Embracing a New Chapter: A Helpful Guide for Seniors on Downsizing or Rightsizing

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Downsizing made easy for seniors
Senior community resident watering plants

Now that you’re approaching retirement and your kids have moved out of your house, does it seem a bit too large? Maybe your house is starting to feel more like a to-do list of chores rather than a relaxing environment, or like there is a lot of unused space you don’t need anymore.

It’s natural to reevaluate your family house and living needs as you approach retirement. What was once a large space for the kids to grow up in becomes challenging and costly to upkeep. It stands to reason that the fewer people who live in your house, the less space is needed within your home. Plus, now may be the time to go through your belongings and decide what needs to go or stay instead of leaving that up to your children or other loved ones.

If you’re considering a living space with less upkeep that is sized for exactly what you need, a senior living community may be the solution. 

But how will you know if it’s the right time to downsize your space? Start by rightsizing your possessions and clearing out unnecessary items to narrow down your possessions to something more manageable. We’re here with the essential tips you need to get started with rightsizing for a maintenance-free lifestyle.


Is it the right time to downsize? Learn about your options and get personalized results in about 4 minutes.

Take the Assessment


What Is the Difference Between Rightsizing and Downsizing?

You want to clear your space, so let’s start by clearing the air: Downsizing can have negative connotations that make many people nervous. It implies you’re getting rid of most of your possessions to move into a tiny space. Downsizing can feel forced and punitive, unlike rightsizing, which is being thoughtful about which possessions you need to keep.

Senior rightsizing means understanding what you need in your home and what your lifestyle is, and then narrowing down your possessions to something more manageable and “right” for your living space. With rightsizing, you’re removing items that are no longer needed. You’re keeping what you both need and want to move with you to your new living space.

It's easy to lose track of exactly how much stuff you have in your house over the years. Things in closets and basements can be out of mind because they’re out of sight. That’s why rightsizing is so crucial before moving to senior living: you don’t want to feel bogged down by things you don’t need during your next adventure.

Tips for Senior Rightsizing

Although rightsizing sounds great, it can also feel overwhelming. This is particularly true if you’ve been in your house for decades now. You likely not only have your possessions but also things left behind by other family members including children and even grandchildren. That’s why it’s important to create a plan.

1. Create a rightsizing plan.

What are your goals for your rightsizing process? There’s no one right answer to this question—think about what will be best for you. Start with these questions: 

  • Do you want to minimize your possessions and have less clutter?
  • Do you want to have less to pack when you move out of your family home? 
  • Do you have a lot of possessions that you aren’t using and want to donate?
  • Do you want to get things organized now instead of leaving the job for someone else, later?

Once you have a main mission, it can help you plan better. For example, if you want to have less to pack when you move out of the house, start with thinking of what possessions you’ll need when you make your big move—but don’t try to do it all at once.

2. Take your time.

Create a goal calendar that works for you. There is no need to do everything in one day, one week, or even one month. Give yourself some time and space. It’s important to make sure that you aren’t becoming overwhelmed or burned out in the process.

When you’re dealing with all things big and small, the decision-making can get exhausting. Creating a clear timeline that gives you plenty of room is a must. You also must have an efficient action plan.

3. Be methodical.

For the most efficient rightsizing process, tackle individual rooms rather than similar items. For example, tackle the office or living room rather than just the books in your living space.

Hit the most-used rooms first. Your list of prioritized rooms will probably look something like this: 

  • Living room
  • Bedrooms
  • Bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • Home office
  • Hallways and staircases
  • Basements, attics, garages, and laundry rooms

A big part of your methodical plan should be about prioritizing.

4. Prioritize your possessions.

When you’re rightsizing, some of your items will be removed, so you’ll need to set priorities for your possessions. This can be difficult because so many things can hold memories that are not easy to give up. However, it’s crucial to focus on what you need.

Determine which items are most important to you, which are somewhat important, and which are the least important. There’s nothing wrong with keeping things for sentimental reasons, but if you find yourself wanting to keep everything because of sentiment, you won’t get very far with rightsizing. A ranking system will help you determine what stays and what goes.

5. Get help from professionals.

You don’t have to do this all on your own. Rightsizing a house is a big job for anyone, at any age. Even if you have plenty of help from your friends and family, don’t hesitate to bring in the professionals.

Although you and your loved ones may do a decent job of sorting for rightsizing, professional organizers can help with planning, lifting, or both. It’s kind of like painting a room: Sure, you can paint the walls yourself, but a professional may be able to do it faster and better.

6. What to do with removed possessions.

Once you’ve rightsized your home to the items that are perfect for this stage of your life, you may be wondering what to do with the items that no longer align with your lifestyle. For each item, ask the following: 

  • Is the item still usable? 
  • If the item is usable, is there a family member who may want it? 
  • If not, can it be sold or donated?
  • Are you storing items that belong to your children? Can you transfer those items to them?

A professional organizer can help you sort your outgoing items to get them where they need to be, whether it’s to a charity, a family member, or storage.

Should You Get Started with Rightsizing? 

Now that you know a little more about rightsizing and what it may mean in your life, you may be wondering if you should start rightsizing. You’re not the only one. 

That’s why we created this quick assessment to see if now is the right time to rightsize.


Is it the right time to downsize? Learn about your options and get personalized results in about 4 minutes.

Take the Assessment


Originally published July 2022. Revised November 2023.

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