cutouts. She'll listen to your lifestyle needs and create a furniture layout for your new home. 

3. Get rid of what you're leaving behind.

Once you've decided what you love and what will fit in your new home, it's time to get rid of what didn't make the cut. You can donate, consign, sell, or a combination of those three. 

Take items to a consignment shop or list them on, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace. Hold a yard or estate sale. Donate—schedule a pickup online through Purple Heart or Vietnam Veterans of America. Or give things to your children and grandchildren. 

Along with creating a floor plan and recommending trusted real estate agents in the area, Krug provides her clients with resources for donation centers, estate sales, professional move managers, and movers. She helps them develop a downsizing plan and walks them through each step.

4. Adopt a multipurpose mindset. 

Now it's time to make your new space work for you. Small but well-dressed rooms can serve many functions.

A den can function as TV room, study, and storage space. A second bedroom can serve as an office, reading room, and guest room. A combined living and dining room allows for great flexibility and increases the number of people you can accommodate when entertaining. 

A sunroom is a prime spot for an art studio, plant sanctuary, desk, and small dining table. The natural sunlight will make it a room where you'll want to spend ample time, so why not make it a room that serves multiple functions? 

Search for double-duty furniture both in your existing inventory and when you're out and about, like a sofa console bench that can serve as dining room seating, a coffee table with hidden storage, or an entry table that can function as a desk.

5. Get creative.

Adopt an inventive mentality, using space above and below. 

Display your belongings as décor to free up traditional storage space like cabinets. Do you have a thread collection? Arrange it by color and display it on a shelf. Keep a few unique pieces of your heirloom china to display, and give the rest to family members or sell it so you have the cash to buy some more functional pieces for your new home.

Think outside the box. You may find the best space for your favorite occasional table from your living room is now as a bedside stand. Or your wicker deck chairs now fit best in the sunroom or den. 

Finally, enjoy your new space and all the freedom it gives you to add more living to your life. 

Are you ready to make the move to Lantern Hill?

If you're interested in discovering all the benefits of vibrant retirement at Lantern Hill, request a brochure today. In addition to having a complimentary moving expert help you every step of the way, there's so much more. Featuring elegant, contemporary architecture set on 20 acres of beautiful green space, you'll also find extraordinary amenities, friendly neighbors, and exciting new opportunities.