Moving into a smaller living situation is a big decision. More emotionally challenging, however, are the many little decisions your loved one must make about what to keep and what to let go.
- Possessions, from knickknacks to garden tools, hold many dear memories. Letting go of them is like discarding the people or events they are associated with.
- When boxing up the possessions of decades, it’s not a big jump to realize that one day—after dying—these possessions will be boxed up and permanently disbursed. Downsizing can feel like a little death, at the least the death of their younger self.
Allow plenty of time
Senior move experts recommend a minimum of three months’ lead time. A less hurried approach will allow your loved one to ease into the project and savor memories before saying goodbye. Consider these steps:
- Talk with your family member. Approach the topic carefully: “While we have the luxury of time, Mom, let’s begin to plan how things will fit in your new space. Only you know what’s most important to have with you.”
- Know what space is available. Obtain measurements or, better yet, visit the new residence and measure the floor space (and the closet space!). Create a layout drawn to scale to help your relative visualize what furniture will fit. Likewise, plot space for books, clothing, hobby materials, and other personal items.
- Be sensitive. That set of books may never have captured your interest, but they may hold beloved memories for Dad. This is your opportunity to learn the history of treasured possessions. Such sharing helps your loved one say goodbye, and it provides a way to “pay last respects” to parts of his or her past. What you hear may also change your mind about what to keep!
- Take time. Go at your parent’s pace, even if it seems tortoise-slow to you. If you rush, you’re likely to run into resistance or exhaustion.
Is downsizing on your radar?
We at Senior Life Management have helped many families go through the process of moving to a smaller household. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you support your loved one in making this transition as smoothly and sensitively as possible.
We all accumulate belongings over the years. But when is it too much?
According to Michael Tompkins, PhD, author of Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding and Compulsive Acquiring, your family member may be in the early stages of hoarding if he or she:
- keeps parts of the home off limits and the curtains drawn;
- talks with you endlessly about the stuff. You’ve stated your concerns, offered help, even gotten angry, and yet there’s no action;
- gets overwhelmed decluttering even a small area. It becomes a major job that can take more than a few hours or days;
- often fails to pay bills. Not necessarily for lack of money, but because the bills can’t be located. Or the stamps. Or the checkbook;
- is in debt because of compulsive shopping;
- has trouble finding things and resists storing belongings out of sight;
- puts off home repairs. He or she may not recognize the need. Or may not want to let a repairperson see the house;
- insists on meeting you at your home. This avoids embarrassment or confrontation about the clutter;
- rents one or more storage units. There is a seemingly unquenchable need for more storage space;
- will not let you touch or borrow his or her possessions. Possessions are guarded fiercely and may be treated as if they are “friends.”
If these symptoms look familiar, your family member may well have a hoarding disorder. He or she literally lacks the ability to eliminate clutter. Suggestions for next steps:
- Don’t rush to action. Force will only alienate your loved one. By maintaining your relationship, however, you may be able to help manage the problem.
- Learn more. The most extensive studies on hoarding are done by scientists researching obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Consider professional help. Especially if there are safety risks. Consult an Aging Life Care Manager or in extreme cases, Adult Protective Services.
Might it be more than clutter?
If you are worried, it may be time to call in professional help. We at Senior Life Management understand the full range, from an exuberant joy of shopping to extreme conditions that can even become a health hazard. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, give us a call at 949-716-1266. We can help you get perspective and take the next steps.