Wouldn’t life be simpler with less stuff?

Wouldn’t life be simpler with less stuff?
Wouldn’t life be simpler with less stuff?

Wouldn’t life be simpler with less stuff?

This thought stuck me today, when I saw a homeless man with nine carts of stuff.  I had to take a picture of it.  How could he ever move to a new location?  It would be no easy feat to roll nine carts of stuff along.

Prospective senior residents considering a retirement community or assisted living have to feel the same way.  It is so overwhelming to think about moving years of memories and stuff.  A frail senior may feel it is easier to just struggle in his or her home with navigating stairs, managing a walker, asking neighbors to transport them to medical appointments and eating TV dinners.

The quality of a senior’s life in this frail condition is not good.  But the flip side is they get to live amongst all their stuff.

It is interesting to watch the adult Boomer children get into the mix.  Some want mom or dad to continue in the family home and either can’t see or ignore the reality of the parent struggling to just eat, bathe and take medications.  Other children see the danger and can’t sleep worrying for their parent’s safety and health condition.

This is our reality as senior living professionals.  We must never forget how hard it is to move and what a chore it is to downsize our stuff.  Our compassion is what compels many seniors to move into one of our communities.  Thank you for each senior that you personally helped facilitate move into a retirement or assisted living community.  I believe they have a better quality of life with more nutritious food, a greater feeling of independence if they no longer drive and a support system for medical emergencies.  How do you feel?

Please share your successes, failures or comment below to join the conversation and interact with other senior living professionals on what is currently being effective to increase occupancy on a nationwide basis.

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available at Amazon.com with a 5-star rating.  The book is required reading at George Mason University as a part of its marketing curriculum.  Within this book, the author developed a sales & marketing method with 12 keys to help senior living providers increase their occupancy.   Masson developed this expertise as a marketing consultant, sought-after blogger for senior housing and a regional marketing director of continuing care retirement communities in several markets.  She has also been a corporate director of sales and a mystery shopper for independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled care nursing communities in multiple states.  Currently, Masson is setting move-in records as the regional marketing director of two debt-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Southern California – Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet, California.  Interestingly, this career started when she was looking for a place for her own mom and helped her loved one transition through three levels of care.

© Marketing 2 Seniors| Diane Twohy Masson 2013 All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog post may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author, unless otherwise indicated for stand-alone materials. You may share this website and or it’s content by any of the following means: 1. Using any of the share icons at the bottom of each page. 2. Providing a back-link or the URL of the content you wish to disseminate. 3. You may quote extracts from the website with attribution to Diane Masson CASP and link http://www.marketing2seniors.net For any other mode of sharing, please contact the author Diane Masson.


  1. “We must never forget how hard it is to move and what a chore it is to downsize our stuff. . .”

    Since first publishing “Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home (How to Get Rid of the Stuff, Keep the Memories, Maintain the Family Peace, and Get On With Your Life,”) in 2004, my coauthor and I have often been invited to speak at retirement communities and other senior living facilities, to encourage people who are ready to move, but daunted by the prospect of downsizing.

    Though difficult, this task is not impossible–and given the right approach, it can even be a positive experience. Our book offers a compassionate approach, and helpful solutions for how to surmount the logistical and emotional problems inherent in the process–and find ways to actually get the job done, without breaking anyone’s heart.

    We’ve just come out with a new, updated e-book version. Information is available on our blog: Downsizing the Home: Lessons Learned http://downsizingthehome.wordpress.com

    I hope both our book and our blog will be a helpful resource for senior living professionals, and the people they work with.

  2. Boomers: Aging Beats The Alternative

    Good advice. Empathy goes a long way. A lot of people are comforted by their familiar surroundings , even if they have way too much stuff.
    By Lorie Eber

  3. Boomers: Aging Beats The Alternative

    Maybe just human nature — longing for the familiar, especially in a changing and [to many] a disappointing world; economics of storage units must be based on that — fees for storage are tons more than the value of the contents. It’s healthy to move — forces you to assess, clear things out —
    By F. Todd Winninger

  4. I am moving in two weeks. It does force you to clear out extra stuff. To my surprise, I have only cleared out about 3 boxes of extra stuff in two years. Finally, I have learned to stop buying and accumulating unnecessary stuff.

