Moving is a stressful time (both physically and emotionally) for anyone – but for seniors choosing to downsize into a smaller home it can be incredibly taxing. Here is how seniors can protect their physical and mental health during the process.

Start packing early

As soon as you know you plan to downsize into a smaller home, you should begin the process of packing and downsizing your possessions. Don’t wait. There’s nothing more damaging to your emotional well-being than attempting to downsize an entire life’s worth of memories in a few days. Take a methodical, measured approach to the downsizing. Start with downsizing the items in the outer reaches of your home (the basement, attic, closets, etc) and work inward. Give yourself time to properly sort your possessions and make donations or hold a yard sale.

Know how to properly lift things

Though you may get some help with the actual move, you will most likely be doing the packing and downsizing yourself. When lifting, moving, and boxing things there is always a risk of injury – a risk that increases as we age. It’s vital that you know how to properly lift items to avoid back injury. Lift with your legs, not your back – bend your knees instead of your spine. If an item is too heavy, don’t risk it! Ask someone to help. While packing boxes, it’s important to follow these tips to protect your back as well – for example, put the box on a table or counter (not on the floor) so you aren’t bending over every single time you place something inside the box.

Have a plan for dealing with sentimental items

When it comes to downsizing, it’s often easy to get rid of “utility” items. If you haven’t used a piece of kitchen equipment in two years, for example, it’s easy to toss it. If you haven’t worn an item of clothing in a year, or you have 20 of the same plate or cup – etc, etc. But when it comes to sentimental items – photos, mementos, keepsakes, children’s medals, ribbons, etc. – the decision-making process is much tougher. You may not have room in your new home to take everything, but you don’t want to just throw it all away.

You need a plan to deal with sentimental items. The first thing you should try to do is find them a good home. If you can “keep them in the family,” you may feel better about letting them go. When it comes to old photos, think digital. By scanning and uploading old photos into an online photo storage service you can save the memories without actually having to save the physical items.

Get some help on moving day

Hiring movers for the big day can help your physical and mental wellbeing. Obviously, you don’t want to lift heavy boxes and furniture yourself. Even if you could and were somehow able to avoid injury, the entire process would take you days when professional movers could do it in a matter of hours.

But it’s also nice to put a little bit of a buffer between you and the actual moving process. It may be traumatic to watch your longtime family home emptied out and your possessions carted away. Save yourself this grief and simply hire some help.

Even though downsizing and moving to a smaller home can be an exciting time for seniors – a chance to maintain independence and to age in place – it’s hard to get around the fact that it’s a physically and emotionally stressful process. Know some strategies for packing and downsizing, make sure you take your time and lift carefully, and hire some help for the move day and you can protect your health and happiness during this transitional time.

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Michel Longsdon is the creator of, which advocates for the rights and support of seniors.