Sherry Brown, Professional Organizer

Downsizing Made Easy

Whether you’re an empty nester moving from a house into assisted living, or a renter trading in a two-bedroom for a apartment, you’ll need to say goodbye to some of your stuff. Worried about that? Don’t be. Sherry Brown from Organize This! Has nine easy tips to make downsizing easy!

Make a list of all the items you can’t live without; it will help you get rid of the things that didn’t make the list. “It’s hard to convince people they can’t take everything with them,” Sherry says. “But if you keep the things on your list, you won’t be upset about the things you can’t keep.”

Start getting rid of things at least three months before the move. Take some time each day, or one morning each week, to go through that cluttered closet or overflowing drawers. “Paper is a real downer,” Sherry says, so tackle it a little at a time. The same goes for photos, which require a lot of attention.

Get a feel for the size of your new rooms by comparing them to rooms of similar dimensions in your present home.For instance, your living-room-to-be might be roughly the same size as your current bedroom. You may think you can squeeze in two sofas, but this kind of reality check could help you realize that only one will fit comfortably.

Heavily edit areas with items that don’t have as much sentimental value.Take the kitchen, for example; most people don’t need 10 mixing bowls and won’t get teary-eyed over losing a second spatula. If you’re downsizing from a house to an apartment, work on the garage. Snow shovels, rakes, lawn mowers – not your worry anymore!

Don’t throw anything in the trash. Recycle, reuse, sell and donate instead. As tempting and easy as it is to pitch wire hangers, musty clothes and shabby furnishings, be environmentally responsible and find a home for everything. A can of Comet with a few shakes of powder left could make someone else’s sink sparkle if you don’t want it; consider giving supplies to a shelter, neighbor or cleaning lady.

Create and label three bins – Keep, Sell and Donate(bins should be manageable when full). For the average downsize, keep only one-third to one-half of your belongings, says Sherry.

Get an objective opinion.If you just can’t make a decision on whether to keep or get rid of that ratty old chair, Sherry says, “It’s good to have have an honest friend who will say, ‘Oh, please, you never use that!'” It might just be the kick you need.

Use floor plans to prearrange your furniture before the move. To start, draw plans if you don’t have any, and sketch in a furniture layout. Remember which way doors open. Then look at the plans realistically; if you’ve crammed in side tables, armoires and chairs, you need to edit more. Don’t wait until after you move to contend with furniture you’ll just end up tripping over.

Once you get to the packing stage, use a color-coded system to organize all of your boxes. Choose a color for each room and mark the boxes destined for that room with a coordinating color sticker. You can also do the same thing numerically; for example, if room No. 1 is the kitchen, then all boxes marked No. 1 will go there. A simple and efficient organizing idea to make the move that much easier!

Because It’s So Much More than Just a Move…

Making a move at any age can be difficult and stressful. After 30, 40, or even 50 years in your current home, the process of rightsizing and relocating to a new home is overwhelming.

Sherry Brown is a member of NASMM. NASMM members are highly qualified Senior Move Managers who specialize in helping older adults and their families through the daunting process of transitioning to a new residence.

NASMM members understand that your move is so much more than just a move. This guide has been developed to provide you with tips and checklists to enhance your moving experience.

NASMM logo

To view the online publication click here.

To download a printable .pdf version, click here.

Found at

Finding Help in a Crisis Downsizing

A Senior Move Manager may be the answer to finding help when downsizing. Senior Move Management is the profession that assists older adults and their families with the emotional and physical aspects of relocation and/or “aging in place.” Senior Move Management professionals — Senior Move Managers — have backgrounds in gerontology, social work, health care, nursing and psychology, others come to this industry from the corporate world of project management, technology, accounting or marketing. Senior Move Managers require a profound commitment to connecting with older adults and a desire to perform meaningful work.

Sherry Brown, Senior Move Manager, can help turn the chaos of downsizing into a calm process.

Here are six tips on how to smoothly downsize:

1. Start early. “The biggest mistake is waiting until you sell your home or tragedy happens,” says John Buckles, who founded Caring Transitions after enduring his parents’ forced downsize due to failing health. He is now president of the company.

A good rule of thumb: Start paring down at least one month before you list your current home for sale (less clutter makes it appear larger), and at the first signs of declining health.

2. Have a plan. Hit the “heart of home” rooms first. That’s usually the kitchen, living room and family room, which tend to be the most cluttered and contain items with the greatest emotional value and everyday use. Make four piles — keep, donate, give to family members, and trash. Remember you don’t have to do this alone.

From these rooms, work outward. Items furthest away, in sheds, garages and attics, generally have less practical use in the new living space.

Work with a space plan of the new home to ensure a “right size.” When the new, smaller room dimensions are known, experts typically use scale white-board diagrams of the rooms to determine how items will fit — or won’t. So measure all furniture before deciding what to keep and unload.

3. Involve the kids. “One big problem is seniors thinking their children want that grandfather clock or Waterford when they really don’t,” says Buysse. A heart-to-heart about items’ emotional — and monetary — value is in order.

4. Keep memories, without the clutter. Making DVDs of photographs is a space-saving option to hauling boxes of old pictures. “One client had a collection of rare teapots but couldn’t take all 78 with her,” recalls Buysse. “So she took her three favorites with her and we made a framed poster of the others.”

5. Donate. Goodwill and the Salvation Army may be the first thought for donations, but items like Civil War memorabilia or fancy camera equipment may be better suited for a museum or school. (The camera equipment of Roger Kline, a former photographer, was donated to a local college.) Such legacy gifts may even result in special plaques or recognition in addition to tax deductions. Even everyday items may benefit off-radar organizations. Everyday glassware, for instance, will fetch little money at a yard sale. So donate it to a children’s camp or a soup kitchen.

6. Be a shrewd yard sale manager. For a better turnout, call it a “moving sale” — especially when selling furniture — and advertise in the local newspaper and Craigslist. Post bright signs on nearby roads (fluorescent poster board costs about $3 for three sheets that can be cut in half).

Include large directional arrows, not just addresses that drivers will find hard to read as they whiz by.

Organize items by groups — books on one table, tools on another, kitchen items together.. Bedbug fears and years of wear and tear can make sofas and other upholstered furniture a tough sell.

“In most cases, expect no more than $20,” says Buckles. You might do better just donating them. Also on his “don’t waste your time” list are tube and rear-projection TVs and run-of-the-mill small kitchen appliances such as toasters.

Parts of this article can be found at