Transitioning to Senior Apartments: 5 Steps for Downsizing

Seniors opening box in apartmentTransitioning from your large home to senior apartments may seem daunting, but we’ve outlined some steps that should make the process go smoothly. We’ll go over disposing of unwanted items, measuring dimensions correctly and making the most of your in-home storage. We’ll also share tips for decorating and furnishing your smaller home or apartment. And you can check out our full list of downsizing benefits if you’re still on the fence about the transition.

Steps for Downsizing

Downsizing to a smaller senior apartment on your own or at a senior living community is a multi step process. You’ll need to ready your current home for the market, weed out furniture you no longer want, purchase furniture that fits your smaller space, and find creative ways to make the most of your square footage. Let’s break down some steps that can help prevent hiccups in the downsizing process.

1. Plan Ahead

Cut down on stress by preparing well in advance. Depending on the amount of furniture you have and the housing market, this could be a few months to a few years from the time you actually move out. That means starting the planning process 2-3 months down the road. This time frame can be used to sell or donate furniture, measure your current furniture to see how it fits in your new square footage, and purchase new items as necessary.

2. DeClutter

Ideallly, you should begin decluttering your home well before the packing process. You’ll notice a lot of stuff you didn’t even know you owned. While some decisions might be easy (that ragged pair of slippers definitely belongs in the trash), others require some thought.

You might own a few items simply because of abandoned goals. That treadmill in the basement might have once served a purpose, but now it’s become a handy place to hang your clothes. The upside to a senior living community is that you have access to a fitness center, so there’s no more need for your own heavy workout equipment. Have books you’ve never cracked? Donate them and take advantage of the library instead. Use your space for items that you actually use, not remnants of your abandoned resolutions.

3. Get Rid of Your Items

Once you’ve figured out which pieces need to go, you’ll need to decide whether you want to sell, donate or store.


Your standard, run-of-the-mill items can be sold at garage sales or through online marketplaces. Ideally, you’ll want to set up your garage sale during neighborhood-wide or city-wide garage sale events. If you’re selling online, be sure to include thorough descriptions of your items with size, color, age, exact price, etc. Newer clothes that have designer labels can typically be sold at consignment stores. Remember that you’re selling these items because you won’t have room for them anymore; don’t turn down low offers just because of pride. Your end goal is to have all your unwanted items gone by the time you move.


Some items may be worth a pretty penny, so any items that are rare, old or collectible should be set aside for appraisal or research. Once you’ve established a price point, you can try selling them online through Facebook Marketplace, eBay or Craigslist, or selling to an antique mall. It may be worth the drive to sell your items to an antique mall in a larger or wealthier city. Keep in mind though that fine china, silverware and that Duncan Phyfe hutch may not appeal to collectors. Do your research before trying to sell your antirues, and read these tips, tricks and resources for selling antiques if you choose to go this route.


Your easiest option is to load your unwanted items into your car and drop them off at a thrift store. Not only are you potentially helping out someone in need, but you’re also making your job easier! Some charities will even come pick up your items for you if you can’t make the drive yourself. Those nonprofits and charities include Goodwill, libraries, Dress for Success, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Baby2Baby, local food banks and Salvation Army. Apartment buildings or townhouse complexes may have drop-off areas.

Note: Don’t donate items with funny odors, stains or tears.

If you’re feeling generous, call up your friends and family and ask if they’d like any of your old stuff. They might even be willing to come pick up items themselves.


If you’re on the fence about an item, put it in storage for 6 months instead of moving it into your apartment in your senior living community. If you haven’t thought about the item in the 6 months that it’s been collecting dust, it’s time to move on. You can find a storage unit near you and decide if the price is worth it. If you’re moving to a new town, rent a portable moving container to get the job done.

4. Measure Twice

One of the worst things that can happen during a move is mismeasurements. A couch that can’t squeeze through a door frame or a coffee table that takes up half the room represents a real problem. You can prevent these mini-catastrophes from happening in the first place by measuring your furniture and floor plan TWICE before you move. You’ll want to pay particular attention to your bed, sofa and other large items that will need to fit through several doorways.

If there isn’t a floor plan for your residence online, ask if you can go in and take measurements yourself. Having a floor plan will help you visualize where windows and doors are when you’re making furniture purchases or planning where your furniture will go. You can use this online tool to give you a better idea of what you can keep and what you’ll need to get rid of.

5. Figure Out In-Home Storage

Once you come to terms with the fact that you’ll have less storage space in your new senior living apartment, the next step is to take inventory of the storage space you will have and determine which items are worth keeping. Keep in mind that many retirement communities offer residents small storage spaces.

Your new senior apartment may have fewer kitchen cupboards; if so, you’ll need to go through and choose your must-haves. Having more than one set of silverware isn’t necessary if you won’t be hosting many meals in your home. Luckily, senior living communities usually offer three delicious meals a day.

The same goes for closet space. If you’re transitioning from a walk-in closet to a smaller closet, you may want to hang up only clothing items that are in season. Other items can go in the bottom drawer of a dresser or be stored in the top shelf of your closet. Using shoe cubbies can help keep your smaller space organized.

Storage Bins

The best storage bins are stackable, see-through and plastic. That way, you can stack vertically to accommodate your smaller space and easily identify which bin you want to remove from the stack. It never hurts to label, either. If you want to store clothes you don’t wear often, consider vacuum storage bags.

Interior Design and Furnishing for Small Spaces

Small-space living means you can enjoy shared senior living community spaces—like a swimming pool—without having to maintain them. And in your private senior living apartment, you can dedicate time to personalizing your senior living apartment space. Use these interior design tips to make the most of your new apartment:

  • Don’t worry about fitting all your activities into a small apartment. Most retirement communities will have common spaces for hobbies like sewing, painting, woodworking, and more.
  • Purchase furniture that’s multi functional, like a Murphy bed, that can fold out for guests, or a multi sided book shelf that also works as a coffee table.
  •  Use folding chairs that you can bring out when you have guests.
  • Make sure your furnishings are even-toned to make your smaller senior apartment seem more spacious.
  • Use built-in storage space and nooks.
  • Use high-mounted elements, like bookcases and cabinets.
  • Use a large china cabinet or hutch to store food if your apartment doesn’t have a pantry.
  • Make the most of movable pieces. Invest in utility carts with wheels so you can shuffle items around as needed.
  • Avoid clutter by storing knickknacks in drawers or throwing them out.
  • Go for quality over quantity. Find statement pieces that will make the room pop.
  • Invest in ottomans with tops that lift to store blankets and pillows.

Explore our blog post on small apartment decorating ideas for more tips.

Smaller Space, Larger Living

Moving into a senior living community gives you more opportunities to visit your new neighbors and cuts down on home maintenance. Plus, you’ll have extra money to spend on new hobbies. Learn how Betty Sierra’s move into a smaller apartment made her home more manageable, or take a look at our available floor plans to find the senior living apartment that’s right for you.