Downsizing is never fun, and helping your elderly loved one downsize may even become more stressful than downsizing yourself. If your elderly loved one is looking to downsize in order to save money, save energy, or simply to declutter then they will probably need your help. Talking about downsizing and actually downsizing are two totally different situations. If your loved one has spoken about downsizing for years but has not done much to back up their words, then here are a few tips to help them declutter their homes and their lives.
Avoid Tackling the Entire House in One Setting
While it may be more efficient for you to go to your loved one’s home and tackle all of their clutter in one day, this way will not be the most effective for them. Your loved ones may have a hard time getting rid of their things and may need to take a few days to a few weeks to fully get rid of everything that needs to go. Instead of tackling the entire house, focus on one room at a time. Whenever you begin to declutter their home with them, pay attention to how your loved one feels. For most seniors, two or three hours are the maximum amount of time they may be able to spend decluttering their homes before they need a break.
Ask Yes-No Questions
If your elderly loved ones are putting up a fight about decluttering their homes or downsizing, then begin asking them yes or no questions about the things. Open-ended choices may raise their stress levels, especially if they are reluctant to downsize. Instead of putting numerous items in front of them and asking which items they want to keep and which items they want to throw out, place like items together and ask them to designate a yes and a no pile. Couching questions in a yes or no manner allows your loved one to feel as if they are in control and they are making all of the decisions.
Don’t Start a Maybe Pile
Starting a maybe pile is a recipe for disaster. Maybe piles may never be addressed again and can simply put more stress on your loved one. Putting things into a maybe pile also adds more time to an already busy time period.
Pack Favored Items Together
If your loved ones have kept photos, memorabilia, and collections then they may be reluctant to get rid of any of these things. However, all of these items may not be able to move with them to their new home. If possible, then pack a few pieces of each collection in a few boxes that they can take with them. If they are still reluctant to get rid of their items then offer to take photos of the collections and print them the photos as a keepsake.
Cut Down on a Huge Collection
If your loved ones have huge collections then try to downsize the collections as well as their homes. Assure your loved ones that one or two of the best items in the collection can be placed in their new home for display. This may make it easier for them to let go of their entire collection if they get to choose their favorite pieces from each of their collections.
If all else fails then offer to take photos of every piece in their collections. Then, print the photos out and give the photos to them in the form of a scrapbook or memory book. It may make it easier for them to get rid of their collections if they still have a tangible item that showcases their collection.
Selling, Donating, or Discarding
Consider an Appraisal
If your loved ones have valuable items that they would like to sell then consider getting professional help. An appraiser can go through their homes and find items that are likely to sell at auctions. If an appraiser finds many key items that they believe would bring a lot of money into the household, then your loved ones may be more willing to remove the items from their home.
Think Twice About Selling Items Yourself
If your loved ones do want to sell a large amount of their things then think twice about taking on all of the work of selling the items yourself. Selling items for the best price can become a full time job. Instead you can call auctions or antique stores to see if they are interested in some of the items.
There are numerous charities that take gently used items as donations. Research the charities in your community to see if any of them have guidelines on what can and cannot be donated. You should also look into whether or not the charities have a pickup service. Many charities will pick up items from your loved one’s home for a small fee.
Try the “Free” Tactic
If all else fails, you can set a few items on the curb and put a free sign on it. If you live in a populated area then the items will be moved quickly and will go to good homes that are in need of the items.
Downsizing and decluttering can be difficult for elderly loved ones. They often have emotional connections to each item in their house, which makes it difficult to find items that they will part with. Plus, if they have to downsize in order to go into a nursing home or an assisted living home then they may be upset about having to leave their home. Instead of putting more stress on your loved one during their anxiety-filled time, stick with these tips and help them declutter their homes slowly. If you declutter slowly then your loved ones may not feel as stressed out and anxious about leaving their beloved homes and their items. Remember to also take time for yourself. Decluttering their homes and helping your loved ones downsize can be stressful on you and your entire family. Do not rush the process and allow yourself and your loved ones to slowly but surely make it through the move.
Here are additional articles in our home care blog related to moving and downsizing: