5 Tips for Downsizing and Moving without Feeling Overwhelmed

Downsizing doesn't have to be stressful and overwhelming. You may even find moments of levity throughout the process.

By Laura Uherka, Guest Writer

We have asked Laura Uherka, a local senior moving specialist and professional organizer at Simply Change, her tips and tricks for downsizing a home before moving to a retirement community.


When it comes to making big changes, like downsizing and moving, there are an infinite number of ways to feel, be, and act. After all, you’re under pressure to make that change in a certain time frame. Some people do it with ease and grace and some become overwhelmed. But there’s good news – At the end of the day, everyone makes it happen.


Here are five qualities we have seen with clients that make the process easier for everyone:

  • Be Honest and Clear
  • Have a Plan
  • Ask for Help
  • Rest and Don’t Overdo It
  • Take Time to Have Fun


1. Be Honest and Clear

First of all, be honest—with yourself first. Why are you making this move or change? What are your strengths and abilities at this point in your life? Where would it be beneficial to get help—even if you could do it all—to not cause yourself too much physical or mental stress? It may be that you could still do the move yourself, and maybe have dozens of times before, but is that the best thing for you now?


One of the best examples of honesty I have seen was a charming woman with physical limitations who had a wonderful smile and a happy spirit. She said quite early in our conversations that she was not able to help with the move and just wanted to let us know that. She and her husband were making the transition from a large single-family home where they had lived for many years to a smaller home in a retirement community. Her husband patiently processed their home to prepare for the move, and was also honest that in many ways he needed help because it was too much to take on himself. We were able to help both of them through the transition.


Whatever change you want in your life, being honest with yourself and others is a good first step. From there, you will gradually become more and more clear of what you want and need. You can then make a plan.


Once you have really decided what is important to you, be sure to be clear in your communication with others. This is important first with your husband or wife. You will come to a shared decision; allow this to take as long as it needs to, if you are able. Many decisions are ones that will affect you for years to come, so do allow each other to be on the same page before making big changes.


Be clear and direct with others around you. Family, children, and friends will want to support you however they can. Make sure you are clear with them, stating what you need.


Be clear with whomever is involved with making your move or change happen, be it the retirement community or the movers with whom you will be working. They will appreciate knowing how they can best serve you.


2. Have a Plan

For many, the plan is simple – Get rid of some stuff! The law of nature is that an empty space will become filled. And with houses the size they are these days, many people have closet after closet of items tucked away.


Though the accumulation of items may seem like no big deal, the truth is it doesn’t serve the world or you in any way to have those items tucked away, unused for years and even forgotten. If an item represents a part of your history, tucked away and held onto, it doesn’t allow you to be fully in the present. Someone else could be using or appreciating those items.


Change means bringing those things into the light. Perhaps you can tell a special story an item represents to your grandchildren or give extra blankets to the homeless. There is much to be shared in moving items around. And it creates space for newness, for creation, for connection.


Items do have meaning, an energy, and when they are pulled out and looked at, there is a connection that happens with that item. What matters is what feeling the items cause in you. Some items do not bring any joy—maybe even pain—and those might be good to let go of. Other items bring so much joy they need to be hanging on the wall to look at regularly.


When change brings up fear, anxiety, or stress, there is help available. From talking through any hard issues, processing items one by one with you, or helping get items out the door for donation, we can help.


3. Ask for Help

Even with the best laid plans, change can happen. In your own mind, with your family and friends, and with us, there could be the best made plan. And then, one day you decide you just can’t do that closet you said you would go through. Or you just can’t haul that box up the stairs yourself. Or you just need to talk or a friendly hug.


Many people plan big moves months in advance, so they have time to thin out items. Others decide it is time and trust us to do a logical downsizing for them, and move more quickly. Whatever the situation, change can happen within the situation. Just remember to communicate what you need and how others can help you.


Most of us have more help available to us than we realize, whether it’s friends to have dinner with when our kitchens are packed or retirement community staff (like Carolina Village’s marketing team, Cheryl and Nora) who want to help us have that great new color on our new walls. We just need to ask.


The key is being in touch and letting people know what is going on for you. Most people really want to help and care, and many are so busy taking care of what’s in front of them. Especially when you are going through something big, stay connected to others and ask for anything you need.


4. Rest and Don’t Overdo It

Sometimes the items that you stressed about for weeks can be packed in just a few minutes. That is one reason for you to rest anywhere along the process of preparing for a move that you want to. The same items that can seem big in someone’s mind can usually be dealt with very easily once we begin packing or on move day.


So be easy on yourself and trust it will all get done. Take the time to enjoy the items you are going through. Take the time to connect with out of town family that may be thinking of you. Let the support, care, and love of the people around you in. The move itself will be fine. It’s more important that you take care of yourself.


5. Take Time to Have Fun

“Fun!?,” you’re probably wondering. Yes, it is possible to enjoy the process.


Throughout a recent move, we had been seeing the husband’s many musical instruments. The music lover in me got pretty excited about his alto ukulele. He happily played a few strums. Later, I said in passing that we would love to hear him play his accordion sometime. Within moments he was piping away! The sound echoed off the walls and ceiling, filling the space. There was also still enough room to dance! Robert took me and started spinning me around in some form of a polka to the music. When we stopped, the wife said, “My turn!” And off Robert spun her, all of us with big smiles.


No matter what your passions and skills are, there can be great moments to just drop in to what is important to you. As you process and let go some parts of your life, not only is it fun, but it is also a time to reassess and notice what is important to you going forward.


As you settle into your new space, find fun ways to make it yours. For example, we mentioned to another couple we worked with how many lovely people we had moved in near them recently, and hoped that someone would host a dinner so they could come together right away. We later learned that they themselves had hosted a holiday dinner! We could imagine just how wonderful it looked to use the many Christmas plates we had moved for them!


This is one of the benefits of downsizing and rearranging your space – you have more room for what is new for you! This can be people, a project, a hobby, grandchildren, anything. If you create space, you allow room for creation of something new. It is worth the effort.



Simply Change can help clients with any part of the process of moving. Their goal is to help clients have a smooth and easy transition. They offer a free one-hour consultation to help people get a clear picture of what their moving process can look like.