by Susan Borax
While most seniors want to remain independent in their homes, there comes a time when this may no longer be possible. Moving is considered to be the third most stressful life event after divorce and changing jobs. Downsizing a lifetime’s collection of documents, possessions and their associated memories, can be particularly wrenching for elders and their families. This is why successful downsizing is an emotional as well as practical problem, often entailing a process of grief.
Seniors typically move to a residence smaller than their current one. Part of the stress comes from deciding what to take and what to leave behind.Some Seniors remain virtual prisoners in their homes because they don’t know how to deal with all of their things or cannot face seeing those decisions through. Often too, an older adult may be alone with no family or friends to help them with the moving process.
The following are suggestions to help make a move easier:
- Downsizing is a time consuming process. Don’t try to rush it. Allow 40 to 60 hours for packing and at least that amount of time for sorting and decision making and the processing of grief.
- Allow the older person to talk about the memories and meanings of the things they are taking or leaving. Share some laughter and sadness in the stories behind the possessions.
- Focus on the attic, basement, and spare rooms first. These are the areas that will be least disruptive to daily living and contain items that may not have been used for a considerable period of time.
- Work on one room at a time to avoid being distracted.
- Ask the following questions:
- When was the last time this was used?
- When was the last time this was displayed?
- Is this a duplicate?
- Will the new home have room for this?
- Will there be a need for this in the future?
- Can money be made from this?
- Is there another way to honour a memory other than holding on to the possession?
- Will this be of greater value to someone else than it is to me?
- Create an “I can’t decide pile.” Save that for sorting when you feel up to it.
- Make a floor plan of the new home. Cut furniture templates to scale to help decide what will fit.
- Give treasured items and photos to family, neighbors, friends, organizations or places of worship.
- Get appraisals on valuable items. This can help in deciding who in the family gets what because there is a monetary value. Emotional value is hard to compare, so monetary values can be helpful in avoiding family conflict.
- Contact antiques dealers, high-end consignment shops or auctioneers. Use on-line classifieds to sell privately
- Contact junk removers and charities to pick up excess belongings and hazardous products.
- For some people, it is hard to let go of everything at once. If you don’t want to decide right away, hire commercial storage space until the Senior is ready to make a decision.
- As you are looking through the past, remember to look to the future too!
(Susan Borax is the owner of Good Riddance Professional Organizing Solutions ( www.goodriddance.com ). With a warm and sensitive approach, the company has successfully helped numerous seniors and their families through this difficult second-stage transition. They deliver workshops on Downsizing and Surviving in Small Spaces. They can be reached at 604 421 5952 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation.–Editor)
Hire a Relocation Team
There is a growing industry of professionals who specialize in supportive relocation for housing transitions. These relocation experts handle the all the logistics associated with helping Seniors downsize and move. A supportive Relocation Manager supplies the guidance that seniors need when faced with the daunting task of sorting through their belongings and making decisions about what to take and not to take to the new home.There can also be tremendous benefit in having someone from outside of the family take on this role. Decisions are not then tied (rightly or wrongly) to a family member. The Senior may feel less swayed, and more in control of the process. A relocation expert can be helpful in making the most logical decisions in terms of what to keep and what to let go of becasue they don’t have a vested interest in those decisions.
Diamond Geriatrics’ “Moving Experiences” provides a total relocation service. We work with a team of Relocation Professionals such as Susan Borax and Good Riddance, lawyers, and Real Estate agents. Moving Experiences helps Seniors and their families through the entire moving process, from seeking out and sorting through the best and most appropriate housing, packing and moving, unpacking and setting up house in the new location, contacting all the services that need to be contacted, and selling one’s home–all with the professionalism and compassion for which Diamond Geriatrics is known. A completely “Moving Experience!”