Seniors Can Opt to Right-Size Instead of Downsize to Stay in Their Current Homes

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Dylan Senkus

We hear all the time about decluttering to downsize, but there’s a whole segment of the population who has no interest in leaving their homes. Many seniors who still enjoy good health would like to continue living at home.right-sizing

There are, however, some changes that should be made for this demographic, and it involves “right-sizing” their dwellings.

Right-sizing may involve eliminating certain items that could prove to be safety hazards, such as area rugs. It could also include creating a clear pathway for medical equipment such as wheelchairs or walkers. It also means purging the house of grown kids’ stuff since they no longer live there.

“It’s just about making it right for you to age in place,” says Sherry Brown, senior move manager and professional organizer.

Brown has found that often it’s easier for seniors to take advice from her than from their children, who may be nagging them to get rid of tripping hazards like braided rugs.

“When I tell them that the number-one reason people have to leave their homes is because they break a hip and can no longer navigate their house, their tune changes,” Brown says. “They’re like, ‘You mean I can stay here if I get rid of my rugs?’”  right-sizing

The rugs are definitely a start. Brown also helps seniors with retrofitting their bathrooms to make them handicap accessible, since a lot of these houses were built decades ago and don’t have wide doorways or walk-in showers. Brown works with contractors to help navigate necessary remodels, whether it be installing a high-rise toilet or a grab bar.

While some seniors push back on spending, Brown reminds them that it’s a lot less expensive to remodel a bathroom than to pay for assisted living.

“Once you move into some sort of retirement community, you usually don’t leave,” she says. This is because folks typically transition from independent living to assisted living to skilled care, as they age.

“Those places are pricey so if someone can still cook, drive and take care of themselves, I think it’s wise to right-size to stay home,” says Brown, who began her career as a professional organizer and quickly learned that her target audience was seniors because they have accumulated a good deal of stuff.

“Generationally, older people hold onto things because they feel they might need it,” says Brown, who is affiliated with the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers. Much of her work often involves “first-level living,”and she makes sure that everything a resident needs is accessible on the first floor so they don’t have to navigate stairs.

“With seniors, I’m not going to come in with color-coded bins,” Brown says. “We need to simplify their lives.”right-sizing

It’s not unusual, when decluttering a senior’s home, to come across 16 pairs of scissors or a dozen nail files. Her job as a right-sizing specialist is to thin out the unnecessary clutter and eliminate items that are broken, worn out or no longer wanted. For nostalgic pieces that take up space, Brown suggests trade-offs to make letting go easier. For instance, if folks have their wedding photos, she encourages them to donate their gown to charity. She also recently worked with a family who struggled to part with their dishes. Brown suggested that everyone in the family, including kids and grandkids, each take a dish.

“You don’t need the whole set to evoke a memory,” Brown says.

Sometimes her clients are relieved when Brown takes items off their hands. They’ll say, “I don’t want to know what you’ve done with it. I’m turning the power over to you to find it a home.”

Sometimes all they need is reassurance that it’s going to someone who will appreciate it as much as they did.

To contact Sherry Brown, call 765-625-0480 or email

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