If it’s been awhile since your parents had a garage sale, it might be time to start going through those boxes stuffed with baby clothes, high school yearbooks and old bank statements in their basement. Whether they’re planning on downsizing or not, helping them declutter and organize now gives them a chance to go through their keepsakes and mementos while they can still share memories of special moments.
Plus, clutter can not only make it harder to access important things you need, but it also increases the risk of your parents falling and hurting themselves. Decluttering and downsizing now also reduces the chance that you’ll inherit a home full of stuff.
Don’t wait until you need to hire an estate liquidator or junk hauler to get rid of your family’s possessions — prized or not. Here are four decluttering and downsizing tips for seniors.
Go One Box at a Time
If it’s too overwhelming and stressful to think about going through every room in your parents’ four-bedroom home, don’t. Pick a box or a closet, and take your time with each item. Give your parents the chance to tell stories and enjoy the things they’ve been saving for so long.
Act on Your Decision
When downsizing for seniors, make a decision — keep, donate or discard, or sell — and stick with it. Don’t hold onto that serving platter that hasn’t even been opened or that lamp that your mom never really liked. If your parents are having a hard time figuring out what to do, here are some questions you can ask them that might help:
- Have you used this in the past year?
- Does having it enhance your quality of life?
- When you move, will this fit in your new space?
- Do you think you could make a significant amount of money selling it?
Organize What’s Left
Just because you’re downsizing doesn’t mean you have to throw everything away, but you can reduce clutter just by getting organized. If your parents have non-digital photos scattered throughout the house in shoeboxes and bound albums, help them scan their prints and create digital photo albums. If there are heirlooms your parents know they want to keep in the family, don’t wait to give those keepsakes away. Store like with like, and keep the floor, especially stairs, clear of clutter and boxes.
Hire an Expert
You know your parents’ stuff better than anyone else, but that doesn’t mean you have to go through the downsizing process alone. There are personal organizers and senior move managers who specialize in downsizing for seniors. They aren’t free, but they can provide nonjudgmental advice and can oversee the entire process.
Downsizing a lifetime’s worth of possessions doesn’t have to be stressful. Follow these downsizing tips for seniors, and use this an opportunity to reorganize prized possessions and important documents so they’re easily accessible and to enjoy keepsakes and mementos with your parents while they still can.