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senior downsizingOver time, it can be exceedingly difficult to not accumulate various belongings and knick-knacks, but at some point there comes a time to scale down. For most, the time is when our adult children have left the home and now have grown children of their own. Or perhaps it’s just the right time to slow down and enjoy life’s golden years, free from the worry and stress of living alone.

Typically, downsizing leaves seniors and loved ones with a need to move into a smaller space and with that comes the arduous task of removing clutter.

Decluttering has evolved into an art form. Some are skilled “dejunkers” while many of us have a harder time letting go. Lifehack.org suggests to tackle a project such as this, is to start small; begin with an easy, condensed area to get the ball rolling. This process can feel overwhelming if viewed as a whole – so start slow. Remember that it has likely taken years to obtain everything, so you shouldn’t expect to knock it out in just one day, particularly if you or your loved one has issues with mobility.

Dos & Don’ts for seniors and their families:

  • Do Prioritize
  • Do Transform
  • Do Be Aware of Hoarding Behavior
  • Don’t Wait / Avoid Procrastination
  • Don’t Be Too Sensitive
  • Don’t Just Throw Away – Recycle

Let’s break these down a bit further.

Do Prioritize: Going through belongings can be a tedious task. And while you may fantasize about throwing it all away, you should evaluate, identify, and prioritize your possessions by sorting them into one of three boxes: donate, keep, and discard. First to go should be things you no longer use or have not used in over a year. Chances are you won’t use them again. At the top of the list: old clothes, dusty books, and dated electronics. Lifehack suggests discarding anything that does not “spark joy”.

Do Transform: Transitioning into a smaller space means every square inch counts! To transform your new apartment, try adding memorable and sentimental belongings to help make it feel like a home; like framed photos of family, artwork from grandkids, and keepsakes from your sweetie pie. At Regency Retirement Village communities with Memory Care services, residents are encouraged to keep important items in a memory box for storing their “special things.” Speaking of storing, instead of tossing your favorite items, like your classic movie collection, preserve them digitally, so you can keep them, free from clutter or damage. This method works great for loose photos and music, too.

Do Be Aware of Hoarding Behavior: There is a distinct health difference in cherishing special things and collecting everything. This sometimes unsanitary and hazardous behavior can be dangerous if seniors are exhibiting signs of hoarding, such as, finding piles of garbage or junk around the house or displaying defensive, argumentative, and aggressive behaviors about letting personal items go. While hoarding is often harmless, it can also be an indication of serious health issues, most commonly, dementia or Alzheimer’s. These individuals may hoard belongings out of their fear of “needing” the items someday. They may also begin to hide items from others and themselves when they are not able to recognize loved ones any longer. Consult your senior’s primary physician if the problem persists or worsens.

Don’t Wait: You certainly don’t want to wait to the very last minute to cram everything away; it will be a process that takes time – even with the help of family and friends. Because of this, it’s best to get a head start. Consider an annual spring-cleaning to remove unnecessary clutter in your home. This can do wonders in preparation for the big move.  Beware of procrastination, even if you think you have plenty of time. The increased chance of an unplanned event happening could prohibit your ability to sort through personal items.

Don’t Be Too Sensitive: Naturally, we often become emotionally attached to items that we find meaningful and remind us of cherished, happy memories. Throwing away things that are no longer necessary but nevertheless valuable to us can be extremely difficult. With these difficult decisions, it is likely to become overwhelmed or filled with anxiety, which ultimately leads to anger and frustration. Do your best to take it slow and carefully evaluate each item and it’s level of importance, as you journey into the next chapter.

To family and friends, please understand these hard choices are ones that do not come easily and without consequence. Have patience, understanding, and sensitivity during this time. Follow through with your senior, but do not be an enabler to them. Encourage positive change and the rest will follow.

Don’t Just Throw Away – Recycle: If you have items you wish to discard, be mindful of proper waste disposal. Ask yourself, can this item be reused, repurposed, or recycled? If you answered yes to the following, don’t just trash it – recycle it! Remember one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Some of the changes we make may be unfamiliar at first. But soon we will become used to thinking about reducing, reusing, and recycling. By thinking green, we can help protect the environment, for ourselves, and future generations to come.

It’s important to start decluttering early so the transition to Assisted Living can be a seamless and enjoyable process. For more tips on downsizing seniors, visit: http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/15-9-5-senior-downsizing-tips/