Whether your loved one is planning to downsize or simply declutter, tossing personal belongings can be challenging. There are all kinds of benefits to downsizing in your golden years — lower energy bills, a smaller space to clean and maintain, and the potential of moving closer to family. However, many seniors struggle to let go of the memories that have accumulated over the years. You can help your senior loved one transition smoothly by planning in advance, staying organized, and honoring their feelings throughout the process.
Step 1: Establish a Plan
Planning is the key to a trouble-free decluttering experience. If you’re moving to a new location, use a calendar to set dates for all moving-related activities. Have dates set for packing, garage or estate sales, charity and trash pickups, and moving itself. Setting reasonable limits on the timeline will also help lower the stress of the overall process.
Sharing the calendar which each person involved with the reorganization process will also help establish expectations. The stress of heavy lifting and consolidating items can create tension between loved ones – the more open communication the better.
Step 2: Sort Through the Smaller Items
Sifting through smaller items, even those as light as paper, will take a huge weight off your shoulders. Try to schedule one specific day to sort through any old files or lose papers on your countertops. Make sure to keep important documents in a separate pile to avoid accidentally tossing one. Be particularly careful to save the following items:
Diplomas and degrees
Powers of attorney
Step 3: Find Homes for Larger Items
Your loved one may want to save more items than necessary, but they may not have the square footage to accommodate everything collected over the years. Larger items such as furniture and artwork can be more difficult to part with but will ultimately create a less cluttered space.
Once your loved one chooses a few larger items to let go of, there are a few different options for disposal. Depending on the value and significance or the item, the following options may be suitable for getting rid your items:
Storage - This may be the easiest option for your loved one, psychologically speaking, because they won’t have to part with their things entirely. The downside is storage fees can become expensive in the long run.
Donate - Your local Salvation Army or charity organization will be happy to accept gently used clothes and home goods, and many even offer curbside pickup.
Pass it down - Most seniors have a ton of treasures - jewelry, china, antiques, art, cooking supplies, heirlooms - they intend to pass on to their adult children eventually. If your loved one is willing to part with these items sooner, let them know that they will be treasured as part of the family legacy.
Sell - A garage or estate sale is a great way to part with unwanted items and make some extra cash. If you’re not sure how much some items are worth, talk to an antique dealer.
Step 4: Label and Consolidate Remaining Items
Now that the home is freshly decluttered, organizing the remaining items will maintain the tidiness over time. As your senior loved one’s memory weakens, having labels on smaller items will help when searching for particular belongings. Here are a few suggested items to label and store in one location:
Medicine and pill bottles
If the decluttering was in preparation of a move, other maintenance tasks may also attract additional buyers. Adding a fresh coat of paint, cleaning services, and professional staging to your newly organized home will also help it stand out against competition.
Remember that, ultimately, it is your loved one’s decision whether or not to part with items. If you’re too close to the situation and your help becomes overbearing, consider hiring an impartial third party who’s used to helping people let go. Professional organizers and movers in the Connecticut area can also remove the stress while handling your items with care.
Author Bio: Angie Bersin is part of the Redfin content marketing team and enjoys writing about home decor and real estate trends. As a long-term Seattleite, Angie enjoys traveling the globe to find content inspiration. Her dream home would be an urban loft filled with natural light, high ceilings, and an open floor plan.