For many seniors, there comes a time when then must downsize their homes and cut back on the amount of “stuff” they keep around. Sometimes seniors must downsize to prepare for a move. In other cases, they must cut back on the amount of clutter in their homes for safety or organizational purposes. In any case, getting parents to part with their belonging can be challenging. For many seniors, downsizing is a very sensitive subject, making it easy for conversations about parting with belongings to quickly turn into arguments and result in hurt feelings. Here are some tips for keeping the peace when helping an elderly parent downsize their home:
Be respectful. It’s important to recognize that while certain items may seem unimportant, your parents have held onto them for a reason. Many have memories attached to them and hold sentimental value. Make sure your parent feels involved in the decision-making process of what stays and what goes. Be sensitive to their concerns and emotions. Your parent is much more likely to be cooperative through the downsizing process when they feel respected.
Identify your goals and set a schedule. Before you begin, know what you’re trying to accomplish and how much stuff you’ll need to get rid of. Set goals and deadlines to help you and your aging parent work efficiently. Start by sorting through one or two small rooms a week. Begin to set higher goals as they become more comfortable getting rid of things. Breaking the overall task at hand into segmented tasks will make it less overwhelming and more manageable for both parties.
Communicate. Consult the individual before getting rid of anything. If they are reluctant to part with an item ask them to explain why they feel the need to keep it. Do they really believe that it will come in use later? Does it hold a lot of sentimental value? Engage in an honest discussion with your senior to help them identify which specific emotions are preventing them from letting go of their belongings. This may help ease their anxiety about giving their things away.