As anyone who has ever moved can tell you, moving is physically and emotionally exhausting. This may be especially true for aging parents who are facing the prospect of relocating to a smaller home or possibly a senior or assisted living community. Although they know it’s necessary, they may feel overwhelmed at the thought of letting go of cherished possessions that hold a lifetime of memories.
If your parents are considering the possibility of downsizing there are things that you can do to help them prepare, whether their move is imminent or even a year or more down the road.
Tips for Helping Aging Parents Downsize
In some cases, the decision to move is in response to a crisis such as the death of a caregiving spouse or a sudden serious illness. In these situations, there is minimal time to prepare or to plan. But if you have the luxury of time, it can be extremely helpful to begin the process of decluttering before the move is imminent. You can start weeding out as much as 6 months to a year ahead of time.
Start with the obvious. If you (or your siblings) are guilty of storing old sports equipment, yearbooks, school projects, or other mementos, at your parents’ house, now is the time to claim those keepsakes so that they don’t have to worry about them.
Shred old paperwork and cancelled checks. Check with an accountant if you’re not sure what needs to be saved. Important paperwork (like deeds, wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, military records, diplomas and degrees, birth certificates, and passports) should be kept together in a file cabinet or safe deposit box. Make sure that family members who might need access to these items are informed of their location.
Throw out outdated food and medications. Toss or give away unnecessary household items and clothing that is no longer being worn.
The decluttering process shouldn’t be overwhelming for you or for your parents. Keep it relaxed. Enjoy each other’s company over a cup of coffee (or even a glass of wine), and stop before you become stressed out.
If you regularly set aside an hour or two to weed out extra items, you’ll probably be surprised at how much you have managed to get rid of before you move on to the actual process of sorting and packing.
As the Big Move Approaches
Once you know where your parents will be living after their move, it’s helpful to make a detailed floor plan of their new residence. Include everything – closets, locations of doors and windows, appliance and cabinet measurements. This will help your parents to determine which furniture they will realistically be able to fit in their new home and how much storage they will have.
Before it’s time to start packing, take time to help your parents sort through their belongings. Plan on tackling one room at a time. Stock up on colored tags or stickers, and divide all of your parents’ furniture and possessions into four categories:
- Things to definitely save. These will be the items they just can’t live without-the most useful, beloved and meaningful things.
- Things to possibly save. As you continue paring down, these items will be revisited and reassigned into one of the other categories.
- Things to donate, sell, or give away. Keep a list of who will receive the items to be given away.
- Things to throw out.
Place a sticker on every single item so that you can remember which category it belongs to.
Keep a camera or smartphone handy to take pictures of sentimental items that aren’t being kept. Later on, the photos can be compiled into an album or a DVD that will take up much less space than the items themselves.
Try to be realistic about what your parents will really need in their new home. For instance, if they are moving to a facility where meals will prepared for them, the number of kitchen items they bring with them should reflect that change. Or, if they are retired, there is probably no need for them to hold on to an entire wardrobe of workwear.
It may be helpful for your parents if you involve family and friends in the sorting process. Having the chance to share the memories associated with their possessions could make the process of parting with these things less painful and will likely create new memories to cherish.
If the budget allows for it, your parents might want to consider hiring a move manager or senior relocation specialist to help them with the downsizing process. You may be able to get recommendations from friends, senior centers, real estate agents, or a local area agency on aging.
Getting Rid of Unneeded Items
Once your parents have designated items they no longer need, you can discard the things marked for throwing away. Depending on the arrangements where they live, you may need to call for extra trash pick-ups or plan on making a few trips to the dump.
Before you sell items, make sure that you know their value. Get an appraisal from an expert such as an antiques dealer or a jeweler if you’re not sure.
Many items in good condition can go to:
- Estate sale companies
- Garage sales (if you or someone you know has the time and energy to organize and run it.)
- Auction or “want ad” websites such as eBay or craig’s list
- Consignment shops
- Charities (Many charities will pick up donations. Others have drop-off locations.)
Although the process of downsizing can be a physically demanding process, you may find that your parents need your support emotionally just as much as they need your help with the task itself. So be patient with them. Listen as they reminisce. This may help them to keep in mind that, even though they are parting with many possessions, their memories are theirs to keep.
Visit the Davis Community’s Assisted Living and SNF in Wilmington NC
If you or loved one are no longer capable of living a safe, independent lifestyle, then call the Davis Community today at 910-686-7195 or simply complete and submit our online information request form. We provide exceptional assisted living and skilled nursing services in Wilmington NC with a strong and supportive environment where your loved one will feel welcomed and part of an active community. Get to know the difference today – schedule a visit to the Davis Community!