Downsizing Tips for Seniors and Their Families

The idea of downsizing can be overwhelming for seniors facing the move to a senior living community or an assisted living facility. A lifetime of memories and heirlooms can be difficult to go through for the senior as well as their families and caregivers. The good news is that there are ways to help ease the transition for your senior loved one.

Why Is Downsizing So Hard?
Let’s face it—most of us have too much “stuff.” Just take a look in your closets and garage and poke around in your basement or storage area. We tend to accumulate things that we simply don’t need and will never use, and we hold onto them for various reasons, whether those reasons are rational or practical or not. We can become attached to our possessions, and they become part of our identity. Sometimes purging ourselves of possessions can be an almost painful experience as we feel like we are getting rid of a little part of ourselves.

Now think how difficult the downsizing process is for seniors. They have a lifetime of possessions that are precious to them. Getting rid of those possessions can feel like getting rid of their cherished memories. Psychologist Christian Jarrett, in an article entitled “The psychology of stuff and things,” says that “possessions can be a particular comfort for older people who have to leave their homes and enter supervised residential care,” and those valued possessions “often provided a vital link to memories, relationships and former selves, helping foster a sense of continuity.” So for seniors, add to the stress of downsizing the stress of moving into an apartment, condo, or senior living facility due to health reasons or the fact that they simply can no longer live on their own. They likely feel that their life is being turned upside down.

Tips to Help Your Senior Loved One Downsize
So what do families do when downsizing is inevitable for Mom or Dad? How do they tackle the daunting and emotional task?

Here are some practical downsizing steps families can take:  

  • Don’t try to tackle the downsizing project in one day. It is a multi-step process and will be easier to accomplish in manageable chunks of time.
  • Enlist the help of family and friends. Downsizing is too big of a project to take on alone. More help will make the process easier to accomplish and manage.
  • Help senior loved ones identify key cherished pieces to take with them. Since space will likely be at a premium in their new living situation, they might need gentle guidance in choosing just the right items to take with them to their new home.
  • Help them also identify cherished pieces to gift to friends and family members. Gifting a family heirloom can be a joyful and meaningful experience for a senior.
  • Identify pieces that can be donated. Remind your loved one that the possessions they don’t need can be a blessing to others!
  • Enlist the help of impartial advisors or downsizing professionals. If the process is too difficult or emotional for family members to accomplish, bring in a caring yet impartial third party, or consider hiring a professional to help. There are a number of companies that specialize in downsizing for seniors. Check local companies or click here for the website of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.
  • If your loved one is really struggling with the overall transition of downsizing, consider having them talk with a caring, professional counselor. Christian Family Solutions has a number of counselors on staff who specialize in caring for seniors. Call us at 800.438.1772, or click on the Request Appointment link on our website. Our Elder Care Navigation Program can also help families navigate the downsizing experience.

Downsizing tips adapted from https://www.caring.com/articles/getting-rid-of-seniors-junk.