• Myrna Driedger

Downsizing – moving to a retirement home

Article published in Lifestyles 55


What precipitates the decision for people to downsize their home and move to a condominium, a co-op, a life lease, or even a rental apartment? I think there’s usually a pivotal moment when you say, “this is enough” to home ownership. It could be discovering water in your basement, an illness or injury which makes it difficult to do the yardwork or navigate the stairs, or it could just be the allure of freedom. One day you realize that you want to be able to travel for a couple of months and not worry about getting someone to look after the house; you want the option of being able to walk out the front door and not have to worry. You don’t want the task of cutting the grass or shoveling the snow. Once that moment happens, then we must start seriously considering our options – rent, own, or life-lease? What are the advantages of each? That subject alone has enough information to consider for a whole new article. Age & Opportunity has a housing directory which is very good.


One thing I will say is that you need to consider moving before being faced with a medical emergency. There is nothing sadder than someone else having to go through your house to determine what it is that you want to keep because you are in the hospital and unable to do this task yourself. For adults over 60, only a spouse's death and divorce rank as more stressful than moving to a nursing or retirement home.


Once you make that decision to downsize, how do you determine what you will keep and not keep. One suggestion that I have heard is to start in rooms that you don’t use – it’s usually easier to make decisions about things you don’t use daily. We all have basements with our kids’ belongings still there – ask family members to reclaim their possessions. Go through filing cabinets, linen closets, and other cupboards. Work slowly so you don’t get too overwhelmed. If it’s chipped, broken, or stained, toss it.


Start by making a list of all the things you cannot live without. Imagine that you lost everything in a fire – what items would you have to replace? If there are treasured items that you can’t take with you but want to remember, take photos of them. That way you can look back and reminisce without needing a storage unit to keep them all. You need to ask yourself several questions: How much do I really need to be comfortable in my new home? Will this item fit in my new home? Which of the items that I own now are important to me? Is it beautiful, useful or loved? Or am I just keeping it out of habit? Remember the goal is to simplify your life – not rob of you of your memories.


When you are sorting your belongings as you go through the process, place things in 5 piles:

  • Things to keep – you first

  • Things for family & friends

  • Things to donate to various organizations

  • Things you are selling

  • The rest goes to the dump

Another thing to consider is to digitize when you can. CDs, DVDs, cassettes, videos, pictures, and important documents can all be digitized and saved to the cloud or a computer hard drive to free up important space.


There are also various resources to help you with your job. There are people who will come to your house and help. If you have antiques, there are people that you can contact to sell items to. There are also various organizations that collect furniture for people in need such as newcomers and refugees. Organizations such as Hands of Hope, Centre Flavie Laurent, Oyate Tipi, Big Brothers/Sister, Mennonite Central Committee are some that will pick up furniture and household items.


There are also companies that will help you move such as “The Seniors Moving Company”.


They will help you with each step along the way including:

  • providing information about the different types of seniors housing and services available,

  • organize, pack, move or ship your items to charities, family, or friends,

  • coordinate and host a home content sale,

  • pack all the belongings you need intend to move to your new residence,

  • assist in unpacking and setting up in your new home

You will experience a certain amount of sadness when moving to a different and smaller home. Discarding items that you have lived with for years is difficult. But once you have started the process, concentrate on how liberating it feels to unload all the “stuff” that you have accumulated over the years. Make a point to get to know your new neighbours and explore your new neighbourhood. Look upon this move as a new adventure. It can take weeks or months to adjust to your new surroundings, but you will feel lighter and better once it’s all done. Welcome home!

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