Relocation Basics and Downsizing Tips

Relocation Basics and Downsizing Tips

A decision to relocate a senior to a retirement setting can be a monumental decision and can involve a tremendous drain on relationships and one's emotional well-being. It's best if the discussion begins early and the person making a move is as involved as possible in the decision-making process. They should be involved in visiting various homes, asking questions, and packing/downsizing. It's essential to recognize the tremendous sense of loss such a move entails, especially if there is not much notice. Sorting possessions can also be an overwhelming experience as one tries to separate the "memories from the possessions." Sometimes people need an opportunity to say "goodbye" to all they held dear for many years.

Where you move will determine what you can take with you. More independent settings will allow for more furnishings usually, while more dependent settings, like Long-Term Care homes, will dictate that very few items beyond clothing accompany the person. If time permits, one should allow a couple of months to plan for the move and the decisions that have to be made. If you are moving to a retirement setting, it is advisable to arrange a "trial stay" for a week or more to determine if it is a setting you want to be in. Before you move in, arrange to visit the home a few times, to try out meals and participate in activities. It will also allow you an opportunity to get to know other residents.

Downsizing - It's essential to keep in mind that you should not move things that are not useful, functional, or overly important to you. Items should be durable and easy to care for, but most importantly, they should fit in your new place and allow space for you to move around. When you begin sorting belongings, try to avoid overwhelming yourself with doing everything in one day. Remember to ASK FOR HELP if you need it. Don't try to do it alone if there are ready and willing volunteers who would love to help. Allow yourself a set amount of time, make sure you have what you need to pack (boxes/tape, etc.), start with the least used room first, work in one room at a time and start by sorting large items. You may wish to use a "colour coding system" to label boxes that will go in different rooms (e.g., green labels are for the kitchen, red for the bedroom etc.), and you may wish to use a similar colour system (or a numbering system) to label items you are dividing up between taking and giving away. Ensure you have a floor plan for your new home before deciding on the furniture. It is helpful to "map out" the size of certain items so you can see what will fit in your space. If you have rooms with similar dimensions in your home, use them to gauge what things will look like in your new setting. Keep a list of the items you are keeping and where you want them to go in your new home.

Getting Rid of What you Don't Need - You may want to create several piles or boxes for different things - one will be to keep (try not to keep things you can't use), another to throw in the garbage or recycle, another to give to loved ones, and a fourth to give to charity. For expensive items, you might want to seek out an auction house.

Special Items - You may want to record in writing special stories related to each item and present your loved one with the story when you give them the item. You may also want to create a 'memory book' of your special items with photos of things you hold dear that you can take with you to your new home. If possible, allow loved ones to pick the items they would like to keep. It will make you feel much better knowing your special things are with people that will treasure them as much as you do.

Pre-moving Tasks - Make a list of tasks, target dates, and the person responsible before moving. Ensure you send out move notifications to everyone who sends you mail - family, friends, credit card companies, insurance, banks, government offices, etc. Arrange movers/packers/realtor. Notify utilities and your landlord. Have your mail redirected. Should the task of moving be overwhelming, consider the option of hiring a seniors' moving company. They are companies that specialize in moving seniors and assisting with downsizing. Several exist, some of which are listed in our "Find Services" section on this website. 

On Moving Day - Ensure you have a piece of small hand luggage with items you will need for the day, including any medications and snacks. Take an interest in your appearance and maintain a positive attitude. Arrange for a friend or relative to accompany you and stay with you on moving day. Unpack as much as possible and hang your pictures right away - it will make you feel at home! If you are moving to a seniors' residence, ask if you can be matched with a long-time resident with similar interests who can be your 'buddy' as you adjust to your new home.

If you are looking for assistance locating a home or resources for your loved one, you can contact our consulting team at or visit our consulting page for more information. Our Discover 3 program offers decision-makers and seniors an opportunity to have a professional consultant identify 3 housing solutions based on their needs. 
For additional questions, feel free to contact us at is Canada’s largest unbiased seniors’ housing database, offering consulting services, and both seniors’ service and housing directories for professionals, seniors, and their families.


59 other articles by Esther Goldstein, B.Sc., B.S.W., RSW