How to de-stress downsizing
For most seniors, relocating from the longtime family house to a senior living community involves more than just moving. They also must downsize decades of belongings. Although the process may seem overwhelming, the keys to making the process as smooth as possible are planning, organizing, and enlisting help.
Don’t do it all at once
Trying to winnow down possessions accumulated over many years in just a few days is impractical and exhausting. The AARP Bulletin advises working on it for short daily stretches over a period of several months, saying that "taking time to properly sort, emotionally detach, and pare down is crucial both to the process and to the (emotional) wellbeing" of those involved.
Beginning in little-used rooms will cause the least amount of disruption to daily life. Successfully cleaning them out builds the confidence to continue throughout the house, the AARP Bulletin says.
Get the kids involved
The belongings of children who left home long ago may still be filling the attic and basement. Ask the kids to take their possessions to their own homes.
Wedding china, yearbooks, high-school trophies, and other memorabilia are among the hardest items to deal with because of the memories and emotions involved. Professional organizer Vickie Dellaquila, owner of Organization Rules, Inc. and author of "Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash," recommends keeping parts of beloved items, such as the letter from a varsity jacket or several pieces from a china set.
Old photos, slides, newspaper clippings, and more can now be converted to electronic formats. Professional services can help with this task.
Donating furniture, kitchenware, clothing, and other items in good condition benefits others, promotes reuse, and provides tax deductions. Policies vary among non-profit organizations, so take time to contact them to find out what they accept and whether they can pick the items up.
Seek professional help if needed
If the move is urgent or the work is too much to handle, consider enlisting the assistance of a specialist. If the new home is at a senior living community, the staff may be able to suggest local resources. The National Association of Senior Move Managers offers a list of movers screened for experience in helping older people with the physical and emotional aspects of relocation at www.nasmm.org.
While parting with cherished possessions may not be easy, many seniors ultimately find it liberating. As Forbes contributor Mike Lewis writes, "You need to shed the excess baggage of your life to take advantage of a new start, and all the freedom it brings. You’ve worked many years to get to this point – now is the time to enjoy it."
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