6 Tips for Organizing Your Loved One's House Before Moving to Senior Living

A woman and her mother look at a picture of Cedarhurst Senior Living floorplans with moving boxes in the background.

Organizing and moving to a new residence is stressful for anyone, but families can experience extra stress when the move involves helping a loved one transition to a senior living community. Even though seniors have plenty of activities and perks to look forward to in senior living, organizing and clearing out clutter before the move can be difficult. 

Keep reading for six tips on how to efficiently clear out clutter and organize your loved one’s current residence.


1. Approach moving to senior living with the right mindset.

Despite being ready to move to a senior living community, for most people, leaving their current residence (also known as “rightsizing”) can be stressful. Have patience with your loved one and patience with yourself as you make the sometimes difficult decisions surrounding this change. Then, make a plan with your loved one to organize their current residence before the move, to help make the transition smoother for everyone. 

Embrace the Challenge

Organizing and moving can seem daunting, especially when you’re sorting through a lifetime of belongings, deciding what to move to the senior living community and what should stay behind. Sort through every item in your loved one’s residence and determine if it is being kept, donated, or put in the trash. 

This process will include handling a lot of sentimental items that carry memories and can bring vulnerable emotions to the surface for everyone involved. Organizing and moving are some of the most stressful processes in life, so take your time and give yourself as well as your loved one breaks in the process to avoid burnout. Remember, everything doesn’t have to be done in one day.

2. Make a plan.

Make a list of what needs to be addressed before the senior living move-in date. This list should include possessions that will need to go to your loved one’s community while keeping in mind the size of the future space. 

Schedule It Out

Use the list you created to make a calendar with prioritized goals and specific benchmarks for each day. Include information about who will be helping with each step. Start by organizing an area that is used daily, such as the kitchen, instead of somewhere storage-intensive, such as a basement. While concentrating on the kitchen, don’t be afraid to focus on certain areas first, like the cabinets or the pantry.

Chart a Map

When determining your organizing and moving plan, use a floor plan of the senior living apartment to help plan the space accordingly with existing furniture. This floor plan is also handy for strategizing available space if your loved one is purchasing all-new furniture for their new living space!

Tip: Hire a vetted senior moving specialist. Measuring items and the amount of space available can be stressful, and if it’s a viable option for you and your family, you may opt to pass the moving to-do list onto a professional. Space planners can get a handle on your loved one’s belongings and provide guidance on which items should stay or go. 

Don’t know where to start looking to find a trusted person to help your loved one with the moving process? Chat with your local Cedarhurst Senior Living community and see who they recommend in your area.


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3. Clear clutter for safety.

When it’s time to put your plan into action, first address any areas of clutter that could be safety hazards. This will help make your loved one’s current residence safer during the entire senior living transition. 

Start by removing furniture that crowds commonly used pathways. Rugs that aren’t secured are tripping hazards, so once you’ve moved furniture out of pathways, remove any unsecured rugs from the house. Keep pathways clear of books, boxes, and other things that may fall. Make sure no cords are running along the floor to decrease the risk of tripping.

4. “Rightsize” possessions.

To truly organize, it’s all about embracing rightsizing. Rightsizing is about your loved one bringing the possessions that fit best in their space and don’t hold them back. This enables your loved one to make the most of a new lifestyle.

Acknowledge and Redirect Emotions

Rightsizing your loved one’s current residence will undoubtedly bring up a lot of heavy emotions. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and keep in mind the senior living perks your loved one is gaining. For example, focus on the opportunities for meeting new friends and connections as well as taking advantage of the amenities at the senior living community that your loved one is moving into. 

Create a Sorting System

Before getting started, label containers for the following:

  • Items that need to be put away
  • Items that need to be fixed
  • Recyclables
  • Trash
  • Donations

Labeling these containers is an important step that cannot be skipped. Once you’re in the process of sorting, and especially if there are multiple people working together, it can be easy to mistake a “donate” bin for a “keep” bin. Labeling containers can help prevent items that were meant to be kept from being donated.

When you’re beginning the organization process, the easiest, least emotional place to start is to remove duplicate items that are unnecessary. Take a good long look at which items mean something and which items just collect dust. 

Tip: If possible, hire a vetted professional organizer, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if needed. When it comes to organizing and moving to senior living, it’s ok to call in experts to help your loved one make possibly difficult decisions about possessions. 

5. Address one area at a time.

Take it slow, tackle your loved one’s things one section at a time, and hit the most-used areas first.

Living Space

This area generally collects the most clutter. Start by organizing and rightsizing bookcases and side tables that don’t get used as often, then move to the heavily used coffee table and entertainment center.

Home Office

Start with any bookcases or side tables, then move to the desks. Empty each drawer, test each pen and highlighter to see if they still work, and sort documents to evaluate if they need to be kept and addressed, kept for future reference, or shredded. Cut up any old credit cards or insurance cards that may have gotten tossed into a desk drawer.


Start with the pantry or upper cabinets. Take out each food item and assess if it is needed or expired. Remember that the senior living community will be doing most of the cooking for your loved one, so favorite items are the only ones that will need to be kept and brought to the community. 


Start with the medicine cabinet, then move to other storage areas in the bathroom. Discard outdated medications and skin care products. Make sure any bottles that are partially full are discarded or stored in front of the full bottles.


Start by sorting the nightstands. These tend to pick up clutter that never made it back to its proper place, such as bookmarks, pens, notebooks, and other small items. Nightstands should only hold items needed for sleep or for winding down for the night, such as a book or phone charger. 

Next, go through the clothes in the closet. This may be the most overwhelming part of rightsizing the bedroom. It requires your loved one to take a good long look at clothes that haven’t been worn in a while and get past the “I may wear this someday” trap.

Hallways and Staircases

These areas may not have as much to sort through unless there are closets or small console tables. These areas may also have collected clutter or items that need to be put into their proper place.

Basement and Garage

The basement and garage may bring up a lot of vulnerable feelings if family mementos and from childhood are stored there. Be patient with your loved one as you sort these items. For instance, they are likely going to remember when a certain toy was used and who bought it, and it may feel like discarding a piece of your childhood. If the item can still be used, encourage your loved one to recognize that donating it means another child may be able to get enjoyment from it, rather than it collecting dust in a garage or basement.

6. Use an organization system to maintain your results.

There’s no shortage of advice about how to organize your living spaces, and there is a plethora of people creating organization systems to make everything easier. Although many options exist, there’s really no wrong choice, so simply use what works for your situation. 

A few suggestions for when you are organizing include:

  • Label your storage areas to ensure you’re only keeping what is needed. 
  • Keep important documents and instructions stored in one place and in order.
  • Display collections and collectible items with sentimental value.

Need additional guidance for moving to a senior living community?

Uncertainty can be a source of anxiety for many, especially when it involves moving. Do what you can to prepare as much as possible for the move to a senior living community, including getting to know the community more, learning how loved ones can help in the moving process, and finding out how to get settled in the new residence. 

We’ve compiled our years of experience on these topics and more into our Ultimate Move-In Guide.


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