After losing a spouse or partner, the family home can feel too big, quiet and empty. The surviving spouse is often left with expenses and maintenance tasks that can seem completely overwhelming to tackle alone. This is why many seniors decide to downsize after the loss of a loved one and start fresh in a space that fits them a little better. Before you start decluttering and house hunting, learn about these common downsizing mistakes and how to avoid them.

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Not Weighing Your Options

Buying a new home is not your only downsizing option. It’s important for seniors to consider their immediate and future care needs before going through the trouble of house hunting. If you need a little extra assistance in your daily life, moving into an assisted living facility may be the best downsizing option for you.

Assisted living facilities provide help with daily activities, such as dressing, bathing, cooking and cleaning, while allowing seniors to maintain their independence and dignity. If you decide that this is what’s best for you, tour different facilities to find one that’s a good match for your needs and lifestyle. While cost may not be a main factor in your decision, it can help you weigh your options. Keep in mind that the average cost for assisted living facilities in Naples Florida is around $1,500 to $7,604 per month, according to A Place for Mom.

Overestimating Financial Savings

Cost is a major reason why people decide to downsize after losing a loved one who used to contribute to household expenses. However, many people overestimate the financial savings associated with downsizing. There are several expenses that come with moving and buying a new home, from increased taxes to real estate agent fees.

US News points out that smaller homes can be pricey due to energy-efficient features, updated décor, and sought-after urban locations. Depending on where you’re moving, you may also face higher property taxes and insurance. You also have to account for association fees if you’re moving into a condo or gated community. Do your research and plan carefully to ensure downsizing is a smart financial move for you.

Downsizing Too Soon (or Too Late)

It’s important to delay major life decisions immediately after losing a loved one. Try to wait at least six months before tackling the downsizing process to give yourself some time to process your loss. It’s also important to avoid waiting too long to downsize. Decluttering, packing, moving, and adjusting to a new environment can become more difficult as we grow older. Identify the signs that it’s time to downsize so you can avoid putting it off for too long.

Decluttering Your Whole Home at Once

One of the most common downsizing mistakes is decluttering too much stuff at once. Start decluttering your possessions a couple of months before your move and tackle just one task at a time. A single drawer or shelf is a good place to start. Budget Dumpster recommends starting with a room that doesn’t hold many sentimental items, such as the bathroom. Going through a lost loved one’s possessions can be emotionally exhausting, so you’ll want to take this portion of your decluttering project extra slow. Declutter in 10-minute sessions, take plenty of breaks, and ask someone to be there with you for support.

Keeping Too Much Stuff

It can be difficult to get rid of things you’ve had your whole life, and even harder to part with items that belonged to your loved one. Avoid holding on to too much stuff or your smaller home may feel cramped or cluttered. Many people feel bad about getting rid of items that were expensive or gifted to them. Try not to keep things out of guilt. You can say goodbye to your loved one’s things a little easier by giving them to neighbors, friends and family members, or by making special mementos for yourself, such as a memorial quilt.

Downsizing after the loss of a loved one is not an easy experience. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, lean on the support of close friends and family members. Having people by your side during the downsizing process can take a lot of the stress off and help you work through tough emotions as they come up.


Guest Post Author Lucille Rosetti created as a means of sharing tools to help people through the grief process. Having lost some of the people closest to her, she understands what it’s like and how it can be an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t always seem to make sense. She’s currently writing a book, Life After Death: A Wellness Guide for the Bereaved.