The topic of rightsizing for older adults often comes up when older adults get ready to move out of a home they have lived in for years and have come to a point where they must release a significant portion of their belongings. It can be overwhelming to think about getting rid of things or moving.
“Rightsizing is not about giving up what you love. It is about identifying what is most important, seeing what is essential and letting the rest fall away. It is about keeping your most treasured things and letting go of the things that don’t matter as much,” said Tiffany Affolter, director of business development at United Church Homes.
Seniors start to have conversations about rightsizing when considering the simplicity, convenience and opportunities that come with being part of an independent living community. “Rightsizing is the conscious choice to create a life and a lifestyle that more sustainably aligns with your needs at every stage of your life,” commented Affolter.
If you’re starting to think about moving from your home to an independent living community, consider these five steps as you’re rightsizing your life.
1. Determine your why.
Affolter encourages people to think about their purpose for a life change before taking significant steps to make the life change. “Sometimes significant life events bring the need to right-size quickly. Other times, we get to look at our current lifestyle or the lifestyle we desire and choose from there,” she said. “Maybe we want more time to be social, or we crave less home maintenance. Perhaps a recent loss of a partner or change in health status started you thinking about the reasons to move and make a change. Using your why will serve as the filter to determine what you need in your life as you right-size,” added Affolter.
2. Think about where you want to live.
When you picture your dream lifestyle, what do you need to live it? “If you’re considering a move to somewhere warm, you may not need all of those sweaters, blankets and heavy coats,” said Affolter. Perhaps you are considering moving closer to family, so you will need some space to entertain when they visit. “Beyond location, think floor plan. How many rooms do you want or need to fit your lifestyle? And what kind of environment will make you comfortable? Do you want a freestanding cottage or modern, apartment-style living? The style and environment of where you will live will also dictate what you need while living there,” she said.
3. Know when you want to move.
Your “why” might be a factor in determining your “when.” Does your move need to happen quickly, or do you have more time to research and declutter? “Knowing when you have to move and where you are moving makes consolidating your belongings so much easier,” shared Affolter. “That said, nearly every resident’s comment after moving into a United Church Homes independent living community is, ‘I wish I had made this move sooner!’”
4. Have a plan.
A good plan can help you define your goals, set deadlines, stay focused, break down overwhelming steps into small, more manageable tasks and hold you accountable. “I suggest backing up your deadlines from the day you want to list your house for sale. Maybe your goal is clearing out one room per month, which feels reasonable and achievable to accomplish. Or perhaps you are planning a garage sale in the summer and need to break down your tasks against that deadline. Whatever the case, set goals and celebrate them when you achieve them,” commented Affolter.
5. Ask for help.
Affolter advises not to go at it alone when older adults are thinking about rightsizing. “Whether hiring a professional or recruiting a friend or family member, don’t go at it alone. A partner can help hold you to task when you find yourself getting overwhelmed or help you move through emotions that come up as you discover hidden memories and treasures,” said Affolter. “This process can be very emotional. Research smart ways to keep connections to your memories without having to carry them in boxes, such as digitizing photos, donating books and movies to the library, selecting the most sentimental items and lovingly part with the rest. And remember, your next chapter will be the right size for you to create even more memories.”
Rightsizing for older adults can make a big difference in the practical aspects of moving to an independent living community — and in your mindset about it.
“Rightsizing is about finding what brings your life meaning, makes you smile and allows you to sleep well every single night. If you don’t have that now, maybe it’s time to right-size your life,” shared Affolter.