Downsizing to a Retirement Home

Planning can never begin soon enough, starting when your nest empties for the first or last time. With kids in college, we bought a new bedroom set because I didn’t want to take our original one to our retirement home.  When a sport or activity ends, like soccer, boating, hunting, skiing, camping, get rid of the equipment and paraphernalia. All that sells quickly on your local Craig’s List.

Plan by previewing the retirement communities in the area you want to live.  We put down deposits at three or four places fifteen years before we finally moved.  After settling three estates and knowing our own extensive household goods there is no way we wanted our children to have to do it.

Early planning includes finding the value of your home and who will sell it.  You may have a realtor you liked from before or ask for referrals from friends.  Part of the initial interview is advice on what updating you should do to make your home more saleable.  Painting or decluttering can be done in a short time, but even small upgrading of bathrooms or kitchens takes time if something cannot be bought at Home Depot.

Once you have decided on a new place, measure every room on the floor plan yourself down to an inch.  Then measure the furniture you want to take.  Will a secretary, sofa and end table fit on the living room wall?  Will a king size bed fit?  Will the leather desk chair fit or maybe trade it for a smaller one that slides under the desk?  Decide what you want to take with you before you start giving away or selling what you have.  Be aware of smaller pieces of furniture that might fit and be useful, particularly if it is a cabinet or has shelves or drawers. Keep them.

When you know what is not going with you, invite all your family to come over a Saturday or stay the weekend.  Empty items from all your cabinets, drawers, closets and put on tables in the garage, pool table, dining room table for them to take.  Send them pictures of furniture pieces available and they can pick what they want before coming with a truck or hitched tow.  Be sure your own children have had first pick before this event, a family reunion with plenty of food and drink.  A cousin’s granddaughter took an antique bed.  This occasion gave us the most pleasant surprise of happiness in seeing many family pieces staying in the family.

Time spent on planning the kitchen will save you space.  Why take your heavy Kitchen Aid mixer when you are not going to be cooking anymore and have a hand mixer for the occasional cake?  Take pictures of the cabinets with the doors open and plan where everything will go, including the items in the kitchen desk you won’t have.   Baskets and empty tins organize small items on a shelf. Under bed storage is the answer to where to put everything including leaves for the dining room table and plastic boxes to hold out of season clothes.  Closet space can be expanded with another layer of shelves or a lower rack for pants or shirts.

You know that you can’t take four beds to a two-bedroom apartment or two sofas for one living room. However, small things are great for versatility.  Nesting tables get split up to hold plants or be a small end table. Flower vases and plant pots, pruning scissors, gardening tools in a tote bag if you will have a garden plot.  Odd dishes and bowls and baskets to hold the odds and ends of daily life.  A big trash can sits next to the washer and holds the big detergent bottle, swifter, and broom that won’t fit on a shelf. It’s easy to get rid of something you find you don’t need in your new life, but you can’t go back and get what you didn’t bring.

Organizing shelves and drawers is easier with containers from the supermarket.  Costco has a box of chocolates with a clear plastic bottom and top, which are wonderful liners under a plant pot or grouping toiletries together in a vanity, plastic containers of all sizes for all those items you shouldn’t just throw in a drawer.  If you’re putting baskets or totes on a high shelf, print out and attach a sign what is in it.

We had at least four foot stools in our home, and I use three folding ones now, one each in the closet, kitchen, and laundry room.  A folding stair of 2 steps gets me to the back of high shelves.  Don’t forget you can put things on top of cabinets, especially pretty flowerpots.   Another fixture hanging on our laundry room wall is a Dustbuster for the small vacuuming necessary due to weekly housekeeping service.

We moved many things ourselves, especially setting up the kitchen and bathrooms and having the sheets and pajamas for our bed the first night.  The boxes will be overwhelming when the movers have gone, but you’re too exhausted to attack them.  Up at 6am I’d unpack and put the empties out in the hallway but didn’t unlock the door.  I stepped out and ended up going to the reception desk in my pjs to get a key.  My sleeping husband never would have heard the doorbell, and I didn’t have my phone on me. Neighbors retold the story until I was streaking across the main lobby.

