Helping a Family Member Downsize

By
Real Estate Agent with 774.289.5521

I am helping my mother move from a 5 room house to a 2-1/2 room elderly townhouse. I say townhouse loosely because it's all on one level. It's a very nice place on the Cape (Cape Cod for you foreigners, lol). It's something she's been looking forward to for a long time. Not all elderly downsize kicking and screaming.

But, boy she has a lot of "stuff"! She's all moved in but there's no place to put anything! The problem with downsizing is that you have to leave stuff behind - and they never leave enough stuff behind. My aunt, my mother's only sister, passed away this year and both my grandparents have passed so my mother couldn't throw away or give away any of their stuff. She has generations of stuff, lol.

Moving is stressful on anyone but it's especially stressful when you have to get rid of things you love. Some tips to help a family member downsize:

  • Have them start going through their things in advance. What can they part with? Many times things are really junk and need to be thrown away. Other times things don't have any sentimental value and may be sold on Craigslist or given away on Freecycle. Even doing this my mother still had too much stuff that she wanted to take.
  • Take a picture of anything that they allow you to give/throw away so they have the memory of it. They may regret later letting something go so having a picture is the next best thing. I'm not talking about the old George Foreman grill. Just anything that may have memories attached to it. 
  • Draw a floor plan of the new home to see what furniture will fit. My mother did this and it turned out that the rooms were smaller than the floor plan the complex had given her, so be sure to measure the rooms yourself. Doing this exercise helped her decide what furniture she should give away and what furniture she could keep.
  • Get the family member excited about the move. Ask them how they will use each room or each area of the rooms. Ask them how they use their rooms now so that you understand the importance of their things. You may find that some areas really never get used. 
  • Think safety - once they are moved in get their home set up as soon as possible. Most people, even older people are fiercely independent and will try to get things put away on their own. This could be a safety issue depending on the physical ability of the family member. I think we know not to leave boxes on the floor where they can be tripped over, but we need to make sure that we hang their pictures so our elderly family members aren't climbing on chairs to reach for things. 
  • Realize that this is their life and not yours. Don't fight with them to get rid of stuff, but remind them that they need to simplify their life. Now that my mother is moved in, she is seeing that she still has to get rid of stuff. She has 7 bedding sets. I said, "Mom, you only have 1 bed." So she's going to get rid of a bunch of them. She had to see them in the new place to realize that she just had too many. 
Have any of you helped someone downsize? What things did you do that you found helpful?
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Topic:
Real Estate General Information
Tags:
downsizing
moving
elderly
senior housing

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Rainer
143,960
Lydie Ouellet Dickinson
Realtor
Realty Executives Tri County, Bellingham MA

Crystal, those are all great advice. I friend of mine is going through the same motion. I will relay your advice if you don't mind. Thank you for sharing and good luck!

January 15, 2011 08:52 AM
Rainmaker
252,072
Kathy Denworth
Realtor in the Florida Keys, Islamorada, Key Largo
Century 21 Schwartz Realty

Crystal, great suggestions. I really like the idea of taking pictures of it. I think it is tough for anyone to downsize, especially when you are tossing out memories. I guess donating the stuff to charity could possibly make them feel better because it is doing some else some good.

January 15, 2011 09:03 AM
Rainmaker
64,454
Crystal Pina
Remax Professional Associates
774.289.5521

Share away Lydie. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, but one day we'll be in this predicament ourselves so hopefully we get treated with dignity when it's our turn.

Thanks, Kathy. My mother loves Freecycle.org. You post what you have and Offer it. Then people contact you who want/need it. 

January 15, 2011 09:10 AM
Rainer
32,189
Jacquie Cliff
- Real Estate and Short Sale Expert
Champions Real Estate Services - Lynnwood, WA

Downsizing is really tough, and if you think about it, up until relatively recently people really didn't do it.  They stayed in their same home until they died.  I do like your suggestion of mapping out what furiture will fit in the new house though.

January 15, 2011 09:18 AM
Rainmaker
64,454
Crystal Pina
Remax Professional Associates
774.289.5521

Hi Jacquie, people also paid off their mortgages and had mortgage burning parties. Times have definitely changed.

 

January 15, 2011 03:33 PM
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Rainmaker
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Crystal Pina

Remax Professional Associates
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