Making a change in your aging parents’ lifestyle can be a traumatic event. If they are moving to a smaller home or moving into your home, it will mean they will have to divest themselves of some of their belongings. This can lead to a sense of loss of both memories and a loss of control of their lives. It will benefit you to have patience with them and to work through the process slowly – by this we mean, don’t just go into their home with a dumpster and start tossing their stuff.
Spending time going through their belongings and memorabilia is a way to relive memories and to perhaps hear stories about their youth – and yours – you may not have heard, or may not remember. Downsizing can be a great way for the family to come together and make new memories.
Here are tips for downsizing:
It’s best, when you’re cleaning out a room, to take everything out of it – every single item. Once the room, or closet or dresser is empty you go through and look at every piece and see if it really needs to be kept.
You can donate items to the neighbors, your church, school, Goodwill or even ask friends and family if there are items they’d like to have as a way to keep it in the family. Remember, it may seem like trash to you, but it could be a treasure for someone else.
You could host a yard sale to get rid of belongings and make some money.
Recycle items that can’t be donated. If there are computer components, broken down appliances, paper, metal or plastics they will likely need to be recycled. Check with your municipality to see what the requirements are for recycling and disposing of specific items.
Store precious family items electronically. Ask family members if they’d like to keep the original, hard copies, but make certain you snap a photo or scan them so they are not lost for future generations. It might make sense to file photos in file cabinets rather than in bulky photo albums.
Make allowances for items with emotional ties. You may not see why Mom needs to keep the stuffed animal she had from when she was a child, but it means something to her and you don’t want to take away all of her memorabilia. If Dad can’t part with the lawnmower parts that have cluttered up the garage for decades, you may want to consider giving him a corner of the garage and keeping some of the parts, but not all of them. If it’s too much to clear out their possessions in one fell swoop, consider renting a small storage unit. If the items are in the storage unit you can visit and do more clearing out of unused or unwanted items.
Bear in mind that if your Mom and Dad are faced with downsizing because they aren’t able to age in place, it may make sense to allow them to keep more items than you may deem “necessary” to help them with the emotional and physical adjustment.