You accumulate a lot of “stuff” throughout your life—momentos, gifts, drawers and boxes of things to keep “just in case”—and when you’re preparing to move to a smaller home, you’re faced with deciding what to do with it all. Reducing your possessions will make life more manageable for yourself and those helping you, too.

Think of downsizing as an opportunity to declutter, free yourself from excess “baggage,” and streamline to the essentials that are both practical and make you feel good. Once you’ve found your new home, you can hire a senior moving specialist who will help you with downsizing and moving.

Deciding where to move

Start with your lifestyle goals. Are you ready to say goodbye to yardwork? Looking forward to living without stairs? Tired of cleaning rooms you never use? Start by researching homes in your area. Work with a real estate agent who’ll direct you to properties that meet your needs and wishes. The agent will also help you to prepare your current home to put on the market. The average listing price for a home in Austin, TX, is $429,000.

Paring down

  1. Assess your needs. Walk through your home room by room, and take a good look at everything. What items do you use daily? What haven’t you looked at in months or years? If you’re just beginning to plan your downsizing, try this trick: pack up everything you haven’t used (especially if you’re loathe to give it up) and put it in storage for a while. If you haven’t needed or wanted it in many months, give, donate, or throw it away.
  2. It’s so hard—and emotional—to say goodbye to sentimental items. While it’s liberating to declutter and downsize, you are also saying farewell to things you hold dear. Don’t underestimate the need to say goodbye.
  3. Identify irreplaceable items. Think about what you’d grab and take along with you in an emergency or to a desert island—photo albums, wedding rings, military service medals, a precious statuette. Take pictures and create an album of other sentimental items for which you won’t have room.
  4. Create “keep,” “donate,” “sell,” and “throw away” piles. Don’t create an “undecided” pile; handle each item only once. Hold an estate sale or yard sale, depending on the value and type of items you’re selling.
  5. Even if the move is a few months away, it’ll be easier to downsize your belongings if you know where you’re going. For example, if you’re moving in with an adult child, you probably won’t need your kitchen appliances or tools. If you’re moving to a smaller house, you’ll most likely still need much of your kitchen stuff. If you’re moving into a retirement community, you may want your coffee maker and toaster oven, but not need larger items.
  6. Set aside a day, a week or an hour a day to sort through belongings and declutter. It doesn’t have to be a marathon session. If you stall or get overwhelmed, call in the professionals. You can hire someone who specializes in helping seniors downsize or contact a certified relocation and transition specialist.
  7. After you’ve found your new home, measure the furniture you’d like to take with you to make sure it fits. Use online software to make a floor plan based on your new home.

Moving day tips

Whether you’re working with a relocation specialist or not, here are a few other suggestions to ensure a smoother move.

  1. Double check your inventory list.
  2. Make sure you know the movers’ schedule so you can meet them at your new home.
  3. Pack the “open first” boxes, and either move them separately or ask that the movers take them off the truck first.
  4. Plan to take at least three days to unpack and organize your things.

If you’re planning to move, think about your access to healthcare, recreational and social activities, ease of moving around, and the community in which you want to live. Moving is a big step and one of life’s most stressful events, so don’t feel that you must rush into any decisions. This is a situation where it makes sense to take your time.