It happens to many people, all across America, every day. After years of living in a large home, after the children are grown and gone, the house starts to get to be more trouble than we can handle. Suddenly, that large yard that was a joy to maintain is looking overgrown, and it’s chock full of dandelions and clover to boot. Aches and pains in the joints make stairs difficult to climb. Poorer eyesight makes it difficult to see the dust gathering in the corners. You think you get it clean, and you’re doing your best, but sometimes, it’s just too much. All that space just isn’t necessary anymore.
Then you realize the truth. It’s time to get a smaller place.
Now a lot of folks are resistant to change, and who can blame them? Houses aren’t just places where you eat and sleep. They’re your homes. They’re where you’ve made memories, raised your families, put in a lot of time and money to make it your place. Homes are where you’ve lived your lives.
So naturally, it’s understandable that you might be reluctant to move or to feel overwhelmed about all the changes that are ahead for you. We’ve all felt that at some point in the process. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it helps to talk about it with your family and friends. Talking helps to ease the burden, helps to make you feel as though you’re not alone in the battle, and they can offer you some support and help.
But if you’re the more adventurous sort, and moving to your retirement home is going to be a relief or an adventure, then you might still be wondering a few things here.
Just how are you going to make the place feel just as homey as the home you had before?
Well, how you go about it depends on where you’re going. Will you be heading to a smaller house? An assisted living facility? A nursing home? Each one of these options will present you with different challenges. Houses will give you the most freedom in choice, but they’ll also require more work out of you. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes often have rules and guidelines. There are a lot of places that won’t allow you to change the carpeting or the paint, for example. Be sure to read up on what’s allowed and what’s not before you start making grand plans.
While some folks will want to make their new retirement home as close to the old home as possible, others might want to go for something completely new and different. They might want to buy some new retirement furniture, trading in the old and worn out for something that should see them through for the rest of their lives. Or they might need something smaller than they had before to accommodate the smaller spaces.
Here are ten great ideas for sprucing up your new place:
Downsize and Declutter
Folks, if you’re anything like me, then you’re going to have so much stuff that your family might wonder if you’re more pack rat than man. Obviously, you can’t take it all with you, and you probably shouldn’t. A lot of stuff that people keep just isn’t needed anymore, but being the frugal bunch we are, a lot of us just can’t bear the thought of throwing something away that might be useful later on down the line.
Still, you’re going to have to do it. Part of the process of moving into a new place is getting rid of what you just don’t need. Think of it as getting rid of the old to make way for the new, and even in those golden senior years, there’s plenty of opportunity for new.
As you go through everything, think about what you’re going to need. If it’s not of sentimental value, if it’s not functional, and if it doesn’t look good, then get rid of it. Keep only the things that are really important to you. For example, in your new place, you probably aren’t going to need enough dishes to feed an army of 20 people. Keep only enough dishes to serve four to six people, just in case you have company come over for an evening.
You can do lots of things with the stuff you intend to toss out. There’s no need to just throw it all into a landfill, after all. That’s not good for the environment, and it’s incredibly wasteful. You can give it to a church-affiliated charity, because there are a lot of people out there who can use what you don’t need. You can give it to places like Salvation Army or Goodwill, and even if they won’t sell what you’ve got, they’ll at least look for a way to recycle it. You can also hold your own yard or garage sale, especially if the weather’s nice when you plan to move.
Walls and Flooring
Now here’s where you might not get much opportunity to change things around. A lot of senior living facilities and nursing homes won’t let you change the walls or the floors, meaning you can’t paint and you can’t change out the tile for carpeting. If that’s the case, at least look into asking if you can change the curtains. Again, some places will say no, but some might just say yes. It never hurts to ask.
In the event you can at least put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, go for colors that are easy on the eyes. Neutral colors like beige, earth tones, greens, and blues are said to have a healing quality, promoting calmer moods and a feeling of general well-being. They also blend well with a lot of different colors schemes, leaving you a lot of freedom to choose your furniture as you like.
