Helping Your Aging Parents Declutter and Downsize

Aging adults accumulate belongings in the course of their lives that they no longer use. While most of these things have sentimental value, it makes more sense to downsize than to hold on to them. Helping your aging parents declutter their home is daunting, especially if they are reluctant to do so. Here are some tips to help you downsize an elderly person’s home.

  1. Talk To Your Parents

Your parents will need you to convince them to downsize their belongings. Therefore, your choice of words is crucial if you want them to accept your proposal. During your conversation, try focusing on the benefits of decluttering.

For example, decluttering will help them determine what they need. Downsizing involves identifying the things you use the most and the ones you rarely use. You can choose to donate unnecessary items. Hire a moving service to move heirlooms and other vintage items to a church, shelter, or storage facility. Additionally, movers can help you transport non-hazardous materials to dump sites.

  1. Document All Belongings

Before decluttering, you must document all your parents’ belongings. To retain memories of discarded items, consider taking photos and videos for future reference. You could create a scrapbook with photos and stories about treasured possessions.

For the videos, you could have your parents narrate stories about specific heirlooms and precious items. After documenting all possessions, it is easier to donate, sell, or throw them away because the memories will last for years to come.

  1. Set Realistic Goals

Downsizing shouldn’t be an exercise that is carried out hurriedly. You should take your time to ensure you keep the essential items and discard the unnecessary ones. It is advisable to divide downsizing into small, manageable parts.

Start by setting time limits. For example, you could set aside one hour on Saturday. Also, focus on one small department. You can start with a single closet and later move on to a storage unit. Sort the items by labeling bags or cardboard boxes as keep, recycle, or give away. If you cannot agree on what to do with an item, label the box “can’t decide.” 

When you have small achievable goals, decluttering will be easier than setting one big goal that takes time to accomplish. Take breaks in between the exercises. This is an excellent way to deal with stress flares. Playing your parents’ favorite music will also make the exercise more enjoyable.

  1. Make Moving Around the House Easier

Clutter in your parents’ home increases the risk of slip and fall accidents. A report by the CDC states that every year, one in four seniors fall in their homes.

The following steps can help eliminate clutter and reduce the risk of falling:

  • Remove hazards such as extension cords, scatter rugs, and stacks of unnecessary items lying around the home.
  • Use the 2-year rule: According to this standard, if your parents haven’t used or needed items in the last two years, you should discard them.
  • Ease your parents’ minds. Assure them you aren’t dumping their items in a landfill but blessing someone else who needs them. This will make it easier for them to let go.
  1. Avoid Storage Facilities

Studies show that storage facilities are not only costly, but they delay decision-making. If you store items in self-storage, they will remain there for many years without any benefit to your parents. It may be a good idea to store items in storage temporarily if you haven’t yet decided what to do with them.

If you can afford storage and it makes your parents feel comfortable in the short term, you should invest in it. However, you should revisit self-storage decisions every few months. Whatever is in a storage facility should have value; otherwise, you should consider discarding it.

  1. Make a New Home Feel Like Home

In many cases, people think about decluttering when moving their parents to a new residence. Therefore, you should try and recreate the feeling of the home your parents are leaving.

Be attentive about where you place furniture and the décor of the new home. Consider arranging the new home to mimic the setting of the old house. For example, hanging specific photo albums on the wall can bring back the sentiments of your parents’ old home. Try to take pictures of cherished items and print them out to make an album. If you have limited space in the new home, try transferring pictures to a digital photo frame to preserve old memories.

Your aging parents most likely have many worthless items hanging around the house. Their emotional attachment to these belongings makes it difficult for you to discard them. They may also be valuable heirlooms in the house that your parents don’t wish to give up. Decluttering and downsizing your parents’ home is a delicate affair that should be handled cautiously. The above steps will make cleaning up your parents’ living space easier and make it less cramped and more enjoyable.