How to Downsize to a Studio Apartment

A senior man puts his arm around a senior woman as they begin to downsize to a senior apartment

If you’re currently living in a 2,300-square-foot house, considered the average-sized house in the U.S. today, you may have no earthly idea how to downsize into a studio apartment — which can be around 500 square feet.

But with some planning and thoughtful decision-making, it can certainly be done. And if you’re planning to downsize to a studio because you’re moving into a senior living community, the payoff for downsizing can be remarkably rewarding.

 

How to downsize into a studio, step by step

 

  1. Start right now. Seriously, if you’ve made the decision to move, or are thinking of a move one day soon, start downsizing now. 
  2. Go room by room, starting with the smallest first. It’s a lot to bite off if you start with the garage or basement. And the attic can be the place where all the family treasures languish under dust (like your kids’ old toys, photo albums, Christmas ornaments, your mom’s sewing machine). The attic can be a trap of memories, so don’t get lost up there. Instead, start with a closet, a kitchen pantry, a book nook. Go through everything using the technique in our next step.
  3. Be ruthless. Make three piles: Keep, Discard, Donate. Do not make a Maybe pile! If you don’t love it — if it doesn’t absolutely give you joy — discard or donate, and don’t look back. Do this for every single room in your house. This isn’t just a good rule of thumb if you’re wondering how to downsize into a studio: This also works with annual spring cleaning. 
  4. If it’s paper, digitize it. Greeting cards, grandkids’ artwork and letters, tax returns, photos and newspaper clippings take up a lot of space. You need to keep important papers like birth certificates, passports and wills — and those should be someplace safe, like a safety deposit box. But for all the other memorabilia, scan it, then throw it away.
  5. Go in stages. Unless you’re under a time crunch, you don’t have to do it all in a week. Make a schedule to focus on downsizing your bedroom over a weekend, then take a day off. Remember to stick with the ruthless rule. And don’t look back. Once you’ve put something in a pile, don’t revisit it. 
  6. You’re not moving into the ark. No duplicates. You don’t need two toasters, two sets of mixing bowls, two sets of dishes. And you definitely don’t need a drawer full of spatulas, a stack of bath towels in assorted hues or three pairs of snow boots. Take one, let go of the rest.
  7. Make a plan for the big stuff. Lots of seniors moving into a senior living community have upright freezers, travel campers, bicycles, mopeds or motorcycles, large Christmas trees and boxes of holiday decorations, kayaks and table saws. None of that is going into your studio apartment. But many senior living communities offer storage units or garages on-site where you can safely keep these larger items. Talk with your senior living community about your storage options.
  8. Measure your footprint and your furniture. Make a replica floor plan of your new studio by using masking tape on the floor in your existing house. If your new living room is one-third the size of your existing living room, measure the furniture you plan to take with you and use masking tape to represent that in your new floor plan. For furniture that simply won’t fit, sell or donate it. (If you’re waffling, revisit step #3.)  
  9. Gift the meaningful items. China cabinets, hope chests, fishing tackle boxes. You don’t have to apply step #3 to everything. If a family member would enjoy having a special item, give it to them now. And try not to take it personally if they don’t want the tea service. Your treasure isn’t always someone else’s taste.
  10. Repeat this mantra if you find yourself getting stuck: Stuff is just stuff.  It can be emotionally difficult to let go of the many things you accumulated over several decades of your life. Those things are usually associated with memories you’ve made. But try to shift your mindset: Think of the end goals, which is simplifying your life. And think of what you gain when you downsize into a community: more opportunities to build friendships, more amenities, more possibilities.

Now that you’ve begun your downsizing in earnest, you might be thinking of how you’ll decorate your studio apartment to match your personal style. We’ve got some helpful suggestions for that, too. Choose household items, like a sleeper sofa in the living room, that do double duty. And making a trunk into a coffee table is a great way to store blankets, pillows or books. 

At Freedom Square, we have floor plans in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Not sure if a studio is right for you? Let’s talk about it! Reach out to one of our helpful team members to learn about our residence options.