Mentioning my husband, reminds me that it is very important that he be given space for his things.  His own closet, area of cabinet shelves for bourbon and batteries, and floor space for his toolbox made mine happy.

I’m not a hoarder or pack rat, but over the years I made decisions of keeping some papers and then promptly forgot about them.  Forty years later the movers found college term papers and 1990 budget papers in bottom drawers or on top shelves of closets and sent them along to resurface in the unpacking…..maybe I can take a look at them and hopefully see how much sharper my writing skills have become.

All during the process of moving, every half hour seemed like a whiplash from one task to another, so you do foolish things. After trying to reach housekeeping that my brand-new dryer wasn’t working, I learned I must slam the door shut, or the second time we ordered takeout dinner, when John appeared with only one bag, I realized I never filled out my side of the form.

So many widowed friends said how fortunate I am to have a husband helping to make decisions and sharing all the work.  Two contemporaries downsizing at the same time as we hired people to do it all. We’re both organizers by nature and physically and technologically able to do the whole process on our own.  We know where everything went and what we have with us now, including all the letters between us from Vietnam years and the ones Mother saved that we wrote from two years in Germany, fifty-four years ago.  Now that the years of worry over ‘what are we going to do’ are over, maybe we will find time to reread them.

The Woodlands offers independent living that focuses on the health and wellness of our residents. If you would like to learn more about what we have to offer, call us at 703-667-9801 or schedule your visit for a consultation on our positive living opportunities. We serve the Fairfax, VA area and beyond.

3 Steps for Prepping Your Home Before Moving Into a Retirement Community

Moving from a home to a retirement community can be stressful and unsettling. It is a huge adjustment.

Retirement Community Benefits

However, it can also be a positive experience even if you have lived independently for many years. Here are some ways you can make the move and change easier for yourself or a loved one:

    1. Research retirement communities. There may be several retirement communities at your location. Research their amenities online to see if they meet your needs and expectations. Arrange for visits and tours at each community that meets your interest. The one you choose may not be the one that you stay in for the rest of your life. However, if you like it, it will be better in the long run as it reduces the stresses and expenses of moving. Amenities are crucial. Confirm that they have indoor amenities (fitness center, library, etc.) and the personal enrichment opportunities you like and need such as day trips, religious services, and walking or hiking outings.


      1. Collect and file important documents. This is the perfect time to confirm that you have all of the important documents that you need (wills, power of attorney, medical arrangements, end-of-life care, etc). See if any document needs to be updated. Additionally, obtain birth certificates, marriage certificates, military records, bank records, life insurance, medical insurance, and other pertinent financial documents. These should be filed and easily located.
      2. Update contact information. Let all of your important contacts know about your relocation. Your physician, lawyer, property insurance agent, medical insurance agent, neighbor, and any other person on their list needs to know without compromising your privacy.
      3. Scaling down property. Another positive thing about moving into a retirement community is the opportunity to downsize your personal property. You can go through all of your possessions and choose what should go with you and what can be sold or given away. You can also choose items that can be given to specific family members such as a treasured heirloom, art, or jewelry.

      1. Clean your home. Once you have removed all or most of your property, now the house can be thoroughly cleaned. You may want to hire a professional cleaning company to do it. Additionally, make sure nails have been removed from walls, cabinets have been cleaned out, showers and bathrooms are scoured, mirrors and doors sprayed and cleaned and trash has been moved to the curb for the trash truck to pick up.
      2. Have a sentimental goodbye. As you leave your home that is filled with memories, enjoy one last look and all the memories that were lived there. Then when you arrive at the retirement community, celebrate and appreciate your new home!

