How to declutter your family home once you’ve retired

Get set to downsize to a retirement village with these top tips

Susie Dash, Director at Task Tamers, loves helping people to declutter, organise and simplify their homes and lives. Along with her team, she works primarily with retirees who are looking to downsize their family home into retirement living.

Task Tamers are professional organisers and decluttering experts that specialise in helping seniors downsize and move to their new homes.

The Renaissance team sat down with Susie Dash, the Director at Task Tamers, to find out the most common challenges people have when decluttering their home in preparation for the move to a retirement community and learn some of her tips for making the transition a smoother one. Here’s what Susie had to share.

Write up a plan for downsizing

Make a list of all the things you want to do when it comes to your move. I’m an old-school girl, so I recommend the paper-and-pen method! Pop it on the fridge and cross items off as you achieve them. You go to the fridge several times a day, so it will serve as a constant reminder. No doubt you’ll add things along the way too. A written plan helps keep your head clear and your mind focused, and gives your helpers a clear list of their tasks.

A week in the life of a retirement village

Ask for help with moving

It's so important to ask for help. Very few people at any age undertake a move on their own. It’s not something you should do on your own as it can become quite overwhelming. There are lots of people you could ask such as family, friends, neighbours, people from church or from community groups you belong to.

Set a time frame

I often say to my clients “Time is your friend” – but please don’t leave the task of sorting, decluttering, or packing until the last minute! Moving at any time is stressful for anyone, but especially so for older people as they may also be bereaved or unwell, or just feel overwhelmed. It’s a big move. Set yourself a reasonable time frame and take things at a steady pace. If you put it off it gets harder and can just add to your stress.


Be prepared for moving

As well as your plan, you’ll need to have boxes, tape, pens, and paper (or stickers) on hand. Sometimes I arrive at people’s houses where they’ve been sorting for a few days and the place is a mess. Every surface is covered with stuff that just keeps being moved from one place to another. Make sure you have boxes that are labelled with what’s inside or where they’re to go. This is where the paper or stickers, pens and tape come in.

Here's a tip: Once you’ve packed it, move it! If it’s coming to your new home, allocate a space for it to go, perhaps the garage. If items are being donated, take them to a charity shop that day – so you don’t keep looking at them and change your mind!

Start small with decluttering

When you’re decluttering, start in a small room of your house such as the bathroom or laundry. They’re easier spaces to manage and less likely to contain items of sentimental value. You’ll find you can make decisions more readily on letting go of the towels with holes in them or throwing the out-of-date medication away.

Once you’ve sorted these smaller rooms, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment and be ready to handle the larger areas and those containing more personal belongings.

Only sort for three hours

The mental toll of the decision-making process can be exhausting, so we don’t work with people for longer than three hours at a time. Let’s say your daughter is coming at the weekend to help you sort everything. Set a three-hour time frame, say from 9 am to 12 pm. Then decide on a specific area you’re going to tackle, such as the linen cupboard.


Take a break at the three-hour mark, leave the area, have lunch, and talk about something other than sorting! Better still, ONLY do three hours per day. If you push past your emotional limit, you’ll all get tired, and problems can arise. It’s better to start fresh every time.

Decision time!

I use a three-tiered system for helping my clients sort their belongings: Treasured, Transit and Trash. Treasured items – the things you love and use and will be taking with you to your new retirement home – are usually the easiest. Deciding what is trash should be relatively simple too. You know what needs to go!

The difficulty for most people is in the transit section. This is where you must decide whether it’s going to family and friends, you’re selling it or donating it. I understand how hard it can be to let go of things. You may have saved hard to buy lovely furniture or beautiful ornaments. You might have special items that have sentimental value or have been handed down through the family. Perhaps it’s practical things like a shed full of tools you won’t be needing anymore.

Get friends and family involved

You might be shocked to learn that your adult children don’t want your furniture. Don’t take it personally! Times change and people have their own tastes, just like you do.

