It’s a given that moving can be challenging and exhausting for most of us; for adults over 60, relocating is considered the third most stressful experience after a spouse’s death or divorce. This is often due in part to decades spent in the same house, surrounded by a lifetime’s worth of possessions that all carry meaning. The thought of downsizing and parting with what feel like precious keepsakes can be tough for our elderly parents; if you’re in the position of having to help with this process, here are some tips to make it go more smoothly.
- Get the Lay of the Land: You’re going to want to tackle one area at a time; if possible, think months or weeks, rather than days. Two hours a stretch is about all an elderly person can comfortably handle, according to senior move experts. Go through the house or apartment with this approach in mind, and make a timeline. Enlist some help from other family members or close friends if you can, and assign shifts.
- Create Sorting Categories: Once you have a plan of attack, think about these four categories when beginning the sorting process: items to be moved; items to be donated; keepsakes to be left with family members, and items to be thrown out. Another tip: use the new space measurements as your guide when trying to determine what can comfortably live in mom’s new digs, and what needs to go elsewhere.
- Ask Directed Questions: Open-ended questions like “Which plates do you want to keep?” can be overwhelming and can stall the process. Instead, stick to directed, yes-or-no questions that keep the momentum going. “I’ve got 6 of your best dinner plates, dessert plates, and salad plates here to pack up – sound good?”
- Cull the Treasure Herd: Most senior living spaces can’t possibly accommodate collections of memorabilia, photos, and other collectibles. Ask for a few favorites, and suggest other destinations for the rest. Digitizing is an option to consider for photos and documents, and is usually available at places like Costco and local camera shops. For objects whose fate is tough to assess, ask if there’s a story behind them. Getting mom to articulate what’s important about something (or not) can help determine where it falls in the food chain.
- Be Smart (and brutal) About Tossing: Don’t give a second thought to junk mail, stale spices, used candles, outdated medications, junk drawer contents, old toiletries – all should be tossed without consultation. And after one pass, ditch anything in the “maybe” pile; here’s where the OHIO rule of “only handle it once” really comes in handy.
- Call in the Pros: If you’re short on time, and/or have the budget for it, there are professionals who can help all along the way. The National Association of Senior Move Managers can manage everything from sorting to donating to packing up the old place to unpacking the new. Services like 1-800-GotJunk will take care of the removal of any unwanted items, often same-day.
Have any tips for us to share? We’d love to hear them – tell us in the comments!