Perhaps one of the most difficult decisions children of elderly parents must make is when to broach the topic of moving them and downsizing their current household goods. Perhaps you’re noticing your parents have lived in a home for decades with a precarious flight of stairs just waiting to spell disaster. Or your parents are looking to maximize their retirement and relocate to greener pastures.
No matter the reason, helping your elderly parents move and downsize their current home’s contents is a big task. A task that can cause strife and anxiety if not handled with the proper care.
Below, we’ve outlined steps you can take to best help your parents downsize their home before they move. The common theme? Patience and compassion.
Approach the Topic with Kindness
When you first broach the topic of downsizing your elderly parents’ belongings in preparation for an upcoming move, keep in mind that they might not exactly react with enthusiasm. Most people accumulate their belongings over decades, and many of those items become symbols for beloved memories. It’s difficult to simply discard the items your parents have curated for their home over many years.
Approach the topic of downsizing with kindness. If you sense the conversation isn’t productive, keep your mentions brief. Convincing them doesn’t have to happen in a single day.
Set Realistic Goals and Timelines
As most people aren’t exactly keen on the idea of getting rid of most of their household goods, be sure that you’re setting realistic goals and timelines. Your parents are about to experience a huge shift in their daily lives and giving them time to mentally prepare is a must.
Think back to when you first moved away from home. You knew you were going to move at least months, sometimes years, in advance. You gave yourself time to select what items you were bringing to your new home and prepared yourself for the change.
From making your initial suggestions to packing up items, make sure you and your parents are aligned on the goals of downsizing and how long it’s going to take. Keep them in the loop; provide occasional reminders to ensure everyone is still on the same page.
Make it Fun and Emphasize Inclusivity
Change doesn’t have to be scary. Try to include family members and friends in the downsizing process so that it’s more fun and exciting for your parents.
Though moving is difficult and you’re sure to be dealing with plenty of stress during this time, make room for positive experiences. Allow family and friends to bring food and snacks during packing or sorting days. If you find a dusty VHS tape of your elementary school play, pop it into your parents’ VCR as you work with them.
Be Comforting and Patient with Emotions
Though you’ll try to keep the downsizing fun and communicate with your parents every step of the way, negative emotions are something that really can’t be avoided. If you find your parents responding to packing or downsizing with anger or sadness, consider doing one of the following:
- Take a break from packing/downsizing and allow them to rest the remainder of the day.
- Encourage them to get out of the house and away from the mess. This could simply be a walk around the neighborhood.
- Allow them to express their emotions. Let them talk about how they’re feeling.
As your parents have comforted you, it’s now your turn to comfort. Try to avoid reasoning with them for long periods of time and know when to give them space.
Remember that Downsizing is Up to Them
Though you may not agree with all their decisions, the ultimate decision as to what to keep and what to get rid of is up to your parents. Avoid making them feel as though you’re telling them what they can and cannot keep.
This works best if you give them enough time to come to terms with the change and properly go through their things to their liking.
Work with the Right Professionals
If you’re going to bring in professionals to help you and your parents downsize before they move, make sure you’re working with the right people. Before hiring someone, ask if they have experience working with elderly customers or clients. This includes the following professionals:
- Organizational experts
- Moving companies
Again, remind yourself that this isn’t your home and your items. Be respectful of your parents and keep their preferences in mind as you hire people to assist you.
Get Rid of Things with Intentionality
As you and your parents downsize their belongings, you’re going to encounter plenty of stuff to get rid of. As you go, you can go through the following checklist to get items to the right location after your parents agree to part with them.
- Give items to loved ones. Invite people over and leave room for fun as you help your parents downsize. Ask your loved ones if they’d be interested in taking anything.
- Sell items. This can be done through a garage sale, at clothing consignment stores, or through second-hand furniture stores.
- Donate things. After you’ve sold things or given items to loved ones, you’ll likely still be left with a good amount of stuff to get rid of. Separate the remaining items by their condition. Items still in good condition can be donated, and items in poor condition can either be recycled or trashed.
- Trash or recycle the remaining items. Anything made of glass, paper, aluminum, steel, and cardboard can likely be recycled. For information on recycling plastic, make sure you check with your city’s recycling program.
Keep Items and Boxes Organized
Make sure you keep all remaining household goods organized after you and your parents downsize their things. Label all boxes and keep them clustered in their respective rooms so you can keep track of everything leading up to the move.
For an in-depth moving checklist, check out our blog on the topic.
Looking for Moving Services in Portland, OR?
At Redefyne Moving, we provide our customers with world-class residential & commercial moving services. From packing to storage, we have solutions that meet your needs. Our crew is professionally trained and experienced in helping elderly parents transition to the next phase in their life.