Downsizing: Tips for Seniors Moving to a Smaller Home

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By Austin Kilham, author

If you’re a boomer or even a little older, your kids have likely grown and moved on to their own homes. Maybe you’re feeling like an empty nester, or maybe taking care of a large house is feeling harder and you’re looking to simplify your life. In either case, you may be considering downsizing to a smaller home or even an independent living community.

Moving is always stressful, and it can feel even more so when you have to condense your life into a smaller space. The process can be emotionally and physically challenging as you decide what to keep and what has to go. We spoke with Donna Quinn Robbins, CEO of Ultimate Moves and author of Moving Mom and Dad, for insights into how to make the process run smoothly.

Have a plan. It’s important to be organized, says Robbins. “If you’re not organized, everything is scattered: You’re scattered, the house is scattered.” Make a list of everything you need to do and prioritize the things that need to be done in advance, like booking movers or a painter.

Ask for help. Know what your capabilities are physically and financially, says Robbins, and then ask for help from family and friends where needed. Communicate clearly the best ways for them to help, she adds.

Make it manageable. “I always tell my clients not to look at this as the whole house, or it’s too overwhelming,” says Robbins. Break the moving process down into manageable pieces. Go through the house one room at a time, or even one drawer at a time, deciding what stays and what goes. Finish each project before tackling anything new.

Organize packing and unpacking. Getting help from family or friends when you pack and move can save some money, but sometimes it’s easier to just hire a moving company, says Robbins. It saves you time and mental and physical stress — but make sure to hire a reputable mover. “On the other end, it’s important to unpack boxes as soon as you can,” she says. You’re out of your comfort zone, and unpacking will not only make you feel more settled but will keep boxes from becoming tripping hazards in an unfamiliar environment.

Be realistic about what will fit. When deciding what furniture to move, draw scaled floor plans of your new home. Decide what you need and which pieces you can fit into your new spaces.

Get creative about letting go of things you won’t need. Once you decide what to keep, it’s time to decide how to get rid of what goes. “This is one of the stumbling blocks of downsizing,” says Robbins. “People think what they have it more valuable than it is. Unless it’s an antique, it can be difficult to get rid of things.” It can be expensive to have things hauled away, she says, so explore other ideas. For example, consider having an open house where friends and family come and take things that are still useful but that you may not need anymore.

Know that emotions are OK. Moving can be a particularly hard time emotionally for anyone, and it’s important to know that it’s normal to feel this, says Robbins. “It’s OK to grieve, it’s OK to be sad and afraid.” Acknowledging the emotional component gives closure to the memories of the house you’re leaving behind and lets you feel more settled in your new home, she says.


Austin Kilham is an author for, the leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. For more creative ideas about how to part with items you don’t need, see 20 Tips to Help You Get Rid of Junk.


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