The previous post in this series was about having the downsizing talk with your parents. Now that you talked with your parents. And they have agreed that it would be a good idea to simplify their lives. What's next? Usually, your parent has been living in their home for a while, and there are probably many areas that need clearing out unused stuff.
Helping Aging Parents downsize their Stuff Suggestions
First, determine what areas have not been used in a while.
The first way to help aging parents downsize their stuff is to get a plan in order. These areas can include the basement, attic, garages, closets in guest rooms, etc... Make a list of all these areas in order of the least frequently used.
Decide on a time frame.
The second helping aging parents downsize their stuff is to determine a timeline. Work backward from the date you want to move and split your tasks into reasonable times that will work for you and your parent. Remember that they may not be able to do more than 4 hours of work at a time. Also, take into account their most active time of day. It could be early afternoon or late morning. Remember, you will not be able to do it all for them; they will need to be involved in the process.
Now, it is time to begin this process.
We will need to review the rooms that may not be their stuff. These are areas like kids' rooms that you can do without their help if they don't want to be involved. To do this, you should decide what you want to keep and get rid of. Most likely, many memorabilia items need to be removed. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide if you want to keep these items.
Questions to ask when clearing clutter in your room at your parent's house.
When you are ready to downsize their stuff, ask them these questions for each individual item. Sometimes holding the item will force them to make a decision other times, when they hold the item may stop them from getting rid of things. So, experiment and observe what happens when they hold an object while asking the questions below.
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Does this item remind me of any happy memories I want to remember? Yes or No.
Does this item truly add value to my home? Yes or No.
Is this item useful in my home? Yes or No.
Can I think of a way to use this item right now? Yes or No.
Would getting rid of this item create undue stress for my parent or me? Yes or No.
Remember, if you or they answered NO to more than 3 of these questions, feel free to donate or recycle this item.
Visit our post called 9 Surefire Ways to Downsize Your Life Without Guilt.
After you clear out your area, now it's time to start clearing out their areas.
Pick one room they don't visit often. Basement, attic, or guest room work great.
After you both mutually pick the room, start by reviewing what the room has in it.
Ask your parents questions about the stuff in the room. Have your parents tell you about the different items. They probably have a story about where they got it and what it means. Everyone has stories to tell, so make it easy for them by asking your parent what these items mean to them.
A question like this works great: "Mom / Dad, where did this item come from? It's really interesting."
Take your time and go through this area with them. There may be heightened feelings about particular items in this space. Take note (by writing down or marking it with a dot sticker) of any extreme feelings - positive or negative. Those feelings will help you later determine if they will be willing to get rid of it or if you need to keep it. Dot stickers can be color-coordinated to the feelings of your parent. Red could be for keeping the item, and green could be for donating that item.
If they feel they are done for the day, have them take a break, and you can start sorting the items into the keep and get rid of them.
Tell them that you will do the heavy lifting and take care of the sorting of the items. They can then come back and see what you did and review the items after you are finished. This way, it will give them time to rest and not feel so overwhelmed with the actual doing. It's a good idea for you to have help in this process. Extra hands make the job easier and quicker. Spouses and grandkids are great helpers.
This process may take some time, depending on how much stuff your parent has. Be patient with them in the process, and you, too, will be able to help them have a simpler life. Please share any tips you may have learned while downsizing your parents. I would love to hear from you.
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The Complete Series:
Feel free to visit the rest of the posts in this series:
THE DOWNSIZING TALK WITH AGING PARENTS
TIPS TO HELP YOUR PARENTS DOWNSIZE THEIR STUFF <<THIS POST!!!!
HELPING YOUR PARENTS WITH MONEY MATTERS
TIPS TO HELP YOUR PARENTS WITH PAPER MANAGEMENT
HELPING YOUR PARENTS WITH ONLINE ACCOUNTS
TIPS TO HELP YOUR PARENTS WITH LEGAL DOCUMENTS
So many good ideas! And I am the person in question! I really need to get rid of so much STUFF! I would love to have someone come in that has no emotional attachment to my things and help me purge. Do you know of any organizations that offer this service, either for free or even a minimal charge? I live in Trinity, NC and I sure could use them! Any ideas would be welcome!
For sure, Feel free to check out NAPO.net! You can select what type of Professional Organizer category fits your situation and search by zip code. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
A great post.
