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Ohio State University Extension

Senior Series

Tips on Downsizing: Moving from the Family Home


Although both single and married individuals may move many times during adulthood, relocating in later life often involves “downsizing” to a smaller home. Instead of buying something larger to accommodate a growing family, older adults are frequently interested in having less space and fewer home maintenance responsibilities. For some, selling the family home can be a result of a disability, an illness, or the death of a loved one. For others, this transition is based on a desire to be near family or to experience a new retirement lifestyle in a different area of the country. Regardless of the reason for the move, downsizing from a family home can be a physically exhausting and emotionally draining experience. In many cases, possessions have been accumulated over a number of years and not everything can (or should) be moved. What results is the need to sift, sort, donate, and dispose of a variety of personal items.

Below are a few suggestions on how to get started, what to do with all you have, and tips for keeping things peaceful.

How to Get Started

What to Do With All This Stuff

Dividing Things Peacefully

Leaving a family home can be a bittersweet event that involves revisiting many painful and joyful memories. During the process of downsizing we may be surprised at how attached we have become to our possessions and how difficult it might seem to part with them. It is important to remember, however, that it is the relationships in our lives that give us the most pleasure. A life filled with possessions is no competition to a life filled with family, friends, and meaningful connections.


AARP. (April 2004). “How to divide things peacefully.” Retrieved on December 2, 2004 from

Hetzer, L. & Hulstrand, J. (2004). Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang Publishers.

Ronnekamp, S. (2003). “Downsizing from the family home.” Retrieved on December 2, 2004 from

Click here for the PDF version of this Fact Sheet.

Author: Christine Price, Ph.D., Extension State Gerontology Specialist, The Ohio State University

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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