Moving to a retirement community requires much research. You can make that transition easier by following the steps above. So, gather all the information you need and make visits and return visits before making your decision. ***

The Woodlands offers independent living that focuses on the health and wellness of our residents. If you would like to learn more about what we have to offer, call us at 703-667-9801 or schedule your visit for a consultation on our positive living opportunities. We serve the Fairfax, VA area and beyond.

*** Find out how retirement communities are caring options for seniors.

seniors laughing together

The Benefits of Independent Living on Health and Wellness

seniors laughing together

Independent Living communities are places for seniors to thrive and enjoy their golden years. It’s a positive living arrangement.

Recent studies have shown that seniors with a physically active lifestyle through middle and older age are in better physical and mental health.*  It’s essential that seniors not give up on life and sit in a rocking chair on the porch every day. A healthy lifestyle that includes a variety of activities will not only add years to their lives but will improve their quality of life immensely.

The more active a senior is, the better they will feel and the healthier they will be. Active seniors have fewer health problems than inactive ones. Active seniors also experience all the benefits that come with active engagement in activities.

Why Are Independent Living Communities Important?

Rosa, the painter

Independent living communities function as a place where active seniors who need a low-stress, all-inclusive lifestyle can thrive. Independent living communities don’t offer medical services, but they do have benefits that reward retirement with opportunities to enjoy their hobbies, pursue new hobbies, and incorporate a healthy lifestyle.

Here are just five of the many benefits independent living offers to the health and wellness of seniors:

  1. A calming environment. Most independent living communities have an age requirement of 55 years or older. This means there will be no late-night events or hearing babies cry in the middle of the night. The amenities for seniors such as the indoor pool at The Woodlands give residents a restful, judgement-free place to exercise and relax. They can float around in the pool for hours, socialize with their peers and take part in fitness classes.
  2. Physical fitness. Independent living communities excel in the health and wellness needs of senior adults. From in-studio and aquatic exercise classes or water aerobics classes led by experienced, on-site instructors to nutritionist classes, independent living communities offer a wide variety of health and wellness opportunities. Seniors can do activities they enjoy and try new activities that challenge them. This regular physical activity reduces the risk of chronic disease, pain, and premature death. The Woodlands also has a walking trail, adjacent to the building, for daily and weekly walks alone or with a group.

indoor pool

  1. Never be alone again. Sadly, over 30 percent of seniors live by themselves. This results in becoming less socially active. Some alone time is positive, but too much can lead to depression, cognitive decline, and even early death. Independent living communities allow seniors to have a vibrant social life without the stress of making transportation arrangements. Weekly activity schedules could include social events like The Woodlands has including game nights, special speakers, or local trips to the library, museum, or theater.
  2. No housekeeping or chores. After decades of cleaning and maintaining a home, mowing the lawn, cleaning toilets, vacuuming the floor, and doing laundry, seniors are ready to have someone else do that for them. Independent living communities give residents a maintenance-free lifestyle so all that time that was taken up with home chores can now be for other enriching activities.
  3. Ability to be yourself. By the time a person reaches 55 years or older, they have raised a family and pursued a career. Now that the children have moved on and started their own lives and the career pursuit is done, seniors can now look into other activities and hobbies they didn’t have the time to pursue. These interests may include painting, traveling, volunteering, or even learning a different language. You can be who you want and live how you want. There are no longer the stresses of aging at home.

seniors enjoying a Valentine's Day event

Those are just a few of the many benefits of independent living on health and wellness. Seniors can live healthier and happier lives now in this active, maintenance-free lifestyle.

The Woodlands offers independent living that focuses on the health and wellness of our residents. If you would like to learn more about what we have to offer, call us at 703-667-9801 or schedule your visit for a consultation on our positive living opportunities. We serve the Fairfax, VA area and beyond.

* A 2004 research study by Hamer M, Lavoie KL, Bacon SL. Taking up physical activity in later life and healthy aging. You can read the NIH article here.