How to Help and Encourage an Elderly Relative to Downsize

The time may come when you need to move an aging parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle from their long-time home into a more suitable living arrangement. When this happens, you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of their home asking, “What the heck are we going to do with all this stuff?”

Seniors usually acquire years upon years of things that need to be sorted, discarded, packed away, and/or organized before a big move—it’s an enormous project that requires a lot of time and energy.

To make matters worse, leaving a family home filled with memories is difficult for anyone. The process is even more difficult for seniors, who feel a loss of independence along with sadness knowing the move is generally due to age. There is a necessary grieving process that seniors are often not given the time or opportunity to go through!

While we’re here to assist with any senior move, there are some steps you can take now to prepare.

The following list will show you how to help and encourage an elderly relative to downsize—before the time comes to move!

Make it a positive experience

The best thing you can do in any downsizing project is to have a positive and upbeat attitude. Here are a few ways to put a positive spin on the process:

  • Offer to stop by your relative’s home more often to help them go through their things. Bring a meal or snacks with you to make it feel more like a get-together than a project.
  • Explain how you can use this opportunity to learn more about the family’s history. Schedule a day to go through old photos and precious hand-me-downs—make sure you have enough time set aside to hear all the old stories.
  • Before eliminating anything, focus on keeping the things they absolutely love and cannot live without. Once they know they’ll be hanging onto the things that are the most precious, the rest of process will be much easier.
  • Suggest putting a “memory” book together with them, and include pictures of them now.

Chip away at the project over time

Years of purchases can create a layered effect to possessions as new things pile on top and older items sink further to the bottom. Like an excavation project, you’ll want to go slow (if you have the luxury of time) and do a little bit each day or week. Start with items that have little sentimental value, setting aside items that do. Be sure that you are letting your relative make those hard decisions. You’ll be surprised at how much can get accomplished this way, and the process will be much less arduous on your relative.

Appraise the value of any items

While it’s unusual to find antique treasures in an elderly relative’s home, you should absolutely have professional appraiser take a look at any item you think might be valuable. Not only will this give you the confidence you need to discard items based on their value, but it will also make it a fun and interesting experience for your relative.

Bring the whole family in on the project

Your relative may want to throw something away thatwill be of sentimental value to a younger cousin or sibling. When downsizing, be sure to bring in family members so they can ask to keep certain items that would otherwise be discarded. If the family is scattered all over the country, sharing pictures via email and text is a great way to let other family members “weigh in.”

Of course, if at any point you need to speed up the process helping an elderly relative to downsize or need to bring in an objective third party, always remember we are here to help. We can do as much or as little as you’d like. Our goal is to make downsizing a positive experience for everyone.