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21 November, 2018

How to Help Your Parent Downsize

Is your parent thinking about moving to a retirement community? Even if the move is years down the road, it’s best to start downsizing sooner rather than later.

Downsizing—or, as many like to call it, rightsizing—is a great way to clean out the clutter and get the most out of your parent’s current space, while also preparing for the future.

The Benefits of Rightsizing

Your parent may be hesitant to rightsize their belongings. However, there are many benefits of downsizing.

Rightsizing a home can lead to a happier life as your parent is less consumed by irrelevant stuff. It can mean less maintenance, as they’ll have fewer possessions to clean and to care for.

Additionally, downsizing sooner rather than later will be enormously beneficial in the long run. Your parent may be in good health now, but no one is given a guarantee of a clean bill of health.

If a retirement community is something your parent is interested in, you may want to start the downsizing conversation with them now. It will be much easier to sort through their possessions while they are active and healthy.

Rightsizing can also be financially beneficial for your parent. The less stuff they have, the less space they need to store it all. A smaller home or apartment is more efficient and cuts unnecessary utility expenses.

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Looking for a smaller space? Browse our available apartments and cottages.

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How to Begin Rightsizing

Rightsizing can be difficult and emotional. How can you help your parent decide what to keep, what to give away, what to sell, what to discard?

Here are few tips to help:

  • Work from the outside in. Start in the rooms farthest from the heart of the home, such as the attic, basement and storage rooms. That’s where there are more items that are simply being stored rather than used. Then move into the bedrooms, family room, and kitchen.

  • Create piles. Make separate piles of items your parent plans to sell, donate and give to friends or relatives. Then get those items out of the home right away, so your parent won’t change their mind.

  • Involve the whole family. Items hold different meanings for various family members. You don’t want to save and store a box of high school memorabilia only to find out your brother doesn’t want them. You also don’t want to toss a candy dish that brings back special memories for your sister.

  • Ask your parent questions. If they’re unsure about whether to keep an item, ask them when was the last time they used it, how often they use it, what purpose it serves, what shape it is in, etc.

  • Keep the possibility of a new, smaller home in mind. Sketch out what pieces of furniture and other large items will fit in a smaller home and get rid of remaining furniture.

  • Start during the holidays. Everyone will already be together and can weigh in on what they would like to keep. It’ll also be easier to have family members take any belongings they’ve left at your parent’s house and store them elsewhere.

  • Allow room for sentiment. Your parent doesn’t have to get rid of everything they hold dear. If they’re really attached to an item, encourage them to keep it!

What to Do with Their “Stuff”

If you’re helping your parent downsize, once they’ve sorted everything into the “keep, toss, sell, and donate” categories, the next step is to send those items off to the appropriate places.

For items they’ve chosen to toss, make sure there’s nothing hazardous being sent to the landfill, such as electronic items, batteries, or lightbulbs. For larger items, you may have to arrange for pickup.

If you’re helping them find appropriate charitable causes for their donations, AARP has a really great list of charities to donate items to. There you’ll find suggestions for everything from books to boats.

Finally, encourage your parent to pass family heirlooms to family members. This can help make rightsizing a very meaningful experience. They can take the time to tell the recipient the story connected to the item, which makes it easier to part with cherished belongings they no longer wish to store.

Next Steps After Downsizing

Once your parent has finished downsizing their possessions, it may be time to start looking for a smaller, more convenient home. Apartment homes at a senior living community can be a great option for older adults interested in maintaining their independence while having access to helpful services and amenities.

However, many older adults have questions about making the move that can cause them to delay the decision. If that’s the case for your parent, they may be interested in our guide, “Making an Informed Senior Living Decision.” It will help explain the different types of senior living community options, what to look for at each community, and how to research options.

Making an informed senior living decision.

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