When it’s time to downsize

BHC downsize main 100818.jpgWhen elderly loved ones can no longer maintain the family home, or when stairs or terrain have become too difficult to navigate, families face the tough decision of downsizing and moving seniors to a safer, smaller space.

Once the decision is made, the task of moving begins. Packing up, sorting and parting with belongings is the most daunting part of the transition.

Start early and take your time. The move will be stressful enough without running into a moving day deadline.

Since there will be limitations in the new space, it’s important to be selective in what the senior can take along, and yet still ensure that they will feel comfortable and happy in their new space.

It’s important for seniors to know that their opinions and feelings are respected. It is their home, and their belongings, so family should be cautious about making decisions without the senior’s input.

Discuss beforehand what will happen to items that can't be taken to the new house. Maybe there are grandchildren in new homes who could put items to use. Maybe the senior has a favorite charity that accepts donations. If a senior knows where things are going, and that they aren't just being thrown away, it can be easier to part with them.

Start by sorting out the necessities such as the clothes and toiletries the senior will need in their new space.
Then move on to guest rooms. They are often the place where we stash things we’ve forgotten or rarely use. Get warmed up and used to the idea of parting with items with these easier-to-make choices.

Then move on to things they will need in their new space, but that may be a little harder to pare down. If your senior has a closet full of blankets, for example, they will need to choose just a few. They will need blankets, but not 40 blankets. They will need a saucepan, but not eight saucepans.

Ask if there are heirlooms that must make the move, or that can be given to family members to treasure.

Are there things that can be sold? Offer to hold a garage sale. Sometimes a little extra cash has greater appeal than packing and moving.

Set goals, but build in time to reminisce. Sometimes taking a few moments talking about the memories attached to an item is enough to make it easier to let go. Tell your loved one, “I could never forget that day!”

Moving is hard. Sorting is hard. Admitting you can’t do everything you used to do is hard. No matter how tired or frustrated you may get, know that it is harder on your loved one.