Moving can be an emotional process at any age, especially for an elderly person. Many Seniors have acquired years and years worth of belongings, and the idea of going through them can seem overwhelming. But starting the process of downsizing sooner rather than later can ease the transition for seniors and their families.

The key to downsizing is to start the process before it becomes an urgent necessity. It’s always better to be proactive, rather than reactive. If you wait until an emergency or a hospitalization or for some other major life to occur, it can make the process more stressful for everyone. Start the conversation with your parents or elderly loved one early. If you spring something on someone out of no where, it can feel unsettling. But if you have an open and honest conversation about downsizing, that’s how it can be made in to a positive experience. You have to prepare for the conversation while still being sensitive to their emotions. According to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (aka ‘The Stress Scale’), for adults over 60, only a spouse’s death and divorce rank as more stressful than moving to a nursing home or retirement home. Even if it’s not time for a parent to move out of their home, having a conversation about downsizing can be beneficial even for Seniors living in their own homes.

Here are some good tips to take in to consideration when having the conversation;

  • Avoid tackling the whole house all at once. This can cause stress and discomfort, and it may defeat the purpose of your work. Instead, work on one room at a time. Maybe start with the kitchen, going through old dishes, china, silverware, old plastic ware, etc. If there are items of importance, set those aside. Or if there are items of value, but not necessarily important, consider selling those items or donating them to a good cause.
  • Avoid the maybe pile. It’s good to put things aside that you may consider keeping, but if it becomes a lengthy discussion on whether to keep it or donate it, just be practical. If it hasn’t been used in a long period of time, and holds no significant value, it’s probably time for it to go.
  • Encourage your loved on to focus on items that they use on a regular basis, and to let the rest go. It is easy to become attached to items, even if they’re not being used, because it feels like you’re losing some control getting rid of things. There are always emotions attached to ‘things’. But just gently remind your parent or loved one that you understand what they are going through, while helping them remained focused on the task at hand.
  • If there are items that are being kept because they are intended to be gifted or left as a legacy, encourage your loved one to gift them now. It gives them a reason to have family or friends over and be social and experience the joy first hand of passing on important items while they are still alive. Rather than having these items be gifted later down the road.

While there is much advice that could be given about downsizing, just remember that ‘letting go’ is never easy. Even if it’s letting go of physical things. Be sensitive and understanding throughout the process and be genuine throughout your discussions.