Downsizing and Rightsizing Aren’t Just for Seniors Moving to a Retirement Community

downsizing rightsizing

Most older adults who are planning to move to a senior living community will need to sort through their belongings and decide what goes with them and what does not.

While this is most commonly referred to as downsizing—because the move is usually to a smaller home—rightsizing may be a more accurate term, and it applies to a broad range of situations.

What Is Rightsizing, and How Does It Differ From Downsizing?

Some say there’s no real difference between rightsizing and downsizing, that it’s simply a matter of perspective. Others believe there’s a distinct difference between the two.

Downsizing, for seniors or anyone else, involves letting go of possessions accumulated over the years, from furniture and household accessories to collectibles and memorabilia. The goal is to whittle down one’s belongings so that what remains will fit into a living space with less square footage.

Because it’s associated with moving, the term downsizing can have negative connotations. People seldom look forward to the process of packing and moving, which can seem overwhelming at any age. For those who’ve lived in the same home for decades, raising a family and establishing deep roots within the community, the mere thought of going through the steps to move somewhere else can be daunting.

Rarely does everything in a household get packed and transported to a new home. So, in a way, downsizing is part of every move. Rightsizing should be, too.

Rightsizing involves evaluating your lifestyle, now and in the five to 10 years ahead, and then determining how well your home and possessions suit your lifestyle. It’s a process of deciding how much you value your tangible belongings and whether they’re serving a purpose in your life.

Here’s another point that highlights the difference between rightsizing and downsizing: Rightsizing might mean moving into a larger space. For instance, if you plan on entertaining guests in your home more often in the future or inviting friends and family for extended visits, you may need more space than you currently have.

When Should You Consider Rightsizing?

Rightsizing can be beneficial whether you’re approaching retirement, starting a family, moving to a new city for your career or doing some serious spring cleaning. While it’s good to rightsize any time you move, it can be advantageous to rightsize periodically even if you’re staying put. It’s a great way to prevent clutter from taking over your space and your life.

When you’re planning to move, you can’t start rightsizing too soon. The more time you give yourself to go through your closets, cabinets and other storage spaces such as attics and basements, the less stressed you’ll be as moving day draws near. You can take a more leisurely pace, donating a few batches of items every so often and passing along treasured belongings to friends and family when you get together with them.

If you try thinking about rightsizing in terms of the outcome—a home that better aligns with the way you want to live—you may be excited to get the process underway!

Tips to Help Seniors Downsize or Rightsize

While many of these tips will come in handy for anyone who wants to clear out the clutter, some are especially relevant for older adults who are planning to move to a senior living community.

  • Start with an easy space in your home or with items you’re sure you no longer want. For example, go through your linen closet. Anything you haven’t used in the past year is a good candidate for the donation pile. Making good progress early on will keep you motivated.
  • Be honest with yourself when considering what to keep. Is it something you will use, or does it have true sentimental value? People often hold on to things out of a sense of obligation or because they would feel guilty giving (or throwing) them away. This is a good time to set some of those emotions aside and be as objective as possible. Items such as video tapes and photo albums can be digitized, which frees up space while keeping them accessible. (A tech-savvy friend or relative may be able to help you with this, and there are companies that do this, too.) If you have a lot of collectibles, consider taking photos of them to enjoy and then donating or selling the items themselves.
  • Ask for a floor plan of your new home with measurements. This will be extremely helpful in deciding what to keep. As much as you may love your bed, if it won’t fit in the new space then that’s an easy decision to make.
  • Allocate items to either a yes/keep pile or a no/don’t keep pile. By limiting your “maybes,” the overall process will be more efficient. To further streamline the process, create “yes” and “no” boxes and place items in the appropriate boxes as you sort. This will also help you stick with your decisions, especially if you seal each box when it’s full.
  • Label your boxes clearly. In addition to identifying what’s in the box, number the boxes (e.g., “kitchenware, box 1 of 5”). This will help the movers know where to place the boxes in your new home and help you know if any boxes are missing.
  • Create a timeline ASAP if you have a specific “move by” date. This step helps ensure you’ll be ready in plenty of time. Be sure to factor in enough time for the moving company to transport your belongings—particularly if you’ll be making a long-distance move, which can take weeks.
  • Know that you can always get help. Asking friends and family for assistance can result in opportunities to create happy memories of the time you’ll share. (For instance, younger family members may enjoy hearing about the history behind photographs and heirlooms.) Professional assistance is available as well. If you’re moving to a senior living community, there’s an excellent chance they can recommend experts to assist you throughout the process, from rightsizing and prepping your home for sale to hiring a dependable moving company.

Benevolent Buys: A Unique Rightsizing Program at Heron’s Key

Oftentimes when residents move from independent living to assisted living, they have furniture and other household goods that won’t fit in their new home. Benevolent Buys, the brainchild of Karen Coles, a resident at Heron’s Key, is a convenient way people can donate those items and help others in the community.

A couple of years before moving to Heron’s Key, Karen started rightsizing by selling items on Facebook Marketplace. After seeing that others in our community had belongings they needed to give away or sell, she decided to use her online selling experience to help them.

She spearheaded Benevolent Buys in January 2022, and the program was a rapid success. While Karen initially did everything herself, other residents soon stepped up to help. These days, an average of nine to 12 volunteers keep the program humming along.

The Benevolent Buys team includes a photographer who also researches the items to find out what they’re worth and writes descriptions. Other team members help with photo shoots or meet buyers when they come to pick up their purchases. Some assist in other ways, like wiping hard drives clean on computers that are posted for sale.

One resident created a website just for Heron’s Key residents so they could see everything that’s available without having to be on Facebook.

For Karen and everyone else on the team, it’s a labor of love because there’s no compensation other than knowing they’re providing a valuable service for the community. All of the proceeds go to the Benevolence Fund, which is used to help residents who may need assistance with community fees later in life.

A Win-Win-Win Situation

As Karen points out, everybody wins with Benevolent Buys. The buyers win because they get great bargains. The residents who own the items win because they have an easy way to donate the things they can no longer use. And, it’s a win for the Benevolence Fund.

The program also creates opportunities for residents who volunteer to serve on the team. Karen notes that most people who move to Heron’s Key have had productive careers and don’t want to just sit around and watch television. She and the rest of the team consider Benevolent Buys a highly worthwhile use of their skills and their time.

As a bonus, Benevolent Buys has been increasing awareness of Heron’s Key. Buyers who aren’t familiar with our community sometimes ask, “What kind of place is this?” They’re pleasantly surprised when they hear the answer.

Is This the Place for You?

If you’re ready to surround yourself with neighbors who enjoy taking the initiative, who seek new experiences and new ways to use their experience, then you’ll fit right in at Heron’s Key.

We encourage you to check out the lifestyle Heron’s Key offers and let us know if you’d like to visit our community in person. We can schedule a time to show you around, or you can join us for an upcoming event. Either way, we’d love to welcome you!

Featured Image: Andy Dean Photography