Clear the Clutter With These Expert Downsizing Tips for Seniors

Posted on: August 28, 2023

If the idea of going through what’s accumulated over the years – or decades – in your home sounds daunting, you’re not alone. Organizing and removing personal items can be physically and emotionally draining for anyone.

Luckily, Otterbein can help with the downsizing process. One way is through our partnership with Ask Amy Staging, LLC. Here, Amy Zumberger, Accredited Home Staging Professional, gives tips for beginning the downsizing process.

Form a Downsizing Plan

It’s hard to begin downsizing if you know you’ll be moving soon but don’t know what your new space will look like. That’s why Zumberger suggests figuring out your next steps before you start decluttering.

Once you have a better sense of how much space you’ll have, it will be easier to pick and choose the items you want to keep.

Next, Zumberger says carving out specific days and times to work on downsizing is key. Pick a day that works for you and dedicate time each week to cleaning and organizing. 

To get started, pick a smaller room or one that you don’t use a lot. Chances are the items in that room are things you don’t use often and may be easier to part with because you’re less emotionally attached.

“The kitchen is difficult for a lot of women, so I would say start in that back room,” Zumberger said.


Read our downsizing guide for four steps you can start taking today >>

How to Preserve Family Heirlooms

Zumberger says her clients often wonder how and when to pass items down to their children. She recommends doing it now while you’re still thinking about it.

“If you want to give something that’s an heirloom, go ahead and do that now so you can share the stories. If you wait until after you’re gone, that information might not be transferred,” she said.

Another way to get your children to choose any items they want is through a rotation. Have each person get a different color of sticker, and taking turns, attach the sticker to any items they want for themselves. This allows them to choose things they want to keep versus what you want them to keep.

Finally, Zumberger offered advice for anyone whose children can’t make up their minds about taking items.

“Make a box for Christmas or their birthday of things you think they would like or things that are important – I’m talking about true heirloom pieces,” she said. “When the kids come over, take the box, put it out in their car – don’t tell them it’s there – so when they get home it’s a surprise.”


What to Do With Old Collections

Zumberger said to think of family heirlooms that you want to be passed down and personal collections separately.

A collection is something you personally enjoy – not necessarily something that everyone else in the family would want. If your collection is valuable, Zumberger suggests taking advantage of online auctions so you can get the best price for your items.

Learn what to sell, how to sell, and where to sell your stuff >>

Decorating Advice for Smaller Spaces

When it comes to paring down your collection of decor, Zumberger advised to keep it simple with some of the following tips:

  • Keep just one wreath for your front door or porch, and update it seasonally.
  • Switch out small items to make an impact each season.
  • Choose smaller pieces – like a tabletop Christmas tree instead of a 15-foot one. 

“When you’re downsizing, that lifestyle changes,” Zumberger said. You may no longer want or need to go all-out on decor for each holiday. And if you have less storage space, her tips will help you make the most of what you keep.

Zumberger had a few final words of advice for anyone about to begin the downsizing process: “Stay positive – that’s really key. Be positive about the next move and really embrace it. It can be fun,” she said.

More Help With Downsizing Your Home

Downsizing can be a challenging process, but there are plenty of ways you can simplify it. One way is by reading our guide to downsizing your home without losing peace of mind. 

You’ll learn how to break down the process into four steps that cover the physical and emotional parts of downsizing. 

Read the downsizing guide >>