  5. CCRC’s – Continuing Care Retirement Communities

    Diane, I feel your article makes good sense. When I visit a senior community for the purpose of presenting The Upside of Downsizing Conference, I hear many residents say, “We love it!” and then we hear them say, “We wish we would have moved in earlier.” They find that a senior community improves their quality of living. Too bad more people don’t see it that way, but we’re working hard at The Upside of Downsizing to educate them on the benefits of downsizing and how to go through the transition successfully. I would love to use your photo in one of our monthly newsletters. If you don’t mind, please send it to me at mspann@upsideofdownsizing.com.
    By Mary Spann, BSW

  6. CCRC’s – Continuing Care Retirement Communities

    It hit me first when I moved a few times after retiring from the AF but then I realized it was all about attitude. In working with seniors now, I always correct them when they talk of “downsizing”. I tell them it is “rightsizing”. It is amazing what just the change in wording does. We all have too much “stuff”. God bless. Chaplain Bill
    By William Peirson

    • Love the rightsizing idea Chaplain Bill.

  7. Senior Living Executives

    Diane – How true – How True!!! As the Director of Sales and Marketing for an Assisted Living and Memory Care community in SW Florida, we see it each and every day. The struggle to part with a memory of a item, the family home, or the adult children and family members who “think” their loved one is fine in the home comes to us each and everyday. The thought of leaving a 2500 square foot home for a 500 square foot apartment is shocking to say the least, but if they think about how much of the home the prospective resident actually “lives” in , they are shocked. Recently I made a home visit to a prospective resident in a beautiful 3600 sq ft- 4 bedroom – 4 bath home. As I pulled in the driveway, I noticed the lawn was not in as good of condition as the neighbors lawns, there were bangs and dings on the garage door and the walkway was littered with weeds ( a trip hazard to say the least). As I was welcomed into the home, I noticed how stale the air was in the home, dust on all furniture and a worn path from the door to the dining room table – that was once a beautiful piece, but has now become a “mail drop”. The kitchen had not been used for some time, and as I asked the resident to give me a tour of this once grand home, I realized that she is not “living ” in her home- she is existing among possessions. The family pictures that hung on the wall were dusty, the carpets in need of a deep cleaning or replacement, and the kitchen cupboards sparse of food . This prospective resident has the means to live a enriching life in her final years, but is surrounded by memories and the adult children wanting her to “hold on to the home so they could all visit”. This woman basically lives in her media /TV room, sleeps in the recliner – uses the bathroom off of the room, and utilizes her dining room table for “busy work ” of her overflowing mail piles. She does not socialize, she does not prepare meals, and she is afraid to take a shower in her bathroom, as it has a garden tub and she is afraid of falling.
    She points out a wall of her favorite family photo’s, and states- these are her treasures.
    The once beautiful area rugs throughout the home are a certain trip hazard and she has admitted to taking a fall or two. I asked her when was the last time the kids visited and she told me three Christmas ago. So the thought of constant visits from her two sons and daughter along with their families is just that a thought, not a reality. It has taken 9 trips to her home, working with a social worker, psychologist and her doctor, and she is finally convinced that she does not need the possessions, she has the memories and she wants to connect with other people her age. It has taken three months, but she is moving into the community, with the treasures that mean the most to her, she has items boxed up for her children, nieces, nephews and they are being shipped to them, and she is moving forward. She is a success story, but there are so many out there that are not. I must admit it has taken every bit of this time to get her family thinking on the same level.
    Thank you for bringing up this subject. It is one that needs to be addressed with almost every senior and family out there.
    Schelle’y Cunningham
    Director of Sales & Marketing
    The Windsor of Venice Assisted Living & Memory Care
    1600 Center Road
    Venice, Florida 34292

    • What an incredible response Schelle’y – wow! Thank you for a great story that so many of us live every day. Can I share your story? It really shows how you had a team that went above and beyond to help the quality of life for one senior. Thanks, Diane

      • Please feel free to share. I am sure that so many of us in this industry touch a life similar to that I had mentioned each and every week. I enjoyed your article. We would all be so much happier with less stuff and living life for ourselves- not stuff.
        By Schelle’y Cunningham

        • Thank Schelle’y, you shared a powerful story!

          • I can really relate to your comments. I am a house assistant in an renovated hospital turned into an independent assisted living center. I have talked with our residents who bemoan the fact that their families “packed” them up without asking what it was that they really wanted to bring. I am now moving into the Marketing and Recruitment department and will look into buying Janet Hulstrand’s book and appreciate Ms. Cunningham’s story. One of my goals to our new guests will be to involve them and their families in these decisions. These comments have really helped me. Thanks.

