Posted: October 8, 2021
The idea of change can seem a little scary sometimes, especially for older adults who have have been in their homes for years and accumulated a home full of furniture, clothing, photos and other memorabilia. Downsizing into an assisted living community doesn’t have to be scary, you just need a plan. When Carole Howell moved into Dayspring Villa, she wasn’t leaving it up to chance or her family how her new apartment would look, she already had a plan. Planning in advance, she says, is necessary to not only minimize stress during the move, but to create an apartment home that centers your life. “The mistake that people make is when they come in the door, they just put things down in a row, just whatever they came in the door with is what goes there. They planned nothing out ahead of time.”
Her life experience prepared her well – in addition to having a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, she studied for a contractor’s license and learned drafting. Carole also had the uncommon experience of living in an 85 sq ft “tiny home” that she built herself, so she’d already been through the process of downsizing. “I downsized three times,” she says:
“The first time was easy. I went through everything I owned and the items that really didn’t have any meaning to me were boxed up and discarded. And then the second time I went through everything, I was thinking about, basic living, but it was also thinking about what I actually needed. Do I really need ten towels? No. Do I really need five coats? No. And the third time was the amount of space I had to make it livable.”
In addition to creating her own stylish and very functional apartment that reflects her personality and interests, she has lent her talents to her neighbors helping them organize and decorate their own apartments. In this 2-part blog series, Carole shares her best tips on maximizing enjoyment and space when downsizing into an assisted living community.
There are a lot of people that haven’t collected what I would call knick-knacks or pretties or antiques. And there are people who have an enormous amount of them. I think when you are downsizing to an assisted living community it is important to get down to the basics and go through everything you have. Like right now, all of my glassware is packed away, my baskets are out, and all the beautiful vases and flowers are down. For me, it’s the winter season. When springtime comes, the vases and flowers will come back out and a few baskets will be there.
We can create more storage by investing in some tall bookcases that hardly take any floor space. Here you can place all the collectibles, books, and family pictures that you want to keep. People don’t often think about that – they come in and they see what we have for storage, and they don’t really consider bringing in additional storage for the other items they want to bring like an old clock or vase.
People forget that there is storage space under the bed. You can purchase pull-out bins with rollers on them that can slide right under the bed. They hold tons of blankets and sheets and pillows. I have two of them and they were only $11 apiece. Think about those spaces. I also took the doors off my closets because you lose space when you open them, even if it is only inches. Forget about a dresser – get a chest of drawers that has six drawers instead of a dresser that has three.
About a month or two months before moving into your new assisted living apartment, I recommend to everyone that for all the items you wear — when you put it back in the closet, turn the hanger around. This way, when you get ready to pack your items, you already know which ones you wear and which you don’t, it’s already been decided. Pick out something good, or something special such as a good coat and do the basics.
I suggest to people to make complete outfits. Instead of ten skirts with no tops to go with them, pick out three or four skirts with tops to go with them. If you never wear it – what’s the use in having it? Shoes – I have five pairs of shoes. I don’t need any more.
In the bathroom, it is so easy to have three or four shampoos. You do not need to have that many. We have a little country store at our assisted living community where you can buy little odds and ends. You can always ask your family to bring you any items you may need or if you feel like taking a trip, there is a community van that can take you to a local store.
It is easy to find multi-purpose ways to utilize your furniture. For example, I can move my tiny table in front of my two easy chairs and move my table chairs over to create a wonderful, cozy sitting area for a family gathering.
We also have a kitchenette. To maximize this space, you can easily buy a really nice set of 2-gallon mason jars and fill them up with all kinds of snacks that you like and display them along the side of the counter. This allows you to easily see what you have, and it’s a pretty decoration. And because our sinks are big, on mine I have a board on the side so I can set things down on it. Viola, extra space! Just think outside the box!
Read Part 2 of Carole’s blog for more great tips and tricks for downsizing into an assisted living apartment.