Leaving the family home for good can present a real challenge for many older Americans who may still be cleaning, making repairs to, and paying for a large, aging house filled with memories.

But now, the once-perfect house is just too big to manage. There may be stairs to navigate, lawns to mow, and snow to plow. And while it may be difficult to leave all the good memories behind, the move to a smaller home can be an exciting change.

That said, downsizing and cleaning out the house in preparation for the move can be difficult, emotional, and, at times, even contentious when family members can’t agree on which items to keep and which to leave behind.

“It’s important that future empty nesters connect with family and determine how they want to make this milestone transition,” suggests Jennifer Pastore Monroy, executive director of The National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (NAPO).

“Moving is a giant undertaking at any age, and when families work together, they will need time to look through their memorabilia, reminisce, and also create a sense of closure. Then, they can offer the family home to a new family to love and grow up in,” Monroy said.

“As for the empty nesters, moving to a new place can be an adventure, a very positive change of locale and lifestyle at this time in their lives.”

To get the ball rolling, here are some tips to help SIMPLIFY the transition:


Space Considerations – Map out the new home room by room and determine the furniture that will actually fit. Tape the new space out in the new home to provide a visual of which items will fit and where. If there’s no place for it — out it must go.


Integrate the Old with the New – While it’s important to keep items that are meaningful, you might want to bring in a few fresh pieces to celebrate the start of a new locale and lifestyle.


Mediate – If you and your family don’t agree on what to keep, be prepared to make your case — calmly. Compromise is key — and holding on to every old Grateful Dead t-shirt or Beanie Baby is silly. Pick your favorite, and let the rest move on. The less you keep, the more the memorabilia items become a treasure.


Professional Guidance – Don’t be afraid to get help. Hire a professional to streamline the process: decluttering and identifying items that will fit into the new home and lifestyle. They can help arrange all the logistics for the move, assist with donating to charitable organizations, and expertly organize the new home to be move-in ready.


Love it or Leave it – If you unearth items that have been packed away for years, chances are, you can let them go. It’s OK to be nostalgic, but don’t let that get in the way. Take photos of the items you can’t keep as a reminder.


Important Documents – A professional can help you organize your most important documents, scan them on your computer, and back them up. You’ll be surprised at how much paper you’ll be able to toss out as a result. (Maybe recommend shredding to ensure privacy of sensitive documents.)


Family Affair – When you’re weeding out the items to leave behind, ask your family what they might like. The rest you can donate or toss.


Yield – By opening yourself up to new experiences and change, your life can be greatly enriched and significantly SIMPLIFIED.


Before making any move, responsibilities should be divided between all willing and able friends and family members in the area. Consider some of the advance planning logistics, including identifying the most highly rated movers and charitable organizations that will take your furniture and household items away free of charge as well as places where clothes and smaller items can be donated, tossed, or shredded.

Remember to stock the refrigerator in the new home so that no one has to worry about cooking a meal at the end of a very long day.

For more information and to find a professional who can help you make a smooth transition, visit www.napo.net.


Amy Tokos is a Certified Professional Organizer and Productivity Consultant and the owner of Freshly Organized in Omaha, Neb. She is board president-elect of the National Association of Professional Organizers and past president of the NAPO – Virtual Chapter. Tokos’s organizing tips have been featured in Good Housekeeping, Entrepreneur, The New York Times, HGTV Remodels, and This Old House.

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