Moving is widely recognized to be among the most stressful events in a person’s life. Combining the practical challenges of sorting through years of clutter and the sense of loss that comes with letting go of treasured possessions, a move can be a physically and emotionally draining experience.
These difficulties are typically magnified in the case of aging parents, with the move often linked to an intimidating life transition. Here are a few tips for helping your parents downsize calmly and compassionately.
Start with the Clutter
It’s best to begin by organizing belongings that your parents have little emotional attachment to. Ease into the downsizing process by cleaning out junk drawers, storage closets, basements, and attics. These out-of-the-way spaces likely contain items that your parents don’t use or even think about very often. Get rid of expired medications, broken items, and paper clutter, such as old magazines, newspapers, and mail. Your parents may even feel relieved to clear out certain unnecessary items that they’ve been meaning to get rid of for years.
Consider the New Space
Whether your parents are moving to an assisted-living facility or a smaller home, it’s a good idea to know the exact size of their new home. Assisted living facilities can provide this information or you may need to go and measure the dimensions yourself. Consider marking off a comparable amount of space in your parents’ current home, so they can start to envision how much they can realistically take with them and how their possessions will fit. This can help to rule out large pieces of furniture that would overcrowd the new home.
Focus on the Positive
Help your parents to research the names of local charities where they can donate some of their belongings. Particularly if your parents enjoy helping others, it may be easier for them to let go of certain possessions if they know that someone else can make use of them. Allow your parents to tell stories about when they bought these items, when they used them over the years, and talk about how much a new family could benefit from these items just as your parents have.
Take Your Time
It’s often tempting to just get the decluttering over with by trying to tackle it all at once; however, rushing this daunting process is likely to place a great deal of physical and emotional strain on both you and your parents. Instead, break the organization into short sessions, ideally spaced out over weeks and months. If it’s absolutely necessary to get your parents moved quickly, be sure to take frequent breaks. Take things slowly and give your parents time to say goodbye to various belongings. You may need to create an ‘undecided’ pile, and allow your parents to evaluate their possessions more than once as they gradually adjust to the process of letting go.
Have questions about downsizing to a new space? Contact us here for more information on how we can help make the transition as seamless as possible.