“Downsizing your home is a very emotional time when you face letting go of a lifetime of memories and confront a very different living situation,” says Libby Kinkead of The Moving Managers “People tend to cling to their possessions to avoid dealing with other issues, like stress, fear or even not knowing where to start.”
When downsizing your home it’s important to have a plan and inevitably you’ll have to make some tough decisions. Here are some tips to make downsizing less stressful Tips for Downsizing your home:
Part 1: Getting Started
- Avoid tackling the whole house in one go.
Though it’s more efficient for you to plow full steam ahead, your parent is apt to be stressed emotionally, if not also physically. When organizing a parent’s move, it’s better to think in terms of months, not days. Tackle one room or area at a time. About two hours at a stretch is ideal for many older adults, says Aida Middel, professional organizer and founder of Potomac Concierge in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.
- Pose yes-no questions.
Open-ended choices put a reluctant mover on the spot, raising stress. Avoid asking, “Which pots and pans do you want to keep?” Organize them down yourself first, then present a more manageable yes-no option: “I’ve got your best frying pan, a large pot, and a small sauce pot. Does that sound good?” Presort any items that you have much more than needed. Such as: clothing, kitchenware, tools, and anything else you know the person has way more of than he or she will have space for.
- Consider the new space as a guide.
Measure exactly how much closet or cabinet space the new place has (assisted living communities will provide this information if you ask), and fill an equivalent amount of space as you sort. Mark off the comparable space so your parent has a visual guide.
- Avoid the “maybe” pile.
Relocation experts call it the OHIO rule: Only handle it once. The less decisive you are about what to do with an item, the more attached you (or your parent) risk becoming to it. Avoid the maybe pile. Other than paperwork which takes time to sort and doesn’t take up much room , it’s not generally worth paying storage-rental fees (unless time is tight). Setting things aside and storing is what we call a deferred decision. Once things are boxed, your parent isn’t likely to look at the items ever again. (Out of sight, out of mind.)
- Encourage your parent to focus on most-used items (and let the rest go).
Be patient and follow your parent’s lead — what seems old and useless to you may be a source of great comfort and joy and therefore worth moving. Don’t go by the newest and best; go by what they use. You may think Mom should pack her pretty china for assisted living, but the reality is that those ugly plastic plates are what she uses every day. Ask for the story behind a dubious object — where it came from, when it was last used, they might take comfort thinking a young family might put it to good use. This takes time, but by talking through it your parent may have a different perspective and feel more able to let go.
Tune in next week for more downsizing and de-cluttering your home tips.
If these steps are overwhelming consider hiring a personal organizer or a company like www.themovingmanagers.com that will provide move management services.