A Senior’s Guide to Downsizing to a Rental Apartment

A Senior’s Guide to Downsizing to a Rental Apartment

Table of Contents

Downsizing to a rental apartment as a senior citizen can be an exciting life transition. Many find it refreshing to live in a new home where they are no longer responsible for repairs, landscaping, lawn maintenance, taxes, insurance, and many other things that come with owning a home. Some also enjoy the idea of living a more minimalist lifestyle in a tighter community and in a smaller home.  

But the transition can be stressful if you don’t know what to expect. In this post, we’ll give you some tips for navigating the downsizing process so you’ll spend less time moving and more time enjoying your new place!

1. Start Early

Packing and moving almost always takes longer than expected. If you’ve lived in your home for a long time, you’ve likely accumulated a lifetime’s worth of stuff, and it’s unrealistic to expect to downsize in a month! That’s why it’s helpful to begin the process well in advance (we recommend about three months) to allow ample time to complete the necessary tasks on your checklist without rushing. 

If you are moving into an assisted living rental apartment or assisted living facility/retirement community, make sure to enlist help from family members or a caregiver, since moving home is a big undertaking.

2. Define Your Needs and Goals

There are many common reasons for downsizing, but regardless of what your reason is, it’s a good idea to focus on and define your goals for downsizing. Are you moving to reduce expenses? High mortgage payments or property taxes are a common reason many seniors downsize.

Or, do you want to simplify your lifestyle? Move closer to family? Move into a senior living community? Do you find it hard keeping up with the upkeep in your current home and want a smaller space? Having a clear purpose can help you plan better and make the process easier.

These details can also help you find the perfect apartment (if you haven’t already). Consider what size you’ll need, the neighborhood you want, the amenities you’d like, and access to public transportation, medical facilities, and shopping. 

And remember to stay busy and stay social! If possible, find a place near a senior center, gym, library, music venue, etc., to keep active in your community. 

If you have mobility concerns, take stock of your accessibility needs and share them with the property management or realtor. Verify that you can make modifications if the apartment doesn’t already include handrails, ramps, or other accessibility features.

3. Create a Floor Plan

Before you begin sorting through your belongings to determine what you’ll keep and what you won’t, measure the new apartment’s rooms and create a floor plan. This will help you decide which furniture will fit and where it should go. 

4. Sort and Declutter

Go through your belongings room by room and decide what to keep, sell, donate, or discard. Consider holding a garage sale or yard sale, or even selling valuable items online to generate extra income. Donate gently used items to charities or organizations that can benefit from them.

Evaluate your furniture and select pieces appropriate for your new space with a focus on size and function. Avoid duplicate or redundant items, keeping only what you truly need and use regularly.

Give special consideration to sentimental value items. Keep those that bring you joy but try to limit their quantity. If there are items you can’t bear to part with but don’t have space for, consider passing them on to a beloved friend or family member who will appreciate them as much as you do. Letting go is hard, but to save space, you can also digitize photos, letters, and other paper memorabilia.

5. Confirm Your Help

If possible, enlist family or friends to help with the decluttering and physical aspects of the move. If necessary, hire professional organizers, moving companies, or estate sale services to assist you in the downsizing process. Confirm dates upfront with anyone helping to make sure you’re all on the same page.

6. Create a Checklist

Develop a checklist to track tasks and deadlines. This can help you stay organized and ensure you don’t overlook any important details. If you want peace of mind that everything is organized, consider enlisting the help of a Senior Move Manager who will help save you a lot of time organizing the move for you. If you are doing it yourself, divide your list into sections for:

  • Paperwork: Organize your essential documents and place them in a safety deposit box or a fireproof safe. You can scan your documents and save them digitally, too. Be sure to let your loved ones know where your records are and give them access.
  • Change of address and mail service: Contact businesses, healthcare providers, service providers, and anyone else who needs to know your new address. Sending a change of address card is likely the easiest way to do this. Contact the post office and confirm when they should forward your mail. Now is also the time to find a trusted neighbor you keep in close contact with who can get your mail, newspaper, and deliveries if necessary.
  • Schedule utility disconnection: Schedule a disconnection date for your power, gas, water, and phone (if applicable) service. 
  • Make arrangements for your pets: Many retirees get so caught up in planning and organizing they forget that their pets are moving, too! If you have pets, have a plan for what you’ll do with them during the move. Schedule the date if you’d like to board them for the day. If that makes you uncomfortable, ask a friend or family member if they can pet sit in their family home for the day while you’re busy with the move. 
  • Packing checklist: List the type of boxes, supplies, and services you’ll need for the move. Consider the order you’d like to pack and unpack when making your packing checklist. Create a list of valuables you’ll pack separately and items to put in an overnight bag for easy access, like toiletries, medications, and extra clothes.  
  • Pre-moving day checklist: Coordinate things like post-move cleaning services and the pre-move-in walk-through of your new apartment. It also helps to review your contracts with your new landlord and the movers to avoid surprises and be prepared if something is lost or damaged. Take stock and pictures of your belongings according to room and box number.
  • Moving day checklist: Your moving day checklist should include coordinating with the movers as they pick up your belongings from your house or a storage unit, then pack them into a moving truck and then unload them in your new apartment, townhouse or retirement home. Review your inventory list as they unload to ensure each box goes to the right room. 

Embrace the New Lifestyle! 

Downsizing can be challenging in many ways. If the process of planning, organizing, and moving feels overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek support from loved ones or consider consulting with a senior relocation specialist. 

The process can be emotionally challenging as well, especially when leaving a home in which you’ve made a lifetime’s worth of memories. You may need support from the people you love to navigate that real estate transition, too.

But downsizing can also lead to a more comfortable and manageable living situation where homeowners can simplify and focus on what truly matters most. It’s an excellent opportunity to start fresh, move on to a new chapter in your life, and enjoy all of the great things your new lifestyle has to offer!

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