Are you helping your older loved one downsize to upsize their quality of life? Sorting through a house full of belonging is sometimes it’s the biggest obstacle to downsizing. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is hard work, both physically and emotionally. It can stop some seniors in their tracks.
We spend our lives accumulating possessions to fill the rooms of our houses. And sometimes we hold on to things long after they’ve served their purpose. According to David J. Ekerdt, author of Downsizing: Confronting Our Possessions in Later Life, many seniors looking to downsize are dismayed by the number of things they own.
There’s a certain amount of shame that can go with that. Some people believe that they are what they own. And if they own a number of items that have outlived their usefulness, what does that say about them?
Certain possessions may hold a strong emotional value to them. Perhaps an item reminds them of a loved one who died, but they’re reluctant to admit it because they feel that people expect them to be done with grieving and to have moved on with their life.
They may be reluctant to ask for help sorting through their things because it means opening themselves (and their possessions) up to judgment. At the same time, going through all their stuff may be a task that’s simply too big for them to manage on their own.
If you have a parent who’s needing to downsize in preparation for a move to senior living, here are a few things you can do to help them through this predicament.
Preparing to move
Find a real estate agent who specializes in helping seniors.
Moving later in life can be a lot more complicated than moving when you’re younger. Look for an agent who has experience serving seniors, like one with an SRES® (Senior Real Estate Specialist) designation. In addition to selling your parent’s current home (and finding them their next one if they haven’t already found it), an SRES® agent will often be able to pull in other experts like lawyers, financial advisors, home stagers, contractors, and movers who are similarly skilled at helping seniors.
Find a company that specializes in senior moves.
These moving companies won’t just cart your parent’s belongings to their new home, they’ll guide them through the often difficult process of sorting their possessions into different categories: take, sell, donate, throw away.
Be prepared when your parent wants to give you something.
They may offer you a family heirloom that you don’t necessarily want (and that may be difficult to sell given the low market value of many antiques these days). Decide how you want to handle these conversations ahead of time, if you can.
Recognize that downsizing is a vulnerable experience.
Try not to force decisions or be dismissive of items your parent may have a hard time letting go. They may take it as a criticism of them (the you are what you own philosophy). Suggest why it may be a good idea to get rid of it, but try not to nag. They may simply resist. Give them some time to sit with the idea. They may come around to your way of thinking in the end.
Get / make a floor plan of your parent’s new home.
Use it to determine what furniture will go where. It can also serve as a reality check when your parent is deciding what to take with them. Will it actually fit?
Set the stage.
If your parent is moving to a retirement community, see what support the community offers to people moving in. Many will provide a checklist of what to pack. Some will assign one of two staff members to facilitate the move-in process and help your parent settle in. There may even be opportunities for your parent to visit ahead of the move and start to get to know staff and other residents, making the transition easier for them.
If your parent is considering downsizing, we can help with their transition. Contact us at a community near you, we’ll be happy to walk you through the process.