Time to Plan: Downsizing for an Elderly Loved One

Time to Plan: Downsizing for an Elderly Loved One

As time passes, many of us end up with a garage, a storage space—or an entire home—filled with a lifetime of mementos, clothes, knick-knacks, and other possessions. For the children of elderly parents, going home can be like a trip back in time.

But, sooner or later, the time comes to take a look at reducing possessions to a manageable level for ease of care, safety issues, selling a home or moving to a smaller residence.

The advantages of downsizing 

Typically, downsizing occurs after a divorce, before a move, or if a loved one passes away. However, being proactive with decluttering and home clean-out has many advantages that include:

  • Better feel:  With time, stacks of paper, books, and even furniture, start to occupy more space in a room than people do. While many belongings are still helpful, and others are deeply sentimental, a lot of what we collect over time does not need to be kept forever.
  • Safety:  While some people hoard paper and possessions, others just have a lot of stuff. Too often pushed to the side or heaped up, sometimes clutter becomes a fire or tripping hazard. Clean out and reorganize possessions to improve quality of life and avoid accidents.
  • Now—or later:  For older adults, being proactive about moving possessions along saves a lot of heartaches when you, or a spouse, pass away. If you are the child of an elderly parent, help your relative create a comfortable plan to clean out, organize, and dispose of some possessions. The process can be a terrific gift to them and a meaningful activity for you.

Easy tips for helping the elderly downsize

When you are ready to downsize or have a parent or loved one thinking about moving or downsizing, there are easy—but essential—steps you can take to help accomplish the task. Consider these suggestions:

  • Take stock:  When cleaning out rooms full of decorations, childhood belongings, or clothes, do so with the knowledge that going through a lifetime of possessions is not easy. It is sometimes hilarious—and sometimes heartbreaking. If you are cleaning out a home after a loved one has passed away suddenly, the emotional part of cleaning out and preparing a home for sale becomes even harder. Still, there is often a sense of closure when accomplished correctly.
  • Document organization:  Carefully organize medical, financial, insurance, tax, and other papers to make life easier for your elderly relative, now and down the line.
  • Plan:  Have a walk and talk with your elderly relative to create a clean-up plan. Take a hard look at possessions, what is needed, what can be sold, or what should be saved. In the digital age, much of the pleasure of items or collections can be captured in pictures and kept in an online or physical photo album. Belongings can be sold to others with similar interests. Make a schedule, plan which rooms to address first, and then keep to your project.
  • The special things:  For parents and the elderly, make a list of where you want valuable possessions to go when you pass away. This is an essential aspect of estate planning and can reduce potential disagreement among heirs. Often, the history or story attached to a special item is lost when an older person suffers memory difficulties. Create a video or record to ensure the memory is saved with the memento.
  • What—and how—to give away:  It is essential to decide what to keep, what you want to give to others, and what you can sell. For everyday items you are no longer using or wearing, decide if you want to give them away to a charity, sell them, or dispose of them. eBay, yard sales, and online forums like Craigslist are terrific for earning a few dollars for something you might otherwise have thrown away.
  • When you do not have time:  Sometimes, sudden events preclude any plan. If you are overwhelmed by the sudden passing of a loved one, or a move to a different residential setting, consider working with a reputable company to assist with home clean-out, residential maintenance, or an estate sale.

Planning for the future is a reality many of us avoid. Help yourself, or an elderly loved one by talking about downsizing when you still have the time to make it a good experience for all.

If you have questions about residential maintenance, estate sales, or legal services related to executing a Will—give us a call or fill out our safe and secure online contact form; we can help.

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