Downsizing Woes – How to Help Your Senior One Part Ways and Move Forward

Like parting ways with an old, memory-filled car, there will eventually come a time when your loved one needs to consider downsizing to a smaller home. Perhaps there is too much house to maintain or the stairs to get the bedroom have become a safety hazard as well as a tiresome pain. Letting go is hard to do, and for your loved one, downsizing their home equates to downsizing their items, which can prove to be painful, sad, and overwhelming.

If you are currently helping a loved one downsize, we’ve listed helpful tips below to make the process as easy as possible (for more advice, see’s 6 tips for downsizing here):

Take It Slow

When it comes to downsizing for a move, people often cling to items, even if they haven’t used them in 20 years, as a way to deal with the stress and fear of moving. In order to make downsizing less stressful, take it nice and slow.

Rather than charge full steam ahead, tackle the home room by room to avoid stressing your senior loved one both emotionally and physically. Preparing for a move should be thought of in terms of months. Spend a few hours each week going room by room, and frame decisions in a yes-no format, as open-ended questions create uncertainty and doubt.

The key to successful sorting and purging is organization. As you sort through items, avoid the insistence from your loved one to have a “maybe” pile. Instead, follow the OHIO rule: Only handle it once. Replace the “maybe” pile with the following three piles: keep, donate, and sell.

The most-used items should be kept, but if your loved one’s response to whether or not they use the item is that they want to keep it “just in case,” this is a sure sign that they’ll likely never use it and someone else could benefit from it. For items you wish to donate, make sure they are in good condition and only gently used.

Check with local charities to see which items they take and are in need of, and keep the receipt to use for potential tax deductions. If you wish to sell items, ask your loved one whether or not they feel comfortable being present. It may be too painful for them to watch, but some may feel better being able to tell the story behind the item someone is purchasing.

Get Creative

You may find that as you are downsizing, your loved one finds items that don’t fit a particular category. For example, they may come across an item from their past, such as an antique china doll, that holds value and memories but they no longer have the space or use for. Encourage your loved one to use this as a time to re-home items to family and friends.

Your loved one may feel better knowing that a particular item or piece will live on and be given the care and attention it deserves. Have your loved make a list of items they would like to gift and the person it should go to. Arrange for the items to be picked up as soon as possible, as seeing them go will surely be bitter sweet.

If your loved one is really struggling to part with a particular item but it can’t be kept, offer to make a scrapbook with pictures of their treasured items. You can even write the accompanying description of the item, as well as the story and memories attached to it.

While you are going digital, go ahead and digitize important documents, CDs, DVDs, videos, and pictures. Not only will this protect against inevitable wear and tear, but it will come in handy when relatives request copies of family photos.

Downsizing doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful as long as you have patience and take things slowly. Understand that any life transition is a huge change, and it is no different for your senior loved one. Be there for them during this change to help the process go as smoothly as possible.

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