Seniors looking to improve their quality of life through downsizing have a couple of options. The easiest is to do some downsizing of their possessions – a massive-scale decluttering endeavor. The other option is to move to a smaller, more manageable home. Many seniors will opt to do a combination of both – finding a small retirement home and making some major reductions in their material footprint. Here are some tips for making this process go smoothly.
If you’re thinking about moving to a smaller home…
As we get older, we often lose mobility. This is just a fact of life. Seniors sometimes struggle to navigate the multi-story homes they raised a family in, and large homes become a burden to clean and organize. Even with the help of a housekeeper, seniors’ longtime homes can become too much to bear.
A smaller home can give you a way to live your best years independently. Before you buy, you must consider exactly what you want/need in a home. Sure, you can make modifications, but the fewer major home renovations you have to undertake the better. For those with mobility issues, a one-story home is likely the way to go. You should consider the outdoor area before buying as well. Is it level or are there a lot of inclines across the yard? How much yard work is necessary? Is it worth hiring someone to help? Your main goal in buying a smaller property should be getting something that is just big enough to be comfortable but that’s it – no wasted space.
But modifications are sometimes unavoidable
You shouldn’t give up on your dream retirement home because it’s not 100% perfect for you, but you do need to anticipate your current and future accessibility needs. Two places where you’ll probably need to do the most work are the kitchen and the bathroom. Kitchens can have their countertops and cabinets lowered or raised to accommodate a wheelchair, for instance. Bathrooms can be modified with walk-in showers, disability toilets, and grab rails/handlebars.
According to HomeAdvisor, “the average bathroom remodel costs $9,611. Most homeowners spend between $5,919 and $14,006. You can spend as little as $3,500 to $7,000 updating the essentials in a small or medium-sized bathroom.” So it’s certainly a feasible remodel, but it is one that is significant enough to warrant some planning. If you know you’re going to have to spend a few thousand dollars on accessibility remodels, you’ll need to factor that into your “what can I afford” questions. Check here for a good rundown of what mods you may need to make.
How to Declutter
A big part of downsizing – whether you move into a smaller home or not – is decluttering (throwing things away or donating). It’s difficult to give up our possessions – some of which we’ve had for decades. But clutter in the home can be a physical danger to seniors (tripping and falling) and an emotional burden.
Everyone goes about downsizing in their own way, but there are some things you should avoid. Try to avoid unfocused cleaning. Don’t just hop around from room to room. Set a goal to downsize the possessions in one room, like a guest room, and complete that area before moving on. Work from the outside in. Declutter your most-used living space last (as it will be the hardest).
Start by getting rid of duplicate items. These are the easiest to throw away. You don’t need two toasters. Next, work on clothing. Have you not worn it in a complete rotation of seasons? Donate it. Call your children and have them help. You can get a lot of downsizing done by simply forcing children to take stuff that belongs to them out of your attic/basement/closets. Here are a few good resources for beginning your decluttering journey.
Few things give seniors more independence, safety, and comfort that downsizing. It may be a scary prospect. Change is hard. But it’s one of those things that, once you get it done, pays off more than you could ever know.
This is a guest post by Gene Ramsey from DownsizingDad.com. For more articles on downsizing and to stay informed of his book release, please visit his website.