For many seniors, a time comes when it is necessary and beneficial to change the home setting. For some, the need to downsize has to do with finances, for others it may mean going to live in a place where more support is available, or a location that is closer to relatives and friends. No matter the reason, the decision can be a great source of stress.
When it comes down to tackling the task of downsizing to a new residence, the challenges of deciding what to keep, what to give away, sell or discard may be overwhelming. What seems comfortable to one person may look like a mess to another. As reported by The New York Times, according to David J. Ekerdt, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of Kansas, for each decade after the age of 50, a person is progressively less likely to be able to let go of their belongings. The emotional impact for seniors of dismantling a home where they may have lived for decades can be substantial.
A good way to begin the downsizing is by seeking what is called a senior move manager. The growing specialty of senior move managers seeks to empathetically help older adults with the logistical and emotional tasks of relocation (or for those staying put, but needing to pare down possessions, of divesting). Once hired, a manager will interview the senior about his/her home and possessions in order to learn what’s most important, create an inventory, and help seniors make decisions about what to keep and discard.
The manager then coordinates packing, hiring movers, donating and selling valuable goods, planning the way items will fit into the new location, communicating with utilities, and even changing addresses for subscriptions. Having someone pragmatically take on these tasks, with their mounting details, can be an enormous relief in the midst of what can seem to most seniors and their adult children as an overwhelming process that might otherwise lead to endless postponement or family squabbles.
These managers can also coordinate with family members who live far away, as well as with estate attorneys, social workers and others to create a unified agreed-upon plan for downsizing. To find a senior move manager in your area, visit the website: National Association of Senior Move Managers.
Other tips to consider:
- To avoid finding yourself in an emergency situation where choices may be unavailable, get started early. No one really wants to think about aging and loss of function, but the more advanced planning a senior has in place, the more he or she can feel in control.
- Do a good “spring-clean” once or twice a year, with an eye towards purging accumulations, and items that you no longer use (or maybe forgot you have!) Begin with closets, drawers and cabinets, going through them one at a time, with help from a friend or relative if necessary.
- Put all relevant paper records together in one place; throw out what is outdated.
- Give away precious items and mementoes to family and friends (and see their pleasure in receiving them for yourself). Done bit by bit, discarding things can make you feel lighter.
- Go room by room and really look at your possessions—clothes, furniture, ornaments, kitchen stuff, linen cupboards, garages and car trunks, and ask yourself what you still really need or care about, then begin getting rid of the rest.
Downsizing can be tough, but with the right assistance and a plan, it doesn’t have to be debilitating. For more tips about tackling clutter and downsizing, read Tips for Decluttering and Downsizing.