A Senior’s Moving Guide:

What to Pack (and What Not to Pack)

When preparing to move a loved one to a senior living facility, downsizing may prove to be the toughest challenge—it can be traumatic for a person to part with belongings he or she has had for a lifetime. Thankfully, once the move is complete, most seniors report feeling relieved to have simplified their lives.

Here is a quick guide to help you approach sorting and packing in the most productive and constructive way possible. Following these guidelines will help your loved one feel ready and enthusiastic to move into their senior living facility.

What to Pack

Linda Abbit, SeniorPlanet.org contributor, offers this great packing tip for seniors moving into assisted living: “Use green, yellow and red Post-it notes as you go through the rooms.” Items that must be moved are given a green label, and those that can be stored or given away are labelled red. Anything with yellow labels can be reconsidered once essential items are measured against the workable space in the new living quarters.

The following are “green label” items and should be packed:

  • A bed, nightstand, and comfortable sofas or chairs
  • Microwave, dishes, coffeemaker, and cooking items
  • Bath towels and bedding
  • Clothes
  • Heirlooms or special mementos
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Trash cans
  • Clocks
  • Wall décor or photographs
  • Curtains, if not provided
  • Hobby supplies
  • Computer
  • Television
  • Lamps
  • Medication

What Not to Pack

Abbit recommends measuring the new space for a clear understanding of what items can effectively fit. This knowledge will also provide your loved one guidelines to downsizing.

Consider removing these items from the packing list:

  • Rarely worn jewelry
  • Seldom-used, stored items
  • Throw rugs (or any floor covering that can cause someone to trip)
  • Wheeled chairs
  • Large pieces of furniture
  • Multiples of items, like coats or mugs

How to Organize

According to Caring.com, the first step to organizing your loved one’s belongings is to hold a family meeting to discuss the moving process. It’s critical that this conversation includes the loved one in question.

Listening to their input and concerns is of prime importance. For example, though your loved one’s choice about what things to keep seems unusual, listen to them. They may no longer be able to go horseback riding, but they may want to keep their favorite saddle or riding blanket to remind them of the past.

Parting with belongings that one has had for a lifetime can be painful. Ideally, sorting and moving should take three or four months to complete. Take as much time as needed to make your loved one feel comfortable.

What to Put Into Storage

Kate Rausch, a senior editor at Caring.com, says the following about storage: “Storage for seniors, in a way, is storing for the next generation.”

Your loved one may never again use certain items they want to keep, but they may want to keep them for sentimental reasons or for the next generation.

Furniture with sentimental value may make sense to store. If you are uncertain about whether or not to keep it for the following generation, store it for a few years to see if your or your loved one’s feelings toward the furniture change.

Home décor and seasonal decorations may need to be placed into storage. After the first holiday season your loved one spends in the senior living facility, take stock of which holiday items were wanted or used.

Old papers, financial records and photographs may also need to be stored. Most often, these items take up a relatively minimal amount of room, so deciding to store them is an easy decision to make.

We hope you gathered some meaningful insight from our senior moving guide on what to pack, what not to pack, how to organize, and what to put into storage when your loved one is preparing to move into senior living. If you have any additional tips or tricks, feel free to mention them in a comment below.