It is so vital to ask those questions, and to yourself. We must remember some of our parents are getting on in years, and their memories are not what they used to be. We have to make decisions for them, and sometimes something simple, is something important or valuable.
Thanks for sharing.
This is really good information. So many people need to go through this with their parents at some point and it can be a difficult topic. It is nice to have some guidance. I think I mentioned this last week, but I've moved so often in my life that I've never had a chance to accumulate much. My parents also moved quite a bit (even after I was grown) so the same for them. But for many, this is a huge task and it is good to have some sort of guide map to get through while keeping your parents happy.
My parents are long gone, but my neighbor has just made the tough decision (based on her age and health) to move back to the mainland to live with family and she's having a tough time dealing with the transition because she knows she can't take everything she's accumulated over the 35 years she's lived here so I'm going to email this to her and recommend she follow your series on this topic because I think it will really help her.
Sorry to hear that. I hope this helps your neighbor, Marquita.
I think that talking about big items like what furniture can you really fit into the new condo, is a good place to start. If you know what furniture, especially storage pieces are going, you have a better idea of what smaller stuff you'll have room for.
Great suggestion, Andi. Thanks or stopping by and adding to the conversation. =)
These are great tips, but my parents won't talk about any of this kind of stuff. It's hard to even be able to start to bring it up.
You are not alone. I know many people who deal with the same thing you are experiencing. Hang in there. If you can't get them to take action, be sure you know the stories about the different items. Then, when you have to do it later, you at least know what is important and what isn't. I had to clear both my parents' homes and it really helped to know what they treasured and what was just stuff.
Taking regular breaks when clearing out is important especially for the more mature. It can become all consuming and tiring.
What a useful check list.
I've heard the book: Don't Toss My Memories in the Trash by Vickie Dellaquila is a good resource. I haven't read it, are you familiar with it?
Having a plan like this for downsizing surely would help. I'm sure in many instances where downsizing would totally makes sense people are reluctant to do it since it seems like such a daunting task.
My parents are in the process of downsizing and are pretty overwhelmed with the scope of it. Not because they are so sentimental but because it's a big time consuming job. So it's super important to be there for your parents or hire someone if you can't be there.
Sabrina when my mom passed it was the same I knew what was important and even what songs she wanted played at her memorial. My brother had a hard time letting go of the everyday things. Thanks for sharing!
I would love to take a picture or video of my dad holding the items as he explains their importance. Then, whether he decides to keep them or not, I would always have that memento.
That's a great suggestion, Janet. There were certain items, like my dad's colorful sweater that I did have a picture of him in it. So, when I was going through the clothing, I didn't have to keep it. =) Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
I was lucky in that my parents downsized themselves. I did learn that taking time during the process is helpful. They don't want to feel like they are being rushed to throw away all of their memories. If you take time to look at items and relive the moments, it is easier to let it go.
You are lucky, Seana. Not many parents will take the initiative to downsize and really get it done. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
I like your tip on planning your timeline from working backwards from the finish date to the starting date do determine when you need to get things done. I did that with a client and she was amazed to see how little time she had available to get the job done when you considered days she was busy with other tasks and would not be able to do downsizing tasks.
Timelines make it more real for the person downsizing. They also realize what needs to be done and when. It gives the process more structure. Without structure, there is no way of knowing when it should be finished. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Julie.
Wish I could ask my parents those appropriate questions. But unfortunately it's too late because they have passed away.
I know what you mean, Catarina. When my mom passed, I was so grateful that I spoke with her every day. I knew exactly what she loved and what she wanted to pass on to us, the grandkids, friends, etc... We talked about it often. But, my brother didn't have that type of relationship so it was harder for him to deal with purging her stuff. We had to go on my knowledge. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
These questions are good for any of us trying to declutter or downsize. I like your approach to helping parents downsize. Asking about the stories is good. It probably means the job takes longer, but what you'll find out about their lives and feelings is invaluable. A few years before she died, my mother sorted through things in their house because she didn't want her children to be faced with an overwhelming project down the road. It was still tough after my parents died and there were still a few things we wondered about - what was the history?
I agree, Donna, we don't always know every story our parents have about different objects in their home. It would be nice to hear. I loved hearing the stories of where things came from. It's one thing I enjoy when working with clients.