Michael Longsdon of ElderFreedom.net contacted us to write an article for our blog about this very important and oft-overlooked topic. Recently, his wife’s parents moved from Sacramento to San Diego, and this process taught him a lot about what goes into helping senior parents downsize. We are now lucky enough to have him share his wisdom with us!
Ways Seniors Can Make the Downsizing Process Less Stressful
Moving to a smaller place is a necessity for many seniors, as the upkeep on their long-time family home can become too much of a burden. Whether a senior is moving to a new, smaller home, an apartment, a condo, or an assisted living community, there will be the need for a good amount of downsizing. We amass a lot of stuff as we age, and there comes a point where we simply can’t deal with all of it anymore. It can be inherently difficult, but here are some ways to make the downsizing process a little less stressful.
Start packing early
As soon as you know you’re going to be moving, you should start to pack. If you are able to take your time, you will feel more comfortable about the downsizing decisions you will eventually have to make. Start packing in your least-used areas first – closets, guest rooms, attic, basement. If you can set a goal of packing one box per day for a few weeks, you’ll easily pack up your home in a way that’s preferable to the stress packing method of boxing up everything in a couple of days. One good tip is to pack a few “essentials boxes” and label them with a star so that you’ll know what to open up first when you begin to unpack.
Ditch the maybe pile
Downsizing is hard – especially for seniors with emotional attachments to their possessions. That’s why it’s vital for decisions about what to keep, what to trash, and what to donate are made firmly, at the moment of.
“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,” notes Caring.com.
Keep important items in the family
For the most part, seniors will want to keep their most-cherished mementos and heirlooms. When it comes to the small stuff – photos, scrapbook items, jewelry, etc – it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. But when it comes to larger, but still very much cherished items (like a family chest or dresser, for instance), seniors will have a much easier time letting go if they know the item is staying in the family. Downsizing presents a good opportunity to pass down family heirlooms.
Pack yourself, but hire movers
There are a lot of benefits to doing most of the packing yourself. For one, you’ll save some money. More importantly, however, you’ll be more careful and organized with your own belongings, leading to greater peace of mind.
But when it comes to the actual move, the benefits of hiring professional movers justify the few hundred dollars you’ll spend. Letting movers handle the heavy lifting reduces the risk of injury, and while important, it’s not even the greatest benefit of outsourcing the job. Moving is an incredibly emotional process – especially for seniors. By taking a hands-off approach to the actual move and letting someone else handle it, you can separate yourself from the process a little bit. This can help you deal with the pain and stress that downsizing often brings.
Downsizing should not be seen as a negative process, instead it should be seen as a way for seniors to take back a little more control in their lives. Downsizing is beneficial to people of all ages – we all accumulate too much stuff over the years. But for seniors, downsizing can be the difference between being overwhelmed in your current living situation and being in control of it.