Moving to a senior living facility almost always means moving to a smaller living space. While some of us relish the thought of a spring cleaning, such a move can be extremely stressful as cherished mementos and long-held items might not be able to make the move.
How do you downsize without the stress?
Remember Whose Stuff It Is
One of the biggest underlying stressors in this situation is the feeling of a loss of control. If a senior is getting help downsizing, she can feel like someone else is making the decisions about her things, which can be a difficult experience.
If the senior can stay in control and exercise as much agency as possible over what goes and what stays then the situation can feel managed, not like they are being forced to part with special memories and a lifetime of collection.
While it might be more manageable for family members to dedicate an afternoon or weekend to downsizing, the time crunch can lead to major stress and feelings of misgiving about an upcoming move. Meanwhile, if the process goes more slowly it’s easier to feel in control and to manage the pace of change. Losing too many possessions at once, even if they aren’t required, can be painful.
Going slow also gives people time to talk about the items before they go. A
Give, Don’t Toss
Downsizing doesn’t need to mean throwing away everything. The giving away of something as mundane as a long-used sauce pot or dresser can turn downsizing into an incredibly rewarding experience, where the senior is helping a friend or loved one. Maybe one day soon they will be over their house and see the item in use making the experience even nicer.
Keep in mind that this can put pressure on close family members, often children, to accept items that they don’t need or want. A good solution for this is to extend out the circle of receivers — it won’t take anything away from the warm feeling of giving. Need ideas for who to offer things to? Try to think of people who help around the house (like a cleaning person or handyman), neighbors, and professional relations (like a hairstylist).
If giving doesn’t work, donating or even selling items can feel better than simply throwing them out.
Take a Picture
It might seem like it wouldn’t be gratifying, but taking a picture of something and having that picture on your phone can be just as good as having the actual item. After all, it’s not usually the physical object that is important to us, but the memories it invokes, and a phone image is nearly as good at doing this as walking past the object.
Instead of taking a picture items can be digitized as well. Boxes of photographs can be scanned in for little more than the price of a scanner, or paying a photo scanning service. Things like VHS tapes can be backed up as computer video files, and a valued DVD collection can be either replaced with digital downloads or at least separated from the bulky cases.
It’s unavoidable that we’d get emotionally attached to our things, so parting from them can be a challenge. That said, if the parting is done correctly it can be a cathartic experience as a life transitions from one stage to the next.
Still Need Help?
If all this isn’t doing the trick, there are professionals in the space known as Senior Move Managers.