Moving into a retirement community is a big transition in life. It's important to take everything that made home feel like home with you when you leave. But it's impossible to move everything. Your entire home simply will not fit in the apartment. Therefore, downsizing becomes a paramount part of the moving process. But how will you part ways with possessions? What do you keep? What do you donate or throw away? Here are some general guidelines to downsizing your home for a retirement community.

1. Take Inventory

Make a list of everything you own. Be sure to include all the items that are tucked away in the attic or hiding downstairs in the basement. You’ll be surprised at how long the list gets and may even find it easier to get rid of some possessions when you discover how much you own. Mark down duplicate items as you move through the house. You will not need more than one once you move out of the house, so pick the one in the best overall condition. Also understand that there are some items you won’t have the ability to utilize living in a retirement community. For example, you will no longer need the tractor, shovels and racks. Those kinds of items can be donated or given to family members.

2. Don’t Do It All at Once

Sure, maybe it will get done faster should you try to tackle this daunting task in a week, but work like this is emotionally straining. You are certain to come across items that make you want to sit back and reminisce. Make sure you take the time to do that. Downsizing for retirement should not be a stressful process. It should be enjoyable, just like a walk down memory lane. Take in what exploring your house has to offer and handle the job in a few months instead of a few days.

3. Use the New Space

Visit your future place of residence and map out the area. Take note of how much cabinet space there is for clothing, where appliances can be placed in the kitchen, and the room available to house your hobbies. Then use those notes as a visual guideline for what you want to keep and where you want to store it. This will help you decide what possessions simply won’t fit in your new living area.

4. Yes or No Answers

Do you remember be forced to answer those open-ended questions in school? The ones that didn’t even provide potential answers but just fed you five or six lines forcing to you rack your brain for the solution? That type of question evokes high levels of stress because the answer is not a clear-cut choice. Yes or no questions provide those choices. Therefore, instead of asking yourself, “which winter coat do I want to keep,” ask, “have I worn this coat and will I in the future?” If the answer is yes then you should keep the coat, but if the answer is no than it is safe to discard.

5. If It’s Broken Throw It Away

There’s no point in keeping something you can’t use. Time to get rid of all those tattered clothes, chipped dishware, and unresponsive appliances. If it’s broken toss it immediately without a second thought. You should only be taking the best quality items with you into retirement. Don’t worry about donating it either; charities can’t use broken items.

6. Keep the most-used items

If you haven’t used it by now it’s likely that you never will. That item would do the world more good if it was donated or resold then it would trapped in a cabinet or closet. Consider using the hanger trick with clothes and 6-month test with all other possessions. The 6-month test can be applied by simply asking yourself, “have I used this item in the last 6-months?” If you haven’t used the item in half a year chances are it’s not that important and won’t be missed in the next phase of your life. The hanger trick is slightly different and a foolproof method for making decisions about clothing. Turn all of your hangers around so that the clothes are facing backwards and set a time limit (anywhere from 6 months to a year). At the end of the time period the cloths that are still facing backwards are the ones that haven’t been worn and can be discarded without much struggle. The hanger trick takes the decision-making process out of downsizing your closet.

7. If It’s Supposed to Be a Gift, Give It Now

Don’t wait for the next birthday, Christmas Day, or Easter Sunday to give something you’ve been saving as a gift. Give all the gifts sitting in your house before you move into the community. This is a simple and easy way to downsize the items in your home. Plus, the great feeling accompanied with giving is good year-round. Don’t hold onto gifts. Give before you move and the gift is lost or forgotten.

8. Retirement Big 3

In retirement, nothing is more important than your happiness. Typically, that happiness consists of three elements including: grandchildren, leisure, and travel. This does not apply to all retired individuals, but it is highly likely that one of if not all of the above concepts relate to your situation.

  • Leisure – Think about what you like to do. Do you have everything you need to do these activities with you? It is important to keep these items. Retirement is made fulfilling by pursuing your passions.
  • Travel – It isn’t easy to travel without downsizing. Unnecessary items can be sold off the money invested in a travel fund. Remember it is easier to travel light.
  • Grandchildren – Consider how the location of your retirement will impact your grandchildren. Also consider keeping some of your son or daughters favorite toys and books. You can experience the same magic for a second time with the grandchildren.

5 Things to Keep No Matter What

  1. Important papers. Let go of as many papers as possible because they will eat up space on top of cabinets and in desk draws. However, there are some papers that should never be discarded. Jodie Watson, owner of Supreme Organization claims that it is important to keep the following documents: “birth and death records, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, social security cards, pension plan documents, medical records, insurance policies, passports, wills, trusts, power of attorney documents, property deeds, investment records, education records, diplomas, military service records and vehicle titles.”
  2. Family Heirlooms. Study the meaning behind your family heirlooms. Those with a high level of importance should be maintained and brought with you when you move. However, if the item no longer has a significant level of meaning then taking a picture of it and gifting it to a younger member in the family is often a good idea. It passes on the tradition and frees up space in your new home.
  3. Electronics. Understand one thing about electronics; the data on your hard drive is still there until the drive is physically destroyed. Even if you electronically delete everything there are still ways to recover the data. Therefore, don’t throw old electronics in the trash without destroying the hard drive to ensure the data stays out of the wrong hands.
  4. Photographs. Photographs are little snapshots of a moment in time, and are important to keep and look through later. They capture memories and make the best times eternal. If you have a lot of photographs (which I’m sure is highly likely) try organizing things in a scrapbook. Makes it easier to find what you are looking for and saves space.
  5. Sentimental items. It goes without saying that anything with sentimental value should not be discarded. These items can’t be replaced so make sure you hold onto them. Consider taking a box and dedicating it to the sentimental items around your house. Keeps everything in one place.