Be careful of a lot of rugs on the floor. Throw rugs can cause trips for the unwary, but you’ll want to place them in strategic locations where they’ll actually prevent slips. In front of the bathtub is a good place for a mat, as well as in front of the kitchen sink. Be sure to choose something that can be easily washed. Those mats can get dirty fast.
There’s nothing more American than the good old rocking chair. They’re great for just sitting back and relaxing, especially when you want to watch some TV, break out the knitting or read a book. They’re also beautiful to look at, even when they’re simply-built and simply-designed, like the Shaker rocking chairs. Furthermore, rocking chairs can end up taking up a lot less space than the recliner or an overstuffed arm chair.
If you’re fortunate, you’ve already got one of these in your house somewhere. Many families like to keep their rocking chairs, thanks to their durability. They’re just made to be kept forever, and it’s not unusual to find out that they’ve been handed down as family heirlooms.
But if you’re not that fortunate, or if you need to trade in your old rocker for another model, be sure to go for quality. You want something that’s going to be heavy and solid. Hardwood rockers are a great choice for indoor furniture, and The Rocking Chair Company has a great selection of different styles and woods to suit just about any décor, be it rustic, country or refined.
If you’re planning on moving into a smaller retirement home or into an assisted living facility and you’ve got access to a patio or a balcony, take advantage of that space. Getting outdoors and getting some fresh air when the weather’s warm is great for your health. Any work you can do outside, like gardening or just cleaning up, is an opportunity to stretch your muscles and get some exercise, too.
There are a lot of companies out there that make outdoor furniture too, if you don’t have any patio furniture of your own. You’ll also want to pick something comfortable, something that you won’t have any trouble getting into or out of. This upright Adirondack chair is a great choice for just that reason. It’s also got a great beach vibe going for it too, don’t you think?
Consider getting a small table to go with your chairs, because you’ll want somewhere other than your lap to set down a plate of barbecue or your glass of lemonade.
Wall of Photographs
Over the years, you’ve probably collected a lot of photographs of family and friends. Don’t keep all of those photographs stashed in albums or on your computer’s hard drive! With a lot of the technology that’s available these days, it’s easier than ever to turn some of your favorite photographs into wall art. You can hang them as a series of portraits, highlighting all of the moments of your life, or you can make collages—if you’ve got the talent for that sort of thing.
Photographs are also a great way to remind yourself that no matter where you are, even if you’ve picked up and moved to a new place, your memories aren’t going anywhere. They’ll help to ease your transition from comfortable, well-loved surroundings into somewhere new, giving you time to adjust until your new home is just as well-loved as your old.
Just be sure to check on the policies of hanging anything on the walls at the new place. There might be regulations on whether or not you can use nails, for example.
Recliner Chairs and Sofas
Now, unless you need some special nursing home furniture, there’s no reason why you can’t fit a recliner chair or a sofa into your new living room. As I’ve said before, you just need to make sure that what you’ve got—or what you plan to buy—is going to be able to fit into your newer, smaller space.
Before you move into your new home, take measurements of the room with a tape measurer. Measure your furniture. Make sure all the numbers add up and leave you with a few feet in between so you can comfortably walk around. You don’t want everything packed in so tight and so close that you can’t move without bumping your shins into every little thing.
Now here is where you can also let some of your decorating prowess shine through. Although some facilities might have policies against letting you paint the walls or change the curtains, no one respectable is going to tell you that you can’t have a certain color or a pattern for your furniture. Choose something that you’re going to like—something that goes well with your surroundings.
You’ll also want to choose a sofa or a chair that isn’t too deep or too low. As the years go by, folks just aren’t as mobile as they used to be. The knees get stiff, so hauling yourself up over and over again can get pretty uncomfortable.
Dining and Coffee Tables
As you prepare for your move into your new home, you’ll want to give some consideration to your tables. Unless you’ve got a magnificent amount of space in your new place, you won’t want large tables. This place is going to be your own personal spot, for one or two people, and downsizing is the name of the game. That dining table you used to have, the one where all of the family could sit around it, just isn’t going to work anymore. Most senior living apartments don’t even have dining rooms. They only have small kitchens that will allow just enough room for a tiny table and two chairs.
