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7 Tips for Downsizing into a Senior Living Community. An older couple pack a cardboard box together.

Live Comfortably - February 26, 2024

7 Tips for Downsizing into a Senior Living Community

By Timaeus Reed

So, you’re getting ready to move into a senior living community. You’ve researched your options and spoken with loved ones, and now the next exciting chapter of your life is right around the corner. As you look forward to the move, you realize that all your home décor and furniture probably won’t fit into your new apartment home. You want to downsize without feeling like you’re starting over and sacrificing too many precious memories and beloved items. What’s more, you’re definitely going to need help physically moving what you decide to keep.

Moving at any age can feel stressful. At Goodwin Living, we have helped thousands of older adults move. We have a team of move-in specialists who know how to make the whole process less painful and more exciting. Our move-in team offers these seven tips to help you succeed as you downsize and prepare to move into a senior living community.

1. Start Planning Early

When many people hear the term “senior living community,” they immediately imagine a nursing home. This common misperception means that most people miss out on the benefits that life plan communities can offer. Making the choice to move into a community that offers a range of senior living and healthcare services can provide older adults with the peace of mind that care and services will be there for them whenever they need them.

This requires planning, even more so if the community you prefer and the apartment you desire are popular and have waiting lists. At Goodwin Living, we call our waiting list the Priority Club, and people who join it can join us for special events or use the fitness centers and pools on our campuses. Participating in our community activities gives them a sense of what living on campus will be like; it also provides opportunities to make new friends with people who will become your neighbors once you move.

While some Priority Club members move within several months to a year after joining our wait list, many of them plan ahead and spend time waiting for one of their preferred apartments to become available.

“It can take several years for a preferred apartment to become available if they are in great demand,” Goodwin Living Move-In Coordinator Ioana Munteanu said.

Once you’ve decided to move into a senior living community, as you’re waiting for your preferred apartment home to become available, you can take advantage of that time to begin thinking about what that new home will look like once you settle into it.

2. Think About Your New Aesthetic

As you prepare to begin a new chapter, consider items in your current home that will make the transition with you. Even the color choices in your home can impact your wellbeing and make a statement about who you are and who you want to be. Maybe your current home is filled with golden accents, and you want to try silver in your new apartment. Most senior living communities should be able to accommodate some of your interior design preferences, especially if you are moving into an independent living apartment home.

a selection of sample tiles arranged on floating shelves
Our move-in coordinators show a range of options for customizing cabinets, countertops and more

At Goodwin Living, we present you with many options to customize your home to your liking. Once you’ve reserved an apartment and passed your medical assessment, our move-in team members meet with you to go over the options you have to customize your new home to your personal tastes.

So, take a look around your current home and ask yourself what you might change if you could. You might discover that some of the things you hoped to move with you aren’t going to fit neatly into your new aesthetic, which can make it easier to let them go.

3. Start Small and One Room at a Time

As you prepare for your move and consider what you’ll bring with you, it’s important to make that task manageable. Whether you live in a five-bedroom house or a two-bedroom condominium, sorting through your belongings can be overwhelming. Make it easier by starting one room at a time.

It doesn’t matter which room you start with; stay focused and committed to the process. Before you know it, you’ll feel a growing sense of accomplishment that inspires you to tackle the next room and the next after that.

This strategy will also strengthen your time management. It’s unlikely that you’ll sort through everything in one day, so knowing how long it takes to figure out one room can inform your planning for the others. Anything that clarifies your timeline will empower you and smoothen the process. It all starts with one room.

4. Keep It Simple – What’s Actually Necessary?

This tip is the most straightforward, yet possibly the most difficult. Goodwin Living move-in coordinators and the move management specialists with whom we partner recommend an objective approach to begin with. You’ll know better than anyone else what you truly need to have in your home.

Their top advice? Don’t make a “maybe” pile. Keep it simple and sort your items into “keep” and “don’t keep” to start with, and then add nuance gradually as you continue your planning. If you follow tip #1, you’ll have more time to revisit your selections and change your mind later.

That old trinket, that boxed-up gadget, those dusty gizmos and furnishings—you will begin to understand why it can’t all come with you as you move. Yet still, it can be hard to let things go.

Some psychologists believe this is due, in part, to the endowment effect. We attach extra value to everything we personally own, perhaps more value than we should. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can make downsizing more difficult. That’s why leaning into discomfort and asking yourself tough questions is essential.

Think about the new lifestyle you can enjoy. Choosing to move to a senior living community often means freeing yourself of basic home maintenance chores, which gives you even more free time. What items must you keep and which ones can you leave behind? If you haven’t used something in a few years, do you really need it? Think about your new floor plan. Will keeping an item make navigating your new space more challenging?

At Goodwin Living, our move-in coordinators connect future residents with expert move planning and downsizing specialists who can help you be objective as you make these difficult decisions.

