Just as the seasons change, and the summer heat gives way to a cool autumn, so do the seasons of life. Moving is a daunting and intimidating process, especially when combined with the emotions that come from the process of aging and moving into assisted living. Moving into assisted living comes with the complication of downsizing from a house into an apartment or condo-sized space. Most families do not know where to start in the moving process. After an assisted living community is selected and move-in date is set, it’s time to discuss what items they will take to their new home.
The fear of downsizing is not something unique to your individual situation. According to a study by the Gerontology Center at the University of Kansas “30% of people over the age of 70 had done nothing to give away belongings over the past 12 months”, however, “50% believed they have too many belongings”.
Author Wendell Berry jokes, “Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire”. While humorous, it is also a good mantra to use when downsizing for assisted living.
Let’s explore some tips to make this process easy:
1. Don’t wait to the last moment to start!
Even under the best circumstances, people procrastinate when it comes to the packing process of an impending move. For the smoothest transition, be proactive and do not wait to pack. Start planning as soon as your move-in date is set. A great way to tackle the task of downsizing is packing one room at a time. Start at rooms that aren’t used regularly such as guest rooms and sell, give away, or dispose of items that you do not need. To mitigate stress, it’s important to set goals and stick with them.
2. Be honest about lifestyle needs.
Another reality of aging is being honest about your future lifestyle, which is often times a fabulous opportunity to downsize. Downsizing is all about getting rid of things that aren’t classified as “needs” or that aren’t relevant to the next stage in life. For example, those skis that have been collecting dust for 20 years are probably not meant to be in your packed boxes. There are plenty of ways to stay active and pursue interests you enjoy when living in assisted living, but don’t make the mistake of bringing items that aren’t related to hobbies you are passionate about.
3. Let it go.
While it’s natural to want to hold onto things that you’ve had for years, ask yourself “does it hold any real value to you?”. If it does, pack it for your move while sacrificing other items that don’t have sentimental value. If there’s no room, look for alternate solutions. For example: instead of taking a whole set of China plates, create a memory box with one of the plates and teacup. Alternatively, pass heirlooms on to a younger family member for them to enjoy and cherish.
These are just a few tips to help your family through a new and emotional season of life. Most of all, whether you are in need of downsizing before moving into assisted living or you are researching for a loved one, the biggest way to ease the transition is with help. Friends, family and outside resources are a way to help relieve the stress of moving.