The same goes for the living room, where you might want to put in a coffee table. There just isn’t enough space to work with, so you need to get creative with how you place whatever it is you’re choosing to go in there. Just like with your sofa or recliner chair, be sure to take measurements of the room and leave ample space for walkways. Consider getting a coffee table that has some cabinetry at the base of it for extra storage space.
You’ll also want to invest in some furniture that has rounded edges instead of sharp ones. There’s nothing more painful than walking around at night, unable to see where you’re going and banging your knee or your shin into the sharp edge of the coffee table.
As folks get older, vision starts to depreciate. So it’s doubly important that there are lots of lights around to help prevent any accidents. With space at a premium, it’s time to get creative in what kinds of lamps you get and where you put them.
Wall sconces are a great choice, especially when mounted next to your favorite chair or next to your bed. They’ll allow you to reach up and flip the switch without having to get up, meaning less walking around in the dark and less fumbling across a table. Wall sconces also save space on side tables, allowing you more room to set down books, photographs, flowers or your favorite things.
Floor lamps are another great choice of lighting. These are tall lamps that sit directly on the floor, and many models and designs feature a tall, slender body that’s perfect for putting behind the couch so the lamp itself can sit overhead. They’re especially good if your new nursing home or your assisted living apartment doesn’t have any overhead lighting already affixed to the ceiling, since they’ll provide the light without taking up that precious space on your side tables.
Now, don’t laugh, but night lights are a great choice for senior living. No, you don’t need them to chase away the boogey man (I hope), but come night time, when the entire place is dark, you might not want to turn on all the lights before getting up to take care of anything. Night lights provide just enough glow for many people to see without keeping you awake.
Space is going to be tight. I just can’t say it enough. You’re going to have a lot of stuff, even after the decluttering process, and any opportunity you can find to store your things is going to be a welcome one. Look for creative solutions.
Make use of baskets and drawers whenever you can. If you have a lot of paperwork, consider investing in a filing cabinet to put in a corner. These days, a lot of paperwork can just be scanned in on a computer, then saved to a file, though that won’t be an option for important documents like birth certificates or social security cards.
Look for drawers that are incorporated into larger pieces of furniture, like writing desks. Some models of beds have drawers built into the base. Failing that, you can get a lot of Tupperware containers that you can slip beneath your bed or stack neatly in your closets.
Just because you’ll need to get rid of a lot of your stuff doesn’t mean you should throw away everything! You want to make a new home, not live in the equivalent to a floor display at a furniture store. Don’t be afraid to keep a few little things, especially if they’re of great sentimental value to you.
A lot of folks like to keep a few choice pieces from their collections and put them on display. Flowers, books, statuettes or souvenirs; anything that helps to stir up some memories will look great in your home. Remember, this is your home, your personal living space, and so it should be a reflection of everything you love. Sue Thomas, a Senior Living Decorating Expert has a lot of great ideas on her Facebook page to give your home a personal touch.
Nursing homes, now, might be a different case. Since they are typically only one room, they have a lot less space for you to work with and may have stricter regulations. Still, you can’t resign yourself to a fate of a hospital-like existence for the rest of your days, as this article on nursing home room décor can attest.
Now, change can bring a lot of upheaval, stress and chaos, but change can also bring with it a lot of good. If you’re at a stage in your life where you’re looking to move into someplace smaller because you’re getting on in years, don’t think of it as a closing of a chapter. Think of it as the start of a new adventure. It’s understandable to want to be surrounded by all the things you love, but if the house you love is too big for you to manage, you’ll be spending far too much time trying to maintain the place when you could instead be going out and enjoying everything that life has to offer you.
With a little bit of care and a little bit of work, it’s more than possible to fix up your new place just the way you like it. When you’re somewhere you feel comfortable and at-home, even if it’s brand new, you won’t look back with regret and longing. You’ll be too busy looking forward!