Downsizing in Your 60s: What to Do with Sentimental Items

You’ve done it! You have committed to a new, smaller place and are ready to move your things. For many people who have recently retired and decided to downsize, the most daunting thing about moving into a retirement community is sorting through the physical stuff. Of course, choosing what goes with you will depend on where you’re going, but everyone who downsizes is challenged to sort through and part with the items they will no longer need.

Many of us have carted boxes and boxes of memorabilia—including photographs, school papers, art projects, journals, and more photographs—from home to home as we’ve moved over the years. Figuring out what to keep and what to throw away is time-consuming and sometimes emotional or painful, so we put it off, tape up the box, and move it again. When downsizing for retirement, it’s finally time to let go of non-essentials. But we know this is easier said than done. 

At Village Green Senior Living, residents can choose between different floor plans, ranging from 500-1000 square foot apartments and even larger free-standing homes for seniors over 55. When it’s time to relocate, you shouldn’t aim to move as much of your old home as possible into your new home to replicate all the details but rather choose those select items that will make your new space feel like home. 

What is Downsizing?

When relocating to a smaller home, many older adults are faced with the task of sorting through decades worth of memories and things that, due to nostalgia or simply not being able to move them elsewhere, have accumulated. 

Downsizing is about reducing the number of things you own. Most people don’t use many of their things very frequently, so downsizing can be a very healthy and freeing practice. However, that doesn’t make it any less difficult. 

To help take things off your plate, we have prepared a checklist for retirees downsizing to help you sort all of your items and decide what you do and don’t need and where to put everything.

How to Downsize Your Belongings

Downsizing is just decluttering with an extra step – getting rid of what you don’t need instead of just getting rid of what you don’t want. We know that parting with objects can be an emotional process – everyone gets attached to stuff. It’s completely normal!

Many decluttering methods exist, but our new favorite is the KonMari Method, developed by Marie Kondo. This more recent method of tidying flips the old approach on its head, tidying in groups by item type instead of room by room. There are five categories of things to tackle one at a time:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (miscellaneous things)
  5. Sentimental items

This method requires you to make a mess to clean up your mess. You start by unpacking the closet, the bookshelves, etc. Put everything in a pile and then go through it item by item deciding whether it adds enough value to your life to keep.

This might be the most challenging part, but there is a method for this too. When you look at the item, Marie Kondo says to ask yourself: Does this item spark joy? Will it continue to spark joy? If yes, the item should stay. But if you are moving into a smaller living space, you may not have room for it, so you may have to give it to a family member or friend instead.

How Do You Dispose of Sentimental Items? has compiled some tips that can help you make the process a little bit easier: 

  • Make a rough scale drawing of the new room or rooms, so you have a realistic idea of which furniture might work in the new space or how much storage you will have. Measure your furniture to know what will fit and how you might arrange it.

  • Try not to get sentimental about old keepsakes. We know this is tough.  

  • If you are having trouble deciding whether to keep, donate or discard, create an “undecided” category of things that can be stored for a set amount of time and revisited later.

  • Focus on the positive. This move is not the end of the road. It is a new path that offers new opportunities. You are headed for a simplified life with the ability to focus on the things that matter most and let go of responsibilities that create stress and difficulty.

  • Enquire within the family about interest in family heirlooms, including photographs, letters, and family journals, and make arrangements for these items accordingly, even if you have to store them. Family members might also be interested in special items like holiday decorations or nostalgic favorites.

One of the last steps is deciding what to do with your belongings before moving into a senior living community. We understand that this isn’t anyone’s favorite part of the process. However, you will never need to sort through items again if you don’t own them anymore. Once you’re done downsizing, it’s time to go!

Moving into a Retirement Community in Washington

Senior downsizing services may be useful if you need some muscle and know-how when moving. This service for hire offers a more worry-free way to move when you are over 55 and require assistance with the physical demands of moving. 

Village Green Senior Living offers top options for senior living in West Seattle and Federal Way, Washington. You will feel the difference in a quality facility the moment you step inside. Reach out today to schedule a tour of Village Green!


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