Downsizing In Anticipation of Moving - Some Tips to Get Started

Moving after living in one place for an extended time is never easy. Add to that the emotion of leaving a place with loads of memories and the need to sort through possessions collected over a lifetime and you may find that getting started is the most difficult part. Resolving to do it is the first step. After that, organizing the process is key.

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How to get started

While you may not want to feel rushed, getting the task done without stretching it out over too much time is a worthwhile goal. Sorting through possessions and living in temporary chaos is stressful. Adopt a mindset that you will uncover lots of memories and stories to share. It will make the job much easier.

  • Start with the rooms you use least. This way you can get away from the mess you will create. 
  • Have a sorting system to keep track of what stays, what goes to whom or where and what you are undecided about. Color-coded stickers can be a great help for you and any family members who are assisting. 
  • Work in scheduled blocks of time so you are not overwhelmed. 
  • Take the time to write down family history and stories that are associated with some objects. If writing the stories is too much work, enlist a child or grandchild to record the stories on video. Work at a pace that makes sense.
  • Take the time to laugh at old photos and letters. Some may hold more sentimental meaning for you. If you have a family member who scrapbooks, ask them to organize the ones you wish to save. You will be more apt to enjoy them again if they are not stuffed in a box in a closet.

What to do with all the stuff


It will not take long before you have a roomful of things you really no longer want. You do not have to wait until you get through everything to start finding new “homes” for some of it.

  • Get the kids to take their childhood stuff now!  Set a reasonable deadline and stick to it. 
  • Consider bequeathing things now. A granddaughter may truly love taking possession of your set of china and you can enjoy it at the next family gathering.
  • Be honest about what you really no longer need. Why keep all the kitchen tools to roast a turkey when you no longer cook huge meals like Thanksgiving?
  • Donate to charity. Charitable organizations do welcome donations of items that are still in good shape and of use to others.
  • Consider a garage sale or auction. A garage sale is a big undertaking and will require the help of family or friends.  Auction companies will pretty much do the work for you for a percentage of sales. For most people this is a last step, after you have moved out and want to sell the house and possessions that are left. Do your homework and check up on any home sale company you are about to hire. Talk over their services and how they handle security for your home. 

Do you worry about dividing things evenly between children?

Many people worry that their children will not inherit possessions equally. Remember, each child is his or her own person and may not honestly share your concern. Most children just want to help you through the transition process. Encourage open communication between family members.

  • If you can, be sure everyone gets something meaningful to them.
  • If sorting through possessions and selecting who gets what is too much, an alternative to have family select what they want. Don’t be hurt if someone wants nothing. You are not your possessions. Some family members may not be in a position to take things or may be happy with very little.
  • If you have possessions that are of considerable monetary value, consider selling them at auction. 

Hire a move manager

A senior move manager is a professional who specializes in assisting older adults and their families with all aspects of moving. Though many senior move managers have backgrounds in gerontology, social work, health care, nursing and psychology, others come to this work from a variety of careers. The cost of hiring such a person may be easily outweighed by the all the help they can be. If your family is not close by to help you, hiring help may be necessary. There is a professional organization of senior move managers that can be a source of more information.