Moving for anyone is a physically and emotionally challenging process. It can be even more difficult after living in a home for many years. Older adults should begin by preparing their family and themselves on the benefits of moving to an independent living community and the subsequent planning necessary for a successful move.

How to Stay Organized as You Downsize

Most likely your independent living community apartment will be smaller than your home. How does one go about planning for that?

  1. Keep a notebook. Write down the plan and the schedule. Jot down questions you have. Make a checklist of accomplishments and challenges. List who is doing what. What have family members and friends agreed to do? Will you be employing professional movers? (There are movers who specialize in moving seniors into independent and assisted living communities.) Start researching movers well ahead of time, as you will need to schedule their services. Also, items like changing your mailing address disconnecting utilities should be on the list.
  2. Create a folder for important papers. Moves can be confusing—items become displaced or lost. Wills, other legal papers, medical and military records, passports, etc. should be in one place.
  3. Obtain a floorplan of the apartment. Measure what items from the home will fit and think about where they would go. This will give you an idea of what can be taken to your new home.
  4. Don’t rush the process. Accept that the process is going to take longer than you first thought and longer than you want it to. You’ve had many years to collect clothes, memorabilia, trophies, games, and books, and you will have a lot of things to sort through. Trying to work through it too quickly is both mentally and physically exhausting. Set a schedule to keep yourself on track, but don’t become a slave to it.
  5. Eliminate duplicate items. Will you need four pots, three rolling pins, and two toasters? The kitchen seems to be a breeding ground for duplicate items that can be pared down.
  6. If it’s not been used, let it go. Everyone has bought something they thought would be useful and then used it once a year or never at all.
  7. Go room by room. In your independent living apartment, there may not be an extra bedroom, a study, or a garage. What you have in those spaces at home (you won’t need your lawnmower) will probably need to be sold, gifted, or recycled. Remember to take breaks between rooms to rest your body and renew your resolve.
  8. What about collections? Your independent living apartment probably cannot accommodate all of your collections. Perhaps some adult children or friends would treasure a set of China. Also, the remainder of the collection could be placed in consignment.
  9. Recreate some of your home. Independent living communities are very accommodating about items their residents can bring from their homes into the community. Seeing your treasured items in your new home will make it a more familiar and comforting place.

Packing Tips for Moving to an Independent Living Community

A few packing tips if professional packers are not used:

  1. Put heavier items in the bottoms of boxes. And don’t leave empty spaces. Fill in gaps with towels or clothes.
  2. Try not to mix items from different rooms in the same box.
  3. Label each box with the room it is designated for and a description of the items.
  4. Wrap packing paper around each dish, then wrap five or six together with more paper. Pack the dishes on their sides.
  5. Just before the move, pack a suitcase with personal care items, medications, treats, and basic necessities like snacks, towels, wash clothes, soaps, and shampoos. Also set aside valuables you want to keep close.

#15: The Move Will Not be Perfect

Despite all the planning and preparation everything will not go as written on your planning list. It’s difficult leaving the memories and the familiarity of a long-time home to enter a completely new living environment, but remember to think about the opportunities you will have to do things you weren’t able to do at home as well as meet people and start new relationships.

If you are considering a move to an independent retirement living community, schedule a tour at one of Bethesda’s six communities across the St. Louis area.