If you’re nearing retirement or recently retired, the idea of moving into a retirement community may seem very appealing, not only for the social aspect of meeting people your own age, but also for the prospect of a smaller home that requires little or no maintenance. As you think about making a move, keep in mind that doing so later in life takes extra time, especially if you’ve lived in your current home most of your adult life. In fact, most experts agree that senior citizens should allow an average of 6 to 8 months to prepare for a move – unless you can make the process your “full-time job” (but not many of us have that luxury).

While packing up a lifetime of possessions can seem like an overwhelming process, a moving checklist, organized in timeline fashion, can be extremely helpful in preparing for the transition to your new home. The following list begins by detailing what you need to start doing 8-12 months out and then jumps to the to-dos that can wait until about 4-6 weeks before the move.

6-8 months before the move:

    • Set a moving budget. Moving costs can quickly add up, so keep a file with estimates and receipts so that you maintain control.
    • Research moving companies. Be sure to get several estimates before choosing a moving company. You can verify the legitimacy of moving companies with their Department of Transportation number. Remember that some items may require special moving arrangements, such as pianos, guns, pool tables and safes, and not all moving companies are equipped or willing to move them. For advice on how to choose a moving company check out this article from relocation.com
  • You may want to offer some of your valuable or sentimental items to family members or friends. For other valuables, consider an auction house for items such as fine artwork, furniture and jewelry. You can also have a garage sale and then donate the rest to charity.
  • As you pack your belongings. It can be helpful to use colored stickers to correspond with the room where the items will go in your new home. Label all boxes with a list of contents, and of course mark any boxes that contain fragile items. To save on packing supplies, you can use dish towels, t-shirts, socks and linens that need to be moved anyway. Make a total inventory list of all of the items you pack to make sure that they all arrive in your new home and that nothing is lost or forgotten.
  • There are many creative ways to pack efficiently, in fact, you can find 84 useful tricks in this great article from TheFrugalGirls.com.

8 weeks before the move (or when you know your settlement date):

    • Decide on what you will bring to your new residence. If your new home will be smaller, you will probably need to shed some of your belongings. Most decluttering experts suggest placing items in three categories: Keep, Discard and Give Away/Donate. It can be helpful to enlist a friend to help you with this process because it can be difficult to part with certain items. An objective third party can provide a practical voice to encourage you to let go of things that you will never use.
  • If you will be packing yourself, you can save costs by starting to collect empty boxes from local supermarkets and other retail stores rather than purchasing them.

4-6 weeks before the move:

Purchase insurance coverage of the items you will be moving.

Keep all of your financial records and documents such as birth certificates in one place.

If you are moving out of the area, find new doctors, dentists, and veterinarians in the new location. Make sure to have an adequate supply of medications and refills available so you don’t run out during your move.

Update your voter registration.

A few weeks before the move:

Cancel all newspaper home delivery.

Take photos of your furniture, noting any existing scratches/damage.

Back up your computers.

Arrange for your mail to be forwarded by the U.S. Postal Service. For information about this process, visit https://www.usps.com/manage/forward.htm

Update your new address with credit cards, banks, loan providers, and other vendors.

Within 10 days of moving, change the address for Social Security benefits and inform the IRA, Department of Veterans Affairs and other government offices of your new address.

Transfer your homeowners or renters insurance to your new home.

Transfer utilities such as electric, gas, and water to your new home.

Update your driver’s license, as well as your car registration and auto insurance.

1 week before the move:

Pack comfortable clothes and toiletries for a two-week period.

Confirm the dates and times of your move with the moving company.

If necessary, hire a cleaning company to clean your existing home.

Pack all essential items that you will need within the first day of your move in one box that will be the first to be unpacked.

Before unplugging electronics, take photos of how they are connected so that you can easily set them up when you unpack them.

On moving day:

Do a final check of your entire existing home to make sure you haven’t left anything behind.

And finally …. when you arrive at your new home, before you even begin unpacking, take a moment to introduce yourself to your new neighbors. After all, settling in socially is actually one of the most important aspects of your move, so lay a good foundation from day one!