If you have an older parent, there will come a time when you will have to sort through all of the items they have accumulated throughout their lifetime. At Oaks Senior Living, we know this important task can seem overwhelming and daunting! It can be a time for both bonding and sifting through meaningful memories and an opportunity to hear fascinating stories of your loved one’s past. With all those things in mind, follow these 6 tips for help with downsizing!
Tip 1 – Create A Plan
The best way to start any big task is to have an outline.
- Which room will you start with?
- How much time will you spend in that room?
- Where will the items in each room go?
You need to create a plan for sorting through your older parent’s home. If they have a large house versus an apartment, the time will obviously differ. Just take into consideration the number of rooms, the amount of time you have, the number of possessions you will need to sort through, and how you will move the items in each room.
Tip 2 – Pace Yourselves
Be realistic with the amount of time you allot for each area in your loved one’s home and remember to pace yourself. Sorting through a lifetime of significant memories is not going to be a quick task. It is essential not to rush as you could accidentally discard something meaningful. Going at too fast a pace could also overwhelm the senior in your life, so be sure to take your time and be thoughtful. Enjoy the moments together.
Tip 3 – Give Your Parent the Power
It can be easy to assume an old music pamphlet is a discarded piece of garbage, but to your loved one that could have been their mother’s favorite song sheet to sing. Let your parent label what is important to them and ask questions - do not assume. This is the perfect opportunity to hear about their wild side in college or about that daring adventure that just hasn’t been brought up yet.
Tip 4 – Remember Stories
Sorting through mementos of the past can bring up meaningful and significant memories; you could literally be sorting through a lifetime of moments with your older loved one. It is essential not to rush them, let them reminisce over past occasions. This is the ideal time for bonding and igniting a deeper conversation. Take the time to listen to the meaningful stories connected to each item. If possible, find a way to preserve some of the stories you hear in a digital way so that you can share them with other family members. A journal with the notes from the stories will help to keep memories alive.
Tip 5 – Gift Heirlooms to Family Members
Learning what makes something special can give meaning to an item for anyone involved. It may not be feasible for your parent to keep everything that has meaning - this is why family heirlooms hold such significance.
Your older loved one might rather keep their father’s armoire in the family and perhaps even get to see their grandson put it to use for his clothing. Having your loved one involved in the process of gifting special items will be meaningful for the receiver as well. If your loved one does not know whom to give an item to, you could take a picture and share it on a family group chat or social media and ask who would be interested.
Tip 6 – Finish and Make Decisions
For items that hold less significance but are still valuable, you and your loved one need to decide if they hold any purpose in their life now. A simple way to discover value is asking how often they use an item or when was the last time it was used. If it was over a year ago or they cannot remember, they might not miss it. If another family member or loved one will not get use out of it, then there are four options.
- Sell it online
- Sell it in a thrift store
- Sell it at a garage sale
- Or donate it to the less fortunate
It can be challenging to sort through the possessions your older parents have acquired throughout their life. However, if they are moving out or moving someone else in, sorting through items may become a necessity. With these downsizing tips for seniors, we hope you and your loved one find joy and create memories.
If your older loved one is seeking a more efficient community that could assist them with a variety of needs, learn more about Oaks Senior Living and schedule a tour today!