I’ve worked with some people on the other hand who give, sell, or donate just about everything and start fresh with furniture and appliances that suit their new home. Remember, that big, beautiful sofa with round arms might look wonderful in your family home but become a hazard in a smaller home.



I don’t think it’s wise for older people to sell their possessions through online platforms such as Gumtree or Marketplace unless there is a family member who can always be there with you. Apart from being a time-consuming process to photograph, describe, post and promote each item, do you really want strangers to know where you live and arrive on your doorstep, or even come inside to collect items? Then of course there are those who don’t show up at all. It’s not a good idea for older people, those living on their own or in a vulnerable state.

My team and I don’t participate in the sale of our clients’ items, but we arrange it. We know whom to approach in the community e.g., people interested in buying books, antiques, tools or collectibles as well as auction houses. We look at what you have to sell and assess whether it’s likely to achieve a profit for you and if so we make recommendations.


Over the years we’ve come to learn a great deal about the charities that accept physical donations. Different charities accept different items and have complex rules that can make it quite difficult to donate! We work with smaller charities as we’ve found they’re more flexible. As an example, most charities won’t accept beds, so we work with a domestic violence group that helps set up rooms with single and double beds and simple furniture. It’s also satisfying to know that your donations are going directly to making a difference.

Think forward but act now

With decluttering, I ask my clients “Is it suitable for the life you’re living today?’ Let’s say you bought a gorgeous pair of Italian shoes 20 years ago and they cost you a fortune. They still fit, but they hurt your feet. So, would you buy them again today? The answer would be no, so it’s time to let them go.

I also encourage people to imagine life in ten years’ time. If you keep too much now, you’ll have to go through the process again or if you become unwell or are incapacitated, someone else will have to. I have a saying, ‘More stuff equals less life.’ If you’re storing your things and not using them, it’s costing you time to dust and sort and having that extra room or garage is taking money away from more important things like holidays, dinners, or spoiling the grandchildren.

Happy multi-generation family using digital tablet in living room at home

Write the story

If you’re giving items to friends or family or donating to charity, it may help to tell its story. People are more likely to receive a gift or donation if they know a little of its history. Attach a note to that set of glasses that were a wedding present from your great aunt in Germany that you used to toast the arrival of every child and celebrate every birthday. It adds richness to the item and gives much more meaning to the receiver.

Keep the memory alive

It’s important to remember that nobody can take the memory of something away from you, even if the ‘something’ has gone. You may have a collection that’s too large to take to your new home, let’s say it’s a collection of bells. A beautiful idea is to choose a couple of your favourite ones, and individually photograph the rest. You can then have the photos put in a large frame so you can see and appreciate them every day. That way they’re not gone, they’re just in a different form.

So too with one of the most difficult items to sort – photographs. Today photographs can be digitized and saved on a digital photo frame or as a screen saver on your laptop or tablet. They can be set to rotate so that every time you pass, a different memory pops up. It can be more fulfilling than keeping them tucked away in photo albums.

Anything good in life requires effort. Putting effort into the challenging task of sorting, decluttering, and downsizing now, can reap huge rewards when you move into your new retirement home.

Discover your "road map" to retirement living

Retirement living at its best is waiting for you

If you’ve decided that an independent, resort-style retirement community is what you’re looking for, come and have a chat with us at Renaissance Retirement Living at beautiful Victoria Point.

We invite you to join one of our regular small group information sessions where we answer all your questions about retirement living over a relaxing morning tea. You can even chat with our lovely residents and ask them all about life at Renaissance. We’ll take you on a tour of our stunning facilities and show you some of our attractive villas.

Call Renaissance today on (07) 3820 7700 or contact us to book a spot at our next information session. We look forward to meeting you!

Topics: Moving into a retirement estate

Posted by Renaissance Retirement Living on 28-Jul-2023 10:34:13
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