“Our vendors are incredible at what they do, and they can guide you in the downsizing journey,” Goodwin Living Move-In Coordinator Emily Ricker said. “The greatest challenge residents often face when moving in is learning their new home. When they have to say goodbye to a home — often one they’ve had for decades — there is a lot to learn, which can be overwhelming. It is a step-by-step process, and we are there for them every step of the way!

5. Let Yourself Be Sentimental

Being objective and decisive has its benefits, yet we’re still human. And moving homes can bring about a sense of loss and grief. It’s important to allow ourselves to fully experience loss and all the emotions that can come with it. It’s also important to cope with these feelings without spiraling downward.

Here are ways you can try to cope with letting items go and moving out of your home:

  • Save the Memories – Take photos of rooms, of loved ones (including you) in rooms, of important items, of people holding important items. Make sure they’re recent because some studies show that saving these memories (and not the possessions) can help you move forward in life.
  • Journal Your Thoughts – The mental health and wellness benefits of journaling are extensively well-documented and supported. There are many different ways to journal, but don’t overthink it. Not only can writing your thoughts and feelings down regularly help you cope with grief, it can also help strengthen your memory!
  • Say Goodbye – Some people find comfort in performing sentimental rituals for items they can’t take with them on their journey. It’s the same idea behind funerals for people. Though we can’t take everything with us, expressing gratitude for what we’ve come to cherish can be helpful.

6. Before You Throw It Away, Find a Way to Give Back!

As you downsize, you might feel like you’re letting some things go to waste, and you might be right. Thankfully, there’s a better way. First, check with your loved ones and see if they can find use for what you have. After you’ve made all those calls, seek out places, communities, schools, etc., that might take your items as helpful donations. The generosity of giving allows you to pursue a greater sense of purpose, among many other proven wellness benefits.

At Goodwin Living, our moving partners help residents coordinate and ship donations and auctions for their items across state lines. This extra support allowed one resident to ship items to more than 40 recipients across 30 states as she moved in.

“You have the opportunity to bless others when you downsize,” Goodwin Living Resident Candace Kent said. “I felt a bright new meaning in my life, knowing that I can leave a legacy in so many ways.”

7. Get Excited!

Moving can be hard, so suggesting that you get excited about it might sound trite. Sometimes, we can forget how remarkable change can be. Being intentional about finding space to enjoy the good news is important. Take a beat. Breathe. Think kindly about your future. Admire yourself for choosing to enter this new phase. You are going to meet new people and try new things. So many great things await you!

If you’ve chosen the right senior living community, you should feel like you’re gaining more than you could ever lose when you move. Moving itself is a monumental accomplishment worth feeling good about, let alone moving into a completely new environment.

Will you take on a new hobby? Teach your skills to others? Revisit an old project? The possibilities are limitless!

Residents Love Life at Goodwin Living

Since 1967, we’ve been proud to be a place of choice and welcome for thousands of older adults from all walks of life. We know just what it takes to ease the burdens of transitioning into senior living and supporting you as you age.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what residents who recently moved into a Goodwin Living campus had to say about their experience.

Peter Ostik and Bruce Rieder (and Sky the Golden Retriever)

Peter Ostik and Bruce Rieder pose with their golden retriever next to a sideboard in their apartment home.
Peter Ostik and Bruce Rieder with their faithful golden retriever, Sky

Goodwin Living residents Pete Kostik and Bruce Rieder moved to one of our communities after living in their house in Arlington for 33 years. The couple spent about three years as Priority Club members, and when the time came to move, they were grateful to keep a marble top cabinet that’s been in Pete’s family for generations.

“It was a very personalized move,” Bruce said. “We hadn’t moved in 33 years and I was starting to feel a little nauseous during the process. On our first day, [Goodwin Living] moved enough essentials into place for us that we felt settled enough to enjoy a night’s sleep in our new home. That made a world of difference during the transition.”

Candace Kent

Resident Candace Kent poses next to a vintage secretary desk
Candace Kent poses next to a cherished secretary desk in her apartment home

Goodwin Living resident Candace Kent was initially hesitant, but today, she’s grateful that she moved to Goodwin Living from State College, Pennsylvania. Though she donated and auctioned off a great many things while she moved, Candace was relieved that she got to keep her grandfather’s antique desk.

“I’ve received a very warm welcome since moving here,” Candace said. “They really try to make the move easy and settle you into a new life. They’ve got so many different activities and a wide range of things to choose from. I didn’t want just to be retired. I was looking for opportunities to continue to find meaning, and I found it here.”


Timaeus Reed is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at Goodwin Living. He plans, writes and designs for internal and external campaigns that support all areas of the organization. He relocated to D.C. to join the team in the summer of 2021. When he isn’t getting lost in traffic, Timaeus loves listening to live Go-Go music and stand-up comedy.


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