How to Let Go: Tips for Senior Downsizing

Our latest article comes to us from freelance writer Christian Worstell.  Christian is based in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Thank you Christian for submitting this informative and helpful article.


It is human nature to keep the things that mean the most to us close. Over a lifetime though, this habit can amount to a lot of stuff, which can present a problem if you want to join the rising trend of older adults who are downsizing their space.

The promise of more efficient living or fewer monthly expenses might sound enticing, but you might also be worried that it will be too difficult to weed through all of those memories and mementos.

This article provides a great way to start the process by offering some key tips to keep in mind as you digest the idea of downsizing.


Photo Credit: Pexels

Begin with a Thorough Decluttering

To ease yourself into the downsizing process, begin with a deep decluttering. Though distinct from downsizing, decluttering is a great way to clear your space of the “extra” things you might keep around.

Streamline bookshelves, bedroom closets, or kitchen cabinets to extract all of those items that you’ve either never used or only looked at once. This is the tip of the iceberg, but this practice can create the right frame of mind to continue the purging process.

Evaluate Value

With the miscellaneous stuff removed, the more difficult job begins: downsizing the family mementos or valuables that you hold so dear.

To help you divide these objects into “keep” or “toss” categories, there are some crucial questions you can ask:

1.     Does this object make me happy?

One of the home organization trends that is very popular now is the KonMari Method, which encourages a rigorous downsizing around a simple question: How does this make me feel?

It is a simple yet effective practice: if you have happy memories that surround this item, then put it in the “keep” pile for the time being. If it reminds you of a painful time or doesn’t spark any emotion at all, it should be on its way out the door.

2.     Does this object mean something to my family?

We often keep antiques or historic items like oversized furnishings or boxes of heritage documents because they tie to our family lore, but when it comes to downsizing they just might not fit anymore.

Assess whether they mean enough to you that want to make the effort to find them a new home. If not, consider where else they might live.

Would your children want to maintain them? Are they of such historic importance that a local museum or historical society might like them?

Simply because you don’t want to caretake them anymore doesn’t mean they need to be trashed.

Promote a Positive Perspective

Beyond the streamlining of your belongs, it is important that you keep a positive outlook. Sometimes the prospect of downsizing can bring feelings of stress or sadness as it can serve as a reminder that you are at a new juncture in the journey of life.

Keep in mind though that downsizing is a healthy process and can be a point at which we can revisit all of the happy memories from our lives. From this perspective, you can think of it not as downsizing but as “rightsizing” for life’s next phase.

It is okay to grieve or mourn for those items that you truly love, but cannot take with you. You’ve held on to these possessions for a lifetime, so if you lament their loss you can move on easier and embrace your new lifestyle.

It is also helpful to keep in mind that you are not alone: a 2017 Zillow report noted that 46% of Baby Boomers who were selling homes did so to downsize. Joining in the downsizing trend means that you are joining with many others who have embraced less stuff and more meaning in their possessions.

Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, NC