Critter Corner: Tips for Seniors Who are Downsizing

Dear Magic,

My parents are downsizing and don’t know where to begin. You seem like a neat bunny without a lot of stuff. What advice can you give seniors who are downsizing?

Dawn Sizing

Dear Dawn,

World-renowned organization expert and author Marie Kondo’s methods are very helpful for seniors who may need to downsize. Whether your parents are moving to a more manageable residence or simply clearing years of clutter from their home, according to Kondo, if items don’t “spark joy,” then it’s time to say goodbye to them.

Seniors and others who watch Marie Kondo or read her books are trying to declutter and get rid of things around the house in an attempt to live a tidier and less stressful life. According to Kondo, “(w)hile in the past Americans have associated having more—the bigger house, multiple cars, a wardrobe big enough for a small village—with success, nowadays some of us accept the fact that when we own less stuff, we are happier.” Her methods emphasize only keeping things which give you joy.

If you know you are going to be downsizing to a new home or independent living community, here are some tips to help you get rid of stuff before your move:

  • Have a plan: Define goals for each day, write down who will need to be involved to reach those goals, and get those friends and relatives involved early on so they can be ready to help when those days come. Don’t try and do it all by yourself!
  • Start with the kitchen: Many family gatherings revolve around the kitchen, and many family memories happen in the kitchen. Sometimes, even parting with an apron can be difficult, if it’s the one you used to wear when you cooked with your mother. Start with the kitchen and lay everything out on tables and counters. Open and empty every drawer. Then, take any duplicates you have and if they’re in good shape, put them in a donate box and move on. If an item has sentimental value but you really don’t need it any longer, a great way to preserve the memories associated with that item is to take a photo of it using the Legacy Stories app which you can download for free via the link on our website here. Using the Legacy Stories mobile App, you can take a photo of each sentimental item while using the microphone on your smart phone to record yourself describing the item in the photo along with the people, places, and memories associated with the item. This is actually a much better way to preserve your treasured memories than keeping the items themselves, because the younger generations of your family don’t share the same memories that you have in connection with the item in the photo, and by recording your memories along with the photo, you preserve the sentimental value of the item without having to keep the item itself. For example, let’s say in your kitchen you have an old rusted baking whisk that used to belong to your grandmother, and you have a wonderful memory of your first time baking with your grandmother and using that exact whisk. If you keep the whisk, it’s simply going to be seen as an old piece of junk by your family members once you have passed on. But if you take a picture of the whisk and tell your story about the memories of your first time baking with your grandmother, you are truly preserving the sentimental value of that whisk for your children and grandchildren, and perhaps even future generations.
  • Visit your new place of residence before you move in: If you are close enough, try to make a visit or two before you move in. Think about where you want things to go once the movers arrive. If you’re moving into a new home, spend some time with loved ones in your new dwelling and visualize your favorite possessions around you.
  • Don’t throw things away if you can help it: Rather than discarding your old possessions in the garbage, where they will eventually end up in a landfill, you can find a new owner for many of your things. Buy Nothing or Freecycle groups are awesome for giving away nice items that other people can use, or you should consider donating to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or local clothing drives or charities.


Downsizing is a chance to celebrate the items that really matter to you, while saying goodbye to those that have run their course. Involve your friends, family and loved ones as much as you can, and pour a glass of wine if it suits you. Cheers to the next step in your parents’ lives!

Hop this helps!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.