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Downsizing: How To Get Started

“Downsizing feels so liberating!”

Does this sound like you? If not, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Downsizing can be liberating, but when you have to sift through decades of accumulated stuff, freedom can seem light years away.

However, with the proper strategies and a little bit of help, you’ll be able to (cue the theme song from Disney’s Frozen) “Let it Go” one room at a time.

Don’t take big bites of the elephant.

Begin in the small spaces of your home--preferably an area with no emotional attachment, like a bathroom, hall closet or laundry room. You’ll finish these rooms in no time and you’ll want to keep that momentum going.

Do NOT start a new project or move into a new room until you’ve finished the one you started.

Eliminate the rooms you won’t have in your new home. Seriously, if you won’t have a garage or office where you are moving, why take the desk and metal shelving units?

Use it or lose it.

Get rid of duplicates. Multiples like pots, utensils, sets of dishes, and Christmas trees (you don’t need a white one and a green one!) can be given away to family, sold or donated.

Make “keep,” “donate,” “give to family,” “sell,” and “throw away” sections in each room.

And please, be realistic about usage—if you haven’t seen or used something in a year, you’re not going to use it next year either. “Let it go.”

If you’re moving to a maintenance-free community, you are #winning, my friend; so leave the leaf-blower, shovels, and lawnmowers behind.

Channel your inner Marie Kondo.

If you’ve watched “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix or read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, you know that it’s okay to get nostalgic and linger over sentimental items for a bit. Touch each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and let it go. You should only be surrounded by things that make you happy in your new space. Because Marie said so. (

Remember, things are things. But wherever you go, all of your memories follow. (Repeat as necessary.)

Make it a family affair.

Invite your kids and grandkids over for a packing party and have them help with large areas like the basement, attic or garage. They probably aided in the accumulation of stuff, so why not put them to work getting rid of it?

If there are heirlooms or pieces you plan to leave to your children, grandchildren or other family members, go ahead and gift it now. You won’t have to worry about packing these items and you’ll be able to personally witness your loved one’s joy. You might be surprised at who really wants grandma’s china.

Be sure to use sticky notes or masking tape to designate who gets what to avoid confusion and help movers identify what goes and what stays.

Don’t hesitate to send in the cavalry.

If you’ve broken into a cold sweat just by reading these suggestions, there are senior move managers in your area who are ready, willing and able to assist you. Whether you’re halfway through packing your house or feel overwhelmed after sorting through one dresser drawer, they will jump in and help. According to Gina Ballestrasse-Ernster (, senior move managers “turn the overwhelmed into the overjoyed” by sorting through your belongings and helping you make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of. They also take inventory, provide professional referrals (for realtors, appraisers, home-repair services, etc.) and coordinate the relocation to your new residence.

The accumulation of things from a life well-lived cannot be sorted and packed in a week, but with proper planning and a little help, you’ll be whistling “Let it Go” and making the most of your new space before you know it.

If you’ve found a senior community you’re interested in, but feel overwhelmed by the idea of going through all your stuff and physically making the move, don’t worry. You’re not alone, and many senior communities – like Melrose Meadows – know some really great people who are eager to help. Call us at 319-341-7893 for more info about Independent Living, Assisted Living, or local downsizing resources.

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