The Downsizing Dilemma

Kitchen Utensil Clutter

3 sets of china, silver from a grandparent, a dining room table and chairs from the 1940’s, multi-generational photos, antique lamps, these are just a few examples of decisions a homeowner has to make when downsizing. Trying to figure out what to take and what to keep is daunting as many of these items have been passed from generation to generation. What can make this even more stressful is moving at an advanced stage of life. Older adults may feel even more anxious due to the amount of “stuff” they have accumulated as well as the emotional aspect that comes with moving. Many seniors have lived in their homes for over 30 years.

They are used to things being in certain places and in a certain order. Change is difficult and being flexible is not as easy. As professional organizers, one of our most important jobs is to be sensitive and respectful to our client’s needs.

In many situations, children do not live close to their parents. Calling a professional organizer to help make decisions is sometimes the only option that a family has. In addition, seniors do not always have the mobility to move and lift items. Older adults may need assistance with boxing up donates or keepsakes, help to bring stored items down from an attic, or unpacking boxes which may have been stored for years in a basement or garage. This is where an experienced organizer can really make an impact.  A professional organizer will help a homeowner get appraisals on items of value, help determine what is important to bring to the new abode, help box up items for relatives, and help box up donates and plan for their removal.  What a relief for aging men and women to not have to go through the process alone.

Sometimes homeowners are so worried about the move that they have trouble determining what to take with them. To begin with, we may remove the non-sentimental items such as duplicate kitchen utensils, excess clothing, garage items no longer used etc… We may suggest the “one-year” test. For example, if something has not been used in over a year maybe it is time to discard and donate? Photographs should be removed from frames. Relatives can help transfer photos to scrapbooks or other media.

Assisted Living - Living Room

When moving to assisted living, seniors quite often do not have the space they may have had in the home they have lived in. As professional organizers, we can help them choose what furniture they can bring and help determine the best way to remove the remaining furniture. They may be comfortable with the layout they have in their current home so many times we suggest they photograph rooms they wish to recreate. A familiar layout is calming and can alleviate stress. Once in the new surroundings, we can help them unpack and organize, keeping in mind how to bring the comforts of the past to the new space.

Most importantly, when dealing with seniors we must be PATIENT. Listening and understanding to our client’s concerns are key. This is challenging, but an experienced and "professional" Professional Organizer can make the difficult task less stressful. At the end of the day, nothing is more rewarding to us than hearing “I couldn’t have done with without you” and knowing we made a huge difference in helping someone move into the next stage of their life.