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.