  8. American Society on Aging

    I totally agree!!! Brace yourself for my rant!!! I don’t know about you but working hard for the mortgage and spending less time with close friends and enjoying the simple things in life is really wearing on me!!! Too much stuff and less time on things that matter! You only go around once in this life and for me it is no longer about collecting!!! A good friend of mine gave me a book this week, entitled” May You Live A Life You Love”, by MH Clark. I quote:” Be Kind To Yourself. Dream Great Dreams. Listen To Your Heart. Celebrate Your Strengths. Appreciate Your Talents. Delight In Your Own Uniqueness. Find Time For Joy. Give Of Yourself. Lean Into The Hard Work. Seize New Opportunities. Find Wonder.”
    By Scott R. Barnes, MSHR, SPHR-CA

  9. American Society on Aging

    Yes, life would be simpler with less stuff. That’s why I’ve started giving things away.
    By Maria Siciliano

  10. American Society on Aging

    I agree. It’s more than just the trade-off of our time to earn the money to buy the stuff. We then spend a lot of time and money cleaning, maintaining and storing it. The average home size in the U.S. in the 1950’s was 983 feet. Now, it is 2300. We feel compelled to “keep up with the Joneses” and fill the larger houses with more stuff–furniture, large-screen TVs, other conveniences and toys. As Scott said, it is time to stop the madness and quit buying into the commercial concept of happiness and queue in on the real things that give us satisfaction–faith, friendships, close relationships with family, service in our community, enjoying nature, appreciating the arts, and staying healthy.
    By Regina Ford, MBA, CAPS

  11. American Society on Aging

    I only wish my 81-year old mother would feel less anxious about giving away her stuff and less obsessive about the worth of her stuff. She must move, for financial reasons, from the home she has lived in for 50 years and has spent months organizing, but not packing, much less giving away her stuff. She says she would rather clean than go see a movie with a friend – very sad – and a prompt for me to make my life more simple.
    By Jane Everson

    • Oh Jane, I hear you! When I moved my mom out of her home of 40 years, we had to take 3 loads to the dump. That was after the garage sale and giving anything worthy to charities.

  12. American Society on Aging

    The anxiety is probably connected to leaving her home of 50 years – she likely feels a great sense of loss and fear about the future. I’m sorry for her – perhaps there’s some way to talk with her to let her share her feelings about what is really going on inside her heart. I wish you both the best.
    By Maria Siciliano

  13. American Society on Aging

    Jane, your mother also probably sees the transition as a loss of independence and ability to choose. We all need to maintain that as we age. Reframing the letting go of stuff in favor of something more meaningful would be beneficial. She’s isn’t giving up things, she is trading them for something else. She needs to know that her life has purpose and meaning. Have you approached her with the thought of those items being more useful to others now? Perhaps there is a charity she admires that they could be donated to.
    By Regina Ford, MBA, CAPS

  14. American Society on Aging

    There is a comfort level of being among the things that have been part of your life and trigger memories. The fear of losing those memories plays a large part of moving forward. Taking pictures and writing memories surrounding the room or the furniture or picture,etc. will capture the memory they might fear losing. An oral history with the home as the centerpiece will preserve memories. They can take all of these tangible memories with them wherever they move on. They can always refer back to the pictures, video and let their memories take over. It isn’t the house but the memories of the house they have a hard time giving up. It is a very tough transition but respect for what they are moving through will help the process.
    By Patricia Faust

  15. American Society on Aging

    @Diane, I looked at your picture and thought there is a very enterprising homeless man. He is rolling his fortune of empty bottles/cans/plastic containers to the bottle depot. I found out that there is an organized system to the homeless society especially for those collecting all kinds of treasures 24/7. Other homeless people might show up carrying an overload of treasures in plastic bags on their back while peddling a bike in all kinds of weather. Hopefully, more homeless people will get noticed in order that they can begin to get the help they so desperately need. Others have already found their niche and are happy just to pursue their dreams on a survival level.
    By Joe Wasylyk

  16. Great comments! Moving is never easy. When we watch our parents struggling, it helps us to let go of stuff…so our kids don’t have to go through the same thing with us.

