Ten Tips for Downsizing and Packing for an ALF

1. Allow sufficient time for the ALF downsizing and moving process.

Don’t rush the process of downsizing and moving to an ALF. Our experts recommend elders not spend more than two hours/day on downsizing tasks. They can become physically overwhelmed and emotionally drained. Be cognizant of this. 

Even if the need is urgent, you do not need to complete everything at once. However, we also encourage people to declutter and downsize over time as they get older. Work on this with your loved one even when no one is considering a move.

Additionally, you can give yourselves a break by getting help with different aspects of downsizing and moving. For example, many of our clients find that hiring an estate sales company is well worth it. Others hire a senior move manager or get one of our caregivers to help with sorting and packing tasks. Take some time to explore available resources…and use them!

2. Look at the ALF apartment layout and map out what will fit.

Our care managers help many clients move so we know how difficult it can be to determine what to bring. Start with the layout and create a list of needed items. Then, list out additional things you would like to take. Sometimes it will turn out to be too much, but you can also always downsize more later.

A few things to consider in downsizing for an ALF:

  • Big, bulky furniture sets don’t usually work well. You may need to leave some items behind or even consider a new set, to be sure there is sufficient room.
  • Do not bring throw rugs. They put you at risk of falling. Make sure the resident and helpers will have clear pathways to walk.
  • Be cautious about heirlooms and valuable items. Remember, a lot of people may be in and out of your room. Living in the group setting of an ALF, be aware of the risks if you choose to bring such items.

3. Know what is included and what will make sense for your new lifestyle in the ALF.

For example, you typically need minimal housewares in an ALF. You can downsize most of your pots and pans, dishware, etc. The apartment may come with a microwave and other appliances. Also, the ALF provides most/all meals. Therefore, you can minimize moving kitchen items. On the other hand, you may want to bring a small microwave, mini-fridge and other items for convenience. Additionally, since most ALFs include some level of cleaning and laundry services, this may eliminate packing a lot of supplies. Each ALF is a bit different and the apartments may also vary. So, find out the details to determine what you need.

4. Identify key items that will make your ALF apartment feel like home.

These items don’t necessarily take up a lot of space, but can make a big difference. For example, I would take some family photos, a few pieces of treasured art, and my favorite blanket. At the same time, you probably can’t fit all of these items. And, this can be one of the toughest areas to downsize. Therefore, it is particularly important to allow time to feel comfortable with the decisions. Give the person time and space to talk about memories and process feelings of loss.

5. Create lists of the items needed. Divide items for downsizing into what will be thrown away, donated, given to family members, and taken to the ALF. 

Paperwork is especially problematic. Much of it probably needs to be shredded. On the other hand, key documents should be organized so they’re easy to access and don’t get lost. Scan important documents and store backups in the cloud.

Find out about places you can donate items for downsizing. Many charities will pick up at your home. You may want to sell some items in online marketplaces. These range from Facebook marketplace to eBay and many specialty sites. You may also check local consignment shops. As mentioned before, estate sales companies can be a valuable resource as well.

6. Bring some basic cleaning supplies and a stock of personal items. 

Have these things easily accessible during the move. In other words, carry them with you instead of packing them for the movers. You may want to have tissues, paper towels, some cleaning spray, and the toiletries you use daily.

7. Plan the move day thoughtfully. 

Minimize stress on the person moving. Perhaps take them to lunch while another family member handles the logistics of the moving. Go ahead and set things up nicely for them. The disarray of moving and unpacking is stressful. Remember meals, snacks, rest, and comfort. A move is exhausting for anyone but this is a huge transition for this person and they probably aren’t at their physical and mental best.

8. Coordinate with the ALF staff.

Find out in advance who does what and who can help you. Also, ask about what they can and can’t do and what to expect during the move to set your expectations. Moreover, you may want to ask about best days and times to move in. Find out who your designated contact is for the move day and initial transition. And, understand who is who at the ALF and who to contact for various needs. 

Make friendly introductions. Start building good relationships. This makes it much easier when you need to go to them for help or problems.

9. Find out about what to do about medications.

First of all, can you bring them in and what do you need to do? For example, what are the facility rules about medications such as packaging, storing, etc.? Then determine if the ALF will be handling medication management and how that works.  Ask all of this well in advance of the move so you can plan and pack accordingly.

10. Orient your loved one to the facility.

This may not sound like an ALF packing tip, but it is perhaps the most important step in the move. You likely want to do a basic tour upon move in, but the “orientation process” should not just be a one-time thing. Plan to come over a few times in the first week to show your loved one around and help them get used to where things are, the schedule, amenities, etc. 

You may want to hire a caregiver as a companion to be there and help with this over the first few weeks. If they had a regular caregiver at home, we highly recommend using that caregiver where possible during the transition for familiarity. Anything that creates consistency and comfort will help ease the transition. Additionally, this is where facility staff can be handy in assisting you and checking in with your loved one. However, as mentioned before, don’t make assumptions, but ask questions and understand what to expect. ALF staff may not always be available or attuned to helping with this.

Need help with selecting or moving to an ALF? Our experts can help you find the best choices, organize any aspects of the move, and support you before, during and after. Contact us for a free consultation (727-447-5845 or 813-333-5020).

Related Reading:

How to Choose the Best ALF

Getting Mom to Move to an ALF

Four Moves to Make the ALF Move Happen

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