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As our loved ones age, the prospect of decluttering and downsizing becomes a significant consideration for both their well-being and the practicalities of living.  We wrote this downsizing checklist for seniors so you can spend the week going through their garage to sort their things out. In this guide, I listed out decluttering and downsizing checklist for seniors that can be used in navigating this emotionally impacting move.

According to National Institute on Aging, most elderly people would like to age in place or stay at their homes as they get older. Like many people, the garage has become a dumping ground for broken appliances, old mattresses, boxes of old books, and unneeded kitchen items. It may be full of leftover lumber and other building supplies. It’s time to tackle that clutter.

This process can be emotionally charged and therefore, require careful planning and consideration. Caregivers and family members may often find themselves faced with numerous questions as they embark on this journey.


You can print and edit this checklist that we made for you. Feel free to read more about on how to go about this life changing task for our beloved elderly.


1. What Items Hold Sentimental Value?

Understanding the sentimental value attached to specific items is paramount. Before decluttering, engage in open conversations with the senior about cherished possessions, ensuring that these sentimental pieces are preserved or properly documented. In our experience, seniors might point out family heirlooms, photo albums, or items with personal significance such as gifts from loved ones.


2. Which Items are Essential for Daily Living?

Identifying essential items for daily life is crucial to ensure that the senior’s new living space is functional and accommodates their needs. Prioritize keeping items that contribute to their comfort, convenience, and daily routines. You may consider items as  essential if they are comfortable furniture, familiar kitchen tools, and personal care items that contributes to their daily routine.


3. What are the Senior’s Preferences for the New Living Space?

Consider the senior’s preferences when planning the layout and design of the downsized living space. This could include furniture arrangements, color schemes, and the overall atmosphere to create a comfortable and personalized environment. For example, preferences might include maintaining a cozy living room setup, having natural light, or arranging furniture for ease of mobility.


4. Are there Specific Health or Mobility Considerations?

Take into account any health or mobility concerns the senior may have. This information will guide decisions about furniture choices, accessibility modifications, and overall safety measures in the new living space. As an example of typical mobilty needs they may express the need for features like grab bars, comfortable seating, or a layout that accommodates mobility aids if necessary.


5. What Support Systems are Available?

Identify available support systems, such as friends, family, or professional organizers. Collaborating with others can help distribute the workload and ensure the senior receives emotional support throughout the decluttering and downsizing process. Our beloved elderly may rely on family members, close friends, or hired professionals for emotional support and assistance during the downsizing process.


6. How Can We Preserve Important Documents?

Organize and safeguard important documents systematically. This ensures that crucial paperwork, such as medical records and legal documents, is easily accessible and secure during the downsizing process. You can ask them if they might prefer to keep important documents in a secure and accessible location, such as a designated folder or safe box.


7. What is the Plan for Unwanted Items?

Discuss and plan for the fate of unwanted items. Decide whether certain items will be donated, sold, or discarded, and arrange for these actions accordingly to streamline the decluttering process. TYpically, they may show preferences for donating items to specific charities, selling valuable items, or giving away possessions to friends or family.

You can go onto social media groups and sites like Craigslist and read the “wanted” ads. You may be able to give someone in need an item your dad no longer wants. There could be a struggling single mom or dad in need of the refrigerator your dad has sitting in his garage. 
Of if there are news of any fire, you may have families looking for blankets and clothing. If your dad is about to trash items like that, he could donate it instead. If he still has items, he could post them for sale on these sites and try to make a little money. He might have luck selling things in a garage sale or flea market. People often buy furniture for a low price to repair and refinish it. 

8. Is There a Moving Plan in Place?

If a move is on the horizon, establish a clear plan. Discuss logistics, timelines, and consider hiring a reliable moving company. A well-thought-out moving plan can significantly reduce stress for both the senior and their caregivers. If they are still able for decision making, they might appreciate if you’ll ask them if they have a clear plan for the move, including a timeline, details about the new living space, and assistance from reliable movers.


