Dear Donna:

My husband and I have decided it’s time to move to a senior living community. We have a large home in northern Michigan that we raised our family in. Now it’s too much to maintain. It’s costing us too much time and money.

Our goal is to start downsizing our house in preparation for a move this summer. Because we’ve lived here for so many years, the task feels overwhelming. We are hoping to find a two-bedroom apartment in a senior living community, so I know we will have to find new homes for a lot of our belongings.

Do you have any tips for helping us through this process? We could really use some advice.


Kelly in Glen Arbor, MI

Tips to Downsize Before a Move to Senior Living

Dear Kelly:

You aren’t alone! In fact, older adults often say downsizing is one of the leading reasons they delay moving, even when they are more than ready for change. My first piece of advice is to take your time downsizing, whenever possible. Since it sounds like you are already planning ahead, you are off to a good start.

Keep the following suggestions in mind when downsizing:

  • Decide what matters most.

Which pieces of furniture and belongings mean the most to you? Are there items you just can’t part with? Create a list of things you treasure most. Keep in mind that a senior living apartment won’t have as much space as a house. Also, create a separate list of important items that will need to be rehomed with a friend or loved one.

  • Secure treasured possessions.

Downsizing and moving can be a hectic, messy process. Before things become too rushed, find a place to securely store family heirlooms and other valuable possessions. Smaller items might be best placed in a safe or safe deposit box. Bigger items might need to go to a climate-controlled storage unit or a friend’s house that has extra space. This step can prevent important items from being misplaced or damaged. It also makes the closets and drawers look more spacious to potential buyers.

  • Start in least used rooms.

The process of downsizing usually goes more smoothly when you work through the house room-by-room. Start in rooms that you don’t use often, such as your children’s old rooms, the attic, or basement. Sort items into boxes according to their final destination, such as “give to family” or “donate to charity.”

  • Explore local charities that accept donations.

Another item to put on your to-do list is to explore local nonprofit agencies that accept donations. You’ll likely have clothing, household items, furniture, and outdoor items that need to be donated. Having a plan for unneeded items before you begin downsizing can make the process easier. Some nonprofits have pickup services for furniture and multiple boxes of smaller items, which can be especially helpful.

Create a Floor Plan

Finally, once you’ve chosen a senior living community to call home, you can plan more specific details. Create a floor plan that shows the dimensions, doorways, and windows for each room in your new apartment.

Measure each piece of furniture or household item you’d like to take with you. Map out your new home’s floor plan on graph paper or use a free online tool like Roomstyler or HomeByMe. This will give you and your husband a good idea about what will or won’t fit in the new space.

I hope this helps, Kelly! As you and your husband explore senior living communities in Michigan, please keep Heritage on your list. With locations throughout Michigan, you’ll likely find a community that best meets your needs and interests.

Kind regards,