Helping Your Parents to Downsize


Your parents have decided to downsize from their home of fifty years to a condo or apartment. How do you possibly begin to declutter and help them reduce their possessions?

Downsizing can be an emotional job, so it is best to start as soon as possible to allow yourself and them enough time to complete the task. You don’t want to leave it to the last minute or create an unnecessary crisis. It will be stressful enough so don’t make it any more stressful than it needs to be.

It will be helpful if you create a plan. Where are they moving to and how much space will they have? Who will help with the process of downsizing? What will you do with everything? For every item, you will need to decide if you will keep it, sell it, give it away or throw it out. The rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used an item in two years, you likely do not need it.

Involve your parents in making the plan and include them in all the decisions. Ask them to make a list of everything that they will not need or want in their new home. Do they have a shed full of gardening tools, shovels, a snow blower, lawnmower and deck furniture? Start with the easy stuff that doesn’t have sentimental attachment.

If money is not an issue, the easiest route may be to give items away and let other people take it off your hands. Check with the immediate family first to see if anyone can use the patio table or a new barbeque. Setting up a Facebook group for family members and friends can be an effective way to communicate with everyone and let them know what items are up for grabs.

After you have taken care of the larger outdoor items, it is time to start with the rooms in the house. Go around the house and stick post-it notes on items to indicate what you decided to do with it. Put everything that is not wanted in one room. That way it will be collected together and tidy. Ask your friends if anyone knows of a student or someone setting up their own apartment who could use the extra dishes, or household items. Either offer to give it away or accept a goodwill offering, if the person insists on paying you.

When it comes to throwing things out, make sure you know what day garbage pick-up is on, how many bags you can put on the curb, and equip yourself with some heavy-duty garbage bags.

The sentimental items may be the most difficult to know what to do with. One approach may be to encourage your parents to give items away now to family and friends who they were going to leave them to rather than waiting until they pass away.

It is likely that your parents will want to keep more stuff than they will possibly be able to fit in their new dwelling. Don’t argue with them over this. Let them work it out on their terms. A move is a big change at any age, and more so as you get older. Keep in mind how you would feel if someone came into your home and told you what you should get rid of.

In the end, everything will be dealt with, and it is more important to keep your relationship with your parents intact as you help them part way with their beloved possessions and leave their home of many years.

Questions about caring for elderly loved ones? Kimbrough Law may be able to help. Just give us a call at 706.850.6910.

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