Downsizing to move into a smaller place is rarely easy. When you’re helping your elderly parents move you have the added consideration of their emotional attachment to their home and possessions. It can be very hard deciding what to keep and what to let go of.
We asked Jennifer Bakos, Site Manager at Apple Self Storage in downtown Toronto, for some suggestions on how to help seniors downsize to move into a new home or retirement community. She knows that downsizing can be difficult for many seniors, but believes the result is well worth it. Along with a number of lifestyle benefits, having fewer possessions in a new place creates a clutter-free environment that helps minimize stress and reduces the effort needed to tidy up.
Here are 7 tips for helping your parents downsize.
1. Talk about it
Keep in mind that it’s probably hard for them to leave their home after so many years of living there. Be empathetic and understanding to their fears and concerns. Help them maintain a feeling of control by discussing all their options and giving them as much choice as possible.
2. Focus on the benefits of downsizing
Some common benefits include:
- Easier maintenance: moving to a lower-maintenance place means your parents don’t have to worry about home repairs, cutting lawns, shoveling snow, and all the upkeep of a larger home.
- Lower cost of living: Downsizing can help increase their retirement savings. They’ll also spend less on expenses like heating and electricity in a smaller space.
- Comfort and safety: If your parents have any kind of medical needs, such as mobility issues, vision or hearing impairments, they’ll be safer and more comfortable living somewhere that can provide the care and services they need.
3. Make a plan
The next step is figuring out exactly how much space they’ll have in their new place. What’s the square footage and how many rooms need to be furnished? Some experts recommend plotting the floor plan out on paper and cutting out pieces to represent furniture. There are also a number of simple computer programs that can help you visualize the space and room layouts in their new home.
4. Create a system for letting go
Determine the best way to sort and organize their belongings to figure out what to keep and what to let go. Creating a system helps reduce the emotional attachment involved with these decisions. Help them sort their belongings into 4 categories:
- Items for their new home
- Keepsakes for the family
- Items to be sold or donated
- Things to be thrown out
5. Take time to declutter
Don’t rush the process. It’s hard to go through years of possessions and memories and declutter all at once, so take the time that’s needed. Help them say goodbye to anything they won’t be using that doesn’t have an emotional attachment.
6. Document their possessions
Your parents may want to keep their new space as familiar as possible. So help them recreate their current setup by taking notes and pictures of their items, how the furniture is arranged, what items go in each room, and how artwork and family photos are arranged on the walls. Making notes will also help you keep track of the whereabouts of important documents and treasured items.
7. Consider renting a storage unit
Seniors are often resistant to moving because they’re afraid they won’t have space for all their belongings. Renting a storage unit can help alleviate that fear. They can still hold onto items that are important to them even if they don’t fit in their new home.
More and more families are also looking into self-storage so they can downsize more easily now and sort through their parents’ extra items at a later date.
To make the best use of a storage locker, declutter and downsize as much as possible. Any additional items your parents want to keep can go into a storage unit, especially oversized items such as large electronics, outdoor equipment, and unused vehicles. If they want to store sentimental items and memorabilia, a climate-controlled storage unit is a good choice.
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