Downsizing a Home – How to Make it as Painless as Possible

June 22, 2018 0

No matter what age you are, downsizing is a difficult transition.

There is therefore no doubt that downsizing your elderly loved one’s home in preparation for a move to live with you or a move to live at a nursing home is difficult.

In this post, we will go over how you as a caregiver, can make downsizing a home as painless as possible for your elderly loved one.

Downsizing a Home – How to Make it as Painless as Possible

Downsizing and moving a home you have lived in for 20, 30 or 40 years is not a light issue.

When you add in a sense of a loss of control, things get sticky quickly.

As a caregiver, it is important for you to realize that no matter how you slice and sautee it, downsizing will take an emotional toll on you and your elderly loved one.

Have an open discussion

The road to an efficient downsizing and moving transition is paved with discussion.

If there is enough time to prepare, I recommend that the conversation starts at least 3 months before the actual event.

People do need time to grieve losses. Getting rid of items that have sentimental value and moving out of a home triggers a sense of loss in many ways.

First, there is the loss of the physical items.

And then, there is a fear of the loss of the memories those items represent.

Last but not least, there is a sense where the elderly adult begins to feel a sense of loss of control over their very lives.

Those are heavy emotions to navigate.

Having an open discussion will help them come to terms with what is happening and give them an opportunity to psychologically let go.

During the discussion:

  • Mention clearly why downsizing and moving have become necessary for them. Perhaps they currently struggle to move around or they are forgetting to take their medication. Be kind but clear that you have their best interests at heart.
  • Ask them how they feel about downsizing and moving. As I mentioned already, the introduction of this topic will already make an older adult feel like they are losing control over their life. It is therefore important they their input is taken seriously during this discussion.
  • Discuss a plan with them. Once you have their input, it is time to discuss a plan. I’ll expand on that below.

The plan to downsize (PLUS A CHECKLIST)

Having the discussion ahead of time also gives you a long period over which to spread downsizing.

Chances are that you will have to go through a number of possessions that have been accumulated over the years.

Giving yourself time to sort through and get rid of things reduces the stress felt by everyone.

You can print off the checklist below to make sure you help your loved one downsize efficiently.

  • Make a list of what your loved one would absolutely love to keep. It makes it easier when it comes to getting rid of sentimental items. Have a notebook where you make important notes on what they want to keep.
  • Set a firm date for completion of the downsize and/or move. This gives everyone a deadline to work towards.
  • Start by going through the house room by room. It helps to make the de-cluttering and clean up process easier.
  • Get rid of the unimportant things first. Expired food, drinks and medications in shelves can cabinets can be tossed first.
  • Get rid of or donate old clothes and books. Goodwill, churches/places of worship and The Salvation Army are good places to start donating.
  • Alternatively, you can help your elderly loved one start a yard/estate sale to make some money off their old items.
  • Shred old/cancelled checks, banks statements older than 7 years or any other document that is outdated but which has sensitive information on them. Avoid senior scams!
  • Locate and collect important documents like wills and Advance Directives. These need to be stored securely if possible in a safe deposit box until it is needed.
  • Keep de-cluttering for a few hours each week and remember to keep things lively and stress-free.

Selling the home, vehicles and changing addresses

  • Do they need to sell their house? You will need to speak with a real estate agent and make arrangements for listing, showing and finally selling the home.
  • File a change of address at the post-office for your loved one so they don’t miss any important mail. You may also have to change their address directly with banks, financial institutions (if they have investments), insurance companies and publication subscriptions. This is a good time to cancel any of these mailings your loved one will no longer need.
  • Vehicles can also be donated or sold.
  • If there are pets involved, make sure to have plans for them too.
  • Cancel utilities like gas and water.
  • If it is financially feasible, get in touch with professional movers. Otherwise, get the help of friends and family to help with the final move.

Items that have sentimental value

Because sentimental items can be a point of contention, it is best if you do this last.

If you have already made a list of items they want to keep, this should make things easy.

But do expect resistance against getting rid of certain items like heirlooms and even things as simple as particular clothing their children wore.

Closing Thoughts

Downsizing your elderly loved one’s life to a few suitcases and boxes is an immensely difficult decision.

Having a candid discussion and a solid plan ahead of them makes the transition easier.

In this post, I gave you a check-list you can print out and use to help your loved one downsize and move with grace and dignity.

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