9. What Technology Should be Retained or Simplified?

Evaluate the senior’s comfort with technology and decide on which devices and digital content should be retained or simplified. This may involve consolidating devices or transitioning to user-friendly alternatives. You may ask them if they may have preferences for keeping certain electronic devices for communication or entertainment and recommend good ones, while simplifying or decluttering.


10. How Can We Make the Process Emotionally Easier?

Acknowledge and address the emotional aspects of downsizing. Engage in open communication, take breaks when needed, and create opportunities to share memories. Ensuring emotional well-being is just as crucial as the physical aspects of decluttering.

Know that they may not be able to do all the decluttering in just one go and that is why taking breaks during the process, reminiscing about memories associated with items, and involving them in decision-making is  way to letting them feel things as they continuously embark on their life journey.

Remember to also tackle one area at a time. Don’t try to do everything in one day. Decide on an area and tackle it. You could set goals of clearing away the stairs into the garage on the first day. Clear the area in front of the back or side door the next. After that, do one garage bay at a time. You can finish up by clearing any loft storage. 
Try renting  a dumpster or get plenty of heavy-duty garbage bags. Sort items into trash, keep, or recycle. Items that your dad wants to keep should be set aside. Return to them each day to make sure he still wants to keep them. They need to have a place within the home and not just end up in the garage. 


11. What Financial Considerations Exist?

Discuss the financial implications of downsizing, including potential property sales or budget adjustments for a smaller living space. Understanding the financial landscape helps in making informed decisions. If they are still not considering downsizing or decluttering this is a good point for discussing the financial implications of downsizing, including budgeting for the new living space and potential cost savings.


12. Are There Any Legal or Administrative Tasks to Consider?

Identify any legal or administrative tasks associated with the downsizing process. This may include updating wills, notifying relevant institutions of address changes, and addressing any legal considerations specific to the situation. If they are still capable, you may acknowledge the need to update legal documents, inform relevant institutions of address changes, and ensure that paperwork is in order.


13. What Support is Available for Donating or Selling Items?

Explore available resources for donating or selling items. This could involve seeking professional estate sale services, donation pickup services, or connecting with local charities to ensure a smooth transition for unwanted possessions. Seniors might appreciate assistance from family or professionals in organizing estate sales, coordinating with charities, or arranging for item pickup.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many waste districts started limiting the items allowed for drop-off and recycling. Items like electronics, appliances, mattresses, and old furniture were refused. Before you go to drop things off, call and verify that they are accepting everything you need to drop off. 
Your dad should have help with household chores. If he’s struggling to keep his home clean and organized, caregivers are helpful. They’ll work with your dad to clean and organize his home. With caregivers helping out, you and your dad have time for fun activities when you are able to visit. 

14. How Can I Involve the Senior in Decision-Making?

Develop strategies to involve the senior in decision-making. Their input and preferences are invaluable, and actively including them in the process can foster a sense of control and ownership over the changes.

Seniors may want to actively participate in decisions about what to keep, donate, or discard, ensuring their preferences are considered.


15. What Resources are Available for Downsizing and Decluttering?

Research and utilize available resources such as local charities, community organizations, or professional organizers. These resources can provide valuable assistance and support throughout the decluttering and downsizing journey.

Navigating the decluttering and downsizing journey for seniors requires a thoughtful and comprehensive approach. By addressing these common questions and considerations, caregivers and family members can create a supportive and organized process that respects the senior’s needs and preferences. Through open communication, strategic planning, and emotional support, the transition to a simplified and comfortable living space can be a positive and empowering experience for everyone involved.


Decluttering And Downsizing Checklist For Seniors [PDF]

You can print and edit this checklist that we made for you decluttering and downsizing time with your loved ones!



Cleaning the Basement Decluttering And Downsizing Checklist For Seniors article featured imageIf you or an aging loved-one is considering Caregiver in Ardmore, PA please contact the caring staff at Correct Choice Home Care today at (267) 323-1700. 






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Joshua Walker, MBA