Downsizing Your Home for Seniors: Managing The Stress

For some seniors, downsizing your home is an optional choice.  For others, it is done by necessity.  If both spouses are still living and maintaining the house (and property) where they raised their children, associated upkeep can be tiresome – even overwhelming.  Home maintenance that these seniors handled themselves may now need to be hired-out, at significant expense.  At this point, the ‘downsizing’ conversation typically begins.  Moving forward, the development of a plan can be key to success.

downsizing your home as a senior citizen, living in a high performance home

In part two of this series, [] I described how my paternal grandparents managed to do this … twice. And we asked them about conflicts or stress and how to manage it. Grandma wrote, “I don’t remember conflicts about the move. The plan was right for us, and we could see it fulfilling our physical and even mental needs for the future. The advantage of living peaceably with family and maintaining a sense of independence was important. There were choices to be made, of course, which showed us our true sense of values in relation to our possessions. We agreed that it was just ‘stuff’ and if necessary we could probably get along without any of it.”

This led them to the decision that many Americans are doing (downsizing your home). It keeps their independence and makes economical sense later in life.

Then she added, “The stress came from transferring medical, and other records. I had five doctors (one for each system in my body). Dad had three, and they each needed regular follow-ups. Then there was cancellation of insurance on the house, and cancellation of all utilities and water to coincide with specific dates. We had to organize all the papers regarding purchases and improvements on the house, pool, and yard so the new owners would have references for it all. This included finding the service manuals and warranties for the appliances, plus answering a lot of questions from the new owners.”

So even if there isn’t much conflict, there can still be stress. offers the following tips if you expect to downsize your home and want to minimize the stress, even if your move is just sometime in the future:

  1. Stop warehousing your kids’ stuff. “If they don’t want their college textbooks and tennis trophies, you don’t need them either.”
  2. Decide on what “go” means. When you say, “this goes,” you need to be clear whether it goes to the dump or with you in the move.
  3. Be clear. If you plan to store things temporarily in trash bags as you make your decisions, use “clear” bags for things you’re keeping, and opaque for “trash.”
  4. Throw a downsizing party. Cover your largest table with things you no longer need, and invite friends over, with the agreement that each person must take at least one thing with them.
  5. Develop a kitchen tracker. Catalog what you use and what you don’t use. Keep the list handy. After six months, discard everything you don’t use.
  6. Keep sorting sessions short: two hours’ limit. Start with the simplest room. If you start elsewhere, you may give up on the whole thing.
  7. Once you start, don’t leave the room you’re working on until you’re done. Getting distracted from something you may not really want to do can result in discouragement.
  8. Don’t pack too soon. Reason: If you can pack something away now, when your move is months away, you may not need it as badly as you think. []

Finally, for this entry in our series on downsizing your home, don’t plan to put anything into “storage.” Storage units are costly over time; for example, $100 x 12 is $1200 annually (and it’s nearly impossible to find storage for $100/mo., depending on the location in which you live.

You might be better off considering building something from scratch that really suits your space needs. Here are some factors to consider when building:

  1. Including a floor plan that works for you.
  2. Include adequate storage space or a larger than average garage.
  3. Consider “universal design” principles in that design.
  4. Consider passive or solar design integrations.
  5. Consider energy saving lights, appliances, and other devices.

Why? in just 10 years, you’ll have saved $12,000-$24,000 just from that, not to mention all the other savings you could also pocket by building a new high performance or net zero home. This is your most prudent choice. Let us show you how it can work for you. We are here to help you make the most “prudent” decision possible for now and for your future.

Next time: The potential benefits of choosing to build what you need, with a net-zero home that will pay you and yours back over time. Really!