6 Downsizing Tips for Seniors: A Comprehensive Guide

By Meela Imperato
Downsizing Tips for Seniors

Once you’ve lived in a house for a decade or more, belongings tend to expand to fill all available space. And the space itself may be more than you need, especially if it was sized to fit children that have now fled the nest. 

A big home and all it contains equals a lot of time, effort, and cost that may no longer be ideal for your health and lifestyle. Deciding when to downsize can be a challenging decision, and these downsizing tips for seniors will help you move toward comfortable change. 

6 Downsizing Tips for Seniors 

Downsizing can start as simply as going through your canned goods to ditch expired and never-going-to-eat-that products. Take it one day at a time and: 

#1 Start Early

Do some research and get started now. What size of a new home are you looking for, and where? When moving to a smaller space or a different climate, think about what you’ll gain (time, peace of mind, and safety) in addition to what you need to let go of. This will act as the foundation for all sorting and downsizing to come. In fact, there are many unexpected benefits of downsizing your home that you might not have considered.

#2 Sort and Declutter

Apply a critical eye to what you own and make realistic decisions about what you actually use, wear, want, and need. 

  • Use a system such as pulling all similar objects to see and sort at once
  • Create a staging space, and don’t let it seep into the whole house
  • Put items in boxes or piles to keep, sell, donate, or toss
  • Scan and digitize papers and loose photos to save space

#3 Consider a Yard Sale or Donation

When it’s hard to just throw possessions out of your current home, find them a new home instead. Running your own garage sale can be a lot of work, so consider donating to an organization that provides pick-up or to a church or organizational rummage sale. 

#4 Enlist Help

Family, friends, neighbors, church members, and local seniors’ volunteer assistance programs—don’t be shy asking for help across the process of planning, home-shopping, sorting and organizing, and donating, selling, or ditching your belongings.

#5 Be Mindful of Emotions

Plan some downtime as you excavate items with sentimental value and emotional attachment, or prepare to leave a long-time home. You may need to take breaks, get support time with friends, and brainstorm about how to preserve family memories.

#6 Use the New Space as a Guide on What to Keep

If you’re moving to a smaller home, that’s a natural measuring stick. Using each room’s dimensions, plan out: 

  • Furniture to keep
  • Room to display photos and art
  • Shelf and other storage spaces for clothing, activity and hobby items, etc.

Explore Housing Options

Once your stuff is sorted and you’ve decided what sentimental items to keep, where are you going to put them? Work toward a streamlined space designed to increase your comfort, reduce the chance of falls, and decrease the work and worry over cleaning and maintenance. 

Your choice depends on many factors, including: 

  • Finances
  • Social connections and family locations
  • Activity preferences
  • Level of assistance needed

Common options include senior living communities, assisted living facilities, and aging in place. 

Senior Living Communities

Senior living communities require one household member of a minimum age (usually 55 – 65) and encompass planned neighborhoods, apartment buildings, and resort-like compounds. Houses tend to be on the smaller side with universal design, and there are often central facilities and activities designed to boost healthy movement, self-care, and socializing.

Assisted Living Facilities

An assisted living facility apartment, suite, or room typically has built-in caregiving, which may cover a range of needs. Residents may require a daily check-in plus on-site emergency response, a few hours of assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs) or medical monitoring, or more. 

One of the common concerns for many is understanding “how can I pay for assisted living with no money?” This is a significant question, especially considering the high costs associated with such care. Fortunately, there are several programs and options available to help cover these costs..

Aging in Place

Aging in place is more than just “none of the above”—it encompasses a proactive and planned approach to remain in the family home for some or all of one’s later years instead of finding a new place to live. This can include:

  • Home evaluation by an occupational therapist with aging in place specialist certification 
  • Home modifications such as stairlifts, walk-in showers, and support bars and railing
  • Setting up systems to cover transportation, emergency response, and socializing

What it doesn’t include, however, is keeping an unmanageable amount of items, decorations, half-done projects, inherited occasional tables, and so on. You’ll need to clear the clutter, remove walkway obstacles, and pare down unwanted items to reduce the physical and emotional space they’ve been occupying.

The Advantage of Residential Sale-Leasebacks

Another downsizing option is to age in place by way of a sale-leaseback. Rather than selling your home and moving, you sell to a landlord-investor and stay on as a renter. In this way, you gain the benefits of remaining at home but offload the costs and responsibilities of homeownership. 

A residential sale-leaseback can also be part of a transition plan when a move is part of your downsizing. You’ll be freed up from the work and time involved in a traditional sale and able to stay on until your new home is ready without handling property upkeep. 

Key Takeaways

Downsizing is a common goal for seniors, whether it means moving to a smaller single-family home, an apartment or townhouse, or assisted living accommodation in their retirement years. Downsizing should be considered, especially for those with no retirement savings at 65.

Even for those aging at home, downsizing belongings is key to the decluttering that will improve safety and streamline what needs to be cleaned and maintained, and a sale-leaseback is an option that reduces homeownership costs and responsibilities.

While it seems like an overwhelming project, you can downsize your belongings by setting attainable goals, asking for help, letting go of items that could go on to other homes, and considering how you want to spend your days in the upcoming years. 


  1. MediCareful. 5 Reasons Why Seniors Should Downsize.
  2. A Place for Mom. What is assisted living?
  3. SeniorLiving.Org. 55-Plus Senior Living Communities.
Written by Meela Imperato
Senior Director of Brand and Content, Real Estate & Finance Journalist

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