  17. American Society on Aging

    I love all the generous ideas for guiding my mother through the downsizing process. Thanks! Every person in unique and I am not sure how many of these strategies will work with my mother due to the geographic distance between us and the timeline in which she must move. However, I have begun some ideas that relate to the oral history ideas – 1) I had all my baby clothes (sewn by my my maternal grandmother) made into a quilt and scanned photos of me wearing the outfit to a CD for her to accompany the quilt; 2) I scanned old family photos, diplomas, certificates, letters, etc. into Ancestry.com and showed her how to access the account; 3) I had her put items that she is ready to give up and wants people to have in boxes labeled with that person’s name, and a history or reason for giving the gift to them – even if she can’t part with them until her death; 4) I called Habitat to pick up a truck load of items of my father’s he was ready to part with and we talked about how wonderful it would be for people in need to cherish her belongings; and 5) I told her she could move everything she was not sure about giving up and put it in storage for a year so that she could retrieve items if she really, really wanted them. And then I went home and gave away or sold lots to my own detritus!
    By Jane Everson

    • Great ideas on downsizing Jane. Someone said if we call it rightsizing, it can mentally be a little easier to handle.

  18. American Society on Aging

    These are great ideas! My mom was a hoarder before hoarding was a dysfunction and I struggle not to follow down that path:) I have a couple of things that I decided to do so that it makes things easier on my daughter and grandchildren if I die before they do: 1. I put labels on bins for each of them and have been putting photos, keepsakes and things in them as I sort and clean out my basement and closets. They love to look in those bins when they come over and it has even helped when my oldest grandchild needed some photos for her graduation…right here my dear:) 2. I am organizing all my books in my library into topics and giving books away. I have taken books to work and use them there. I have so much stuff that rather than leave it home, I use it and teach with it for dementia training and consulting.
    Speaking of “Stuff”….I have been known to bring stuff to work with me in tote bags for doing activities and trainings. So, one day while shopping, I saw a basket with a lid that was large enough to hold my stuff that I carried to and from work. The great thing about the basket is the label on it that says, “STUFF” and the residents with and without dementia love it. Each morning one of the ladies tells me, “Jan, you can leave your Stuff right here on the table while you look for your office key.” Or “I see you are taking “stuff” home with you tonight.” It has been the topic of much conversation and works great for me. Thanks for your ideas!
    By Janice Dressander

    • Oh Jane, I hear you! When I moved my mom out of her home of 40 years, we had to take 3 loads to the dump. That was after the garage sale and giving anything worthy to charities.

      • I love your “stuff” basket!

        • It is my favorite! A conversation starter for sure. I found it at a Meijer store about a year ago and have carried it with me since then.
          By Janice Dressander

  19. American Society on Aging

    I do love the saying ‘You can NOT take it with you.’
    By Elizabeth (Lisa) A. Stuckel/Kane

  20. American Society on Aging

    I love the whole tiny house movement and simple living initiative. The less you have and the less you have to pay for, the happier you may be. Those may be extreme examples, but I enjoy reading about the people who give away everything and live “tiny.”
    By Monique Swyer

    • I love the idea of living tiny!

  21. Boomers: Aging Beats The Alternative

    The KEY culprit research says is INPUT–bringing home too much stuff. For the rest of us, it’s holding onto STUFF that no longer serves us. The important thing is to be able to DEFINE our own CLUTTER then let go. (Author of STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter Publication date April 1 2014 –honest, even though it’s April Fools Day!)
    By Brenda Avadian, MA

  22. American Society on Aging
    Wouldn’t life be simpler with less stuff?

    I appreciate everyone’s comments about “stuff” and getting rid of it. Love the “stuff” basket, Janice. I’m inspired by all of you to keep pitching things! It’s also hard not to want to buy, but in the end, I’d rather have a calm, tidy home than a cluttered one!
    By Maria Siciliano

  23. CCRC’s – Continuing Care Retirement Communities

    I’d never thought of this until sitting one evening with my dying Grandfather. A caregiver stopped in the doorway to say ‘hello’ to me. He shared something he was taught in his career journey: Imagine yourself, in the middle of the night, scared (of the many unknowns), and having to determine, quickly, what belongings you want to bring with you to the nursing home. Mind you, you only have one brown grocery shopping bag to hold these items and a few minutes time. You would never see your things or home again.
    This scenario really stuck with me and I still think of it often. In the rush, we may or do, skim over this and more. We usually never consider (or make time to consider) that we and our loved ones need time and understanding to mourn this loss too.
    By April Johnson

    • Thanks for sharing April and great idea. When my brother was in an earthquake in CA., he had two minutes to take what he needed. He grabbed a photo album, his phone and the computer.