The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been slower than hoped, but it is happening. Each day, more and more Americans have the opportunity to roll up their sleeve and get inoculated against this terrible virus. Hopefully, in the coming weeks and months, that number will go up dramatically as vaccine supply increases.
With this joyful news, many people (me included) are beginning to think about life after the pandemic and what a return to “normalcy” will mean. Maybe it’s celebrating a wedding or a birth that occurred within the past year. Perhaps it’s a trip to see loved ones or a long-anticipated vacation. Or maybe it means taking steps toward a senior living move.
But in order to make that move, there are a number of steps that must be taken first. First, you have to identify where you want to move and which community appeals to you. Also, you need to get your finances in order and prepare to sell your home, if you own one.
And then there is the “stuff.” Going through all of your worldly possessions and downsizing can seem like a Herculean task, and it’s one of the most-often cited reasons why people put off a senior living move. So, when is the best time to bite the bullet and undertake the task of decluttering in order to prepare for your senior living move?
A challenging time for seniors
The pandemic has offered an unusual opportunity for some seniors to take a hard look at where they currently live and where they ultimately want to spend their retirement years.
For some people, the pandemic brought to light the challenges that come with remaining in their current home. From feelings of isolation and the challenges of shopping and errands, to issues with home maintenance and even unavailability of assistance for activities of daily living, many seniors have had to deal with pandemic-related problems they never foresaw when they decided to stay in their home.
For those who had already moved to a senior living community, such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or life plan community), there were different issues that came to light during the pandemic. Strict visitor and travel restrictions at most senior living communities meant residents were physically isolated from loved ones living outside the community’s “bubble.”
However, most senior living residents I’ve heard from have praised the efforts of their community’s management and staff to keep them safe, happy, and healthy during the pandemic. In fact, a study conducted last year found that more than three out of four (77 percent) current senior living residents agreed that they were “glad to be in a community during the pandemic,” and a whopping 86 percent said that they were glad they had made the decision to move to their senior living community.
What’s your next move?
So, with all of the tumult of the past year, you may be pondering an important question: “What is my best move in the next five to 10 years?” Do you plan to stay in your current home, downsize, or move to a retirement community? Put more simply, “What’s next?”
For those considering a move, either to a downsized home or to a senior living community, likely one of the biggest obstacles delaying a move is dealing with all that “stuff.” It is a roadblock I hear about again and again from seniors.
But it’s important to keep in mind that even if you plan to remain in your current home, at some point, someone will have to go through all of your worldly possessions and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. So, then the question becomes: Would you rather take on that task yourself or put it on your loved ones’ shoulders?
>> Related: Why Everyone Should Move Every Ten Years
No time like the present to begin decluttering
There are no two ways around it: The act of organizing, decluttering, and downsizing a lifetime’s worth of possessions can be daunting, both physically and emotionally. It’s so much simpler to put it off to another day! But for a number of reasons, I would encourage you to consider starting this process now, and not waiting until you are actually ready to move — or when a move becomes a necessity.
First and foremost, let’s consider the physical nature of organizing and packing boxes.
There are few things that get simpler with age. It can be a hard reality to confront, but actions like climbing stairs, bending, and lifting — all of which are involved in decluttering and moving — will likely not be easier for you in five to 10 years.
And since we all have more free time at home on our hands right now amid the pandemic, it’s a great opportunity to take the initiative and begin decluttering now. Doing a little bit at a time makes the task more manageable so that when the time comes for you to move (either by choice or necessity), this isn’t an obstacle.
But as the pandemic has also shown us, sometimes the course of our lives is not entirely in our hands. It’s important to bear in mind that people do not always control when the time comes for them to move out of their existing home. Due to strokes, heart attacks, falls, or other serious health events, a move could be required sooner than planned. This is another compelling reason why starting to declutter and downsize your possessions now is important.
A decluttering plan
Ready to get started on your decluttering project? Here’s a quick rundown of how to get the ball rolling:
- Pick a room (or the attic or garage).
- Stock up on the necessary supplies like garbage bags, empty boxes, tape, markers, paper towels, and cleaning products.
- Go through every single item in your chosen area and sort things into four categories: Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash. (A good rule of thumb: if you haven’t opened a box or used an item in a year, it probably is not a necessity.)
- If you are unsure about an item, place it in the Keep box for now, but plan to revisit items in that box again in a month to see if you have more definitive feelings about them.
- Make it fun by playing your favorite music, and be sure to give yourself a reward at the end of the day…maybe your favorite takeout or a sweet treat.
I recommend people begin this process at least a year before they plan to actually make a move.
Taking control of your situation
Change is hard. Humans are wired to resist it, instead clinging to what is familiar and comfortable. This is something most of us have had to confront this past year as we dealt with the many challenges created by the pandemic. And this is also one reason why many people put off the task of going through their possessions and deciding what to keep and what to let go of. It can be physically and emotionally draining.
The pandemic has also reinforced the fact that life is full of events that are out of our hands. But I would encourage you to look at the decluttering process as an opportunity to take control of your future. By doing so, you get to decide what you keep and what you get rid of, instead of a loved one having to make that decision for you. You get to make the decision that you are prepared to move to a senior living community, instead of a health crisis making the choice for you.
I’m reminded of the saying, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” Whether you intend to remain in your current home or plan to move to a senior living community at some point down the road, there’s no time like the present to take the reins and start decluttering!