So your senior loved one needs to downsize. Now what?
For many in their senior years, downsizing isn’t a choice made leisurely over many years. The need appears suddenly, often following an injury or the loss of a spouse or partner, leaving adult children and family members with the daunting task of sorting through a lifetime of belongings.
Senior move managers assist with the overwhelming elements of the process, but come at a high cost. When you or your loved one’s budget for care is already a stretch, spending that money on move managers may not be an option.
Below are some helpful tips on where to start and how to manage the process.
- Before beginning, acknowledge that downsizing can be a highly emotional process for you and your loved one. Don’t try to separate yourself or your loved one from the process. Some things have memories and legacies that you’ll want to save. Allowing those feelings to be processed will help you determine what items to save for your loved one’s new apartment and what to let go of. Maintaining a sense of identity and place will be very important for your senior loved one in their new home.
- Set a hard and fast final date to be completely moved. This can be helpful both for practical matters, like selling a property, and emotional matters. With a hard date in place, decisions are sometimes easier to make.
- Don’t wait. Often times, children wait until a loved one’s property is sold to begin sorting through the home. Don’t wait! Not only will it lessen stress, but an organized and move-in ready home may be more desirable to buyers.
- You may need to take a few days off. Many adult children report needing to take a few personal days off of work to sort through a loved one’s belongings during a downsizing move.
- Start in rooms with the most sentimental items and the most clutter: For many these “heart of the home” rooms are the family room, kitchen, living room, and dining room. Working through the more sentimental items first will make decisions about less important items later easy.
- Categorize items.
– Keep – Mom always relaxes in this chair – this should go with her.
– Give to family – This dining set should stay in the family.
– Sell – These are in good condition and your senior loved one is comfortable selling them.
– Donate – These items don’t have much value, but can still be used.
– Trash – These items are in poor condition or beyond repair or should not be donated for sanitary reasons.
Categorizing items will help determine the next thing to do with them. Tip: To help, color code your Keep, Give Away, Donate, and other items with sticky tabs or post-it notes as you begin to sort through things.
- Be smart about collections:
– Scan photos onto external memory devices, like an external hard drive, flash drive or CD. Smart photo frames now allow you to display these photos in an electronic format one after the other.
– Save a few favorite mementos from collections. Allow your loved one to choose and display a few of their favorites from collections.
– Scan documents that are important but that you may not need to have printed and on hand.
- Be prepared that adult children may not want items that have sentimental value to their parents. It can be difficult to sell the table you spent all your family dinners at as a child, but the reality may be that there’s not room for it where you or your loved ones live. Or perhaps they just don’t feel as attached to it as you or your senior parent. While it can be upsetting, allowing these decisions to be made will help determine what can and should be kept.
- Sell, sell, sell. Take photos of everything you intend to sell. Host a yard sale – some companies suggest calling it a “Moving Sale” for better turn out. Advertise your sale in the paper, and place bright posterboard signs at the front of the neighborhood and at intersections leading to the sale. Contact estate sale companies or auction houses if it’s in your budget to allow a portion of the profit to go to these managers. Selling items can help cover different costs as well, like a moving company or deposits.
- Use your online resources. Post items on craigslist with photos. It’s free! The “Free” section can also help you get items moved that you cannot sell for a price or would cost to move otherwise. Additionally, you can often find Facebook Pages dedicated to selling items in your local area. On Facebook, search for your city or county name followed by the words Buy Sell Trade. Be sure to follow the page rules when posting items for sale.
- Donate what you can’t sell. Local charities abound and some may even be able to pick up large items for you. Use any donation receipts received by charities when your loved one files taxes for the year.
- Use our printable one-page checklist to help you begin the downsizing process. Fill out the form on this page to receive a download link right to your email.