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Senior Downsizing – The Importance of Starting Early

Senior Downsizing – The Importance of Starting Early

“It’s important to start the ball rolling early.” Many will associate this statement with saving for retirement, and the thought of compounding interest is promising. Starting early to save money can offer rewards later in life.
Saving is different when referring to material goods. The effects of “compounding” can also play a major role in accumulating material possessions, and years of saving possessions comes to a head for older adults who are facing an upcoming move. As a Senior Move Manager, I can’t stress enough the importance of starting early to deal with your belongings.

The accumulation of ‘things’

senior downsizing - homecare TorontoMany of my clients have lived in their homes for thirty, forty or fifty years and have accumulated much evidence of “lives well lived” in their closets, cupboards, shelves and storage areas. Few in this generation could be called minimalists. Their belongings have compounded over the decades and — fast forward to later years — it can all become overwhelming.
Seniors are often preparing for a move from a three or four bedroom house to a two bedroom condo, or from a condo to a smaller retirement residence suite. There are usually lots of items that while not in current use, have been deemed too good to simply give away.
These older adults have raised families in their homes, and they have lost parents and grandparents while they lived there too. When siblings may not have had the space to keep Grandma’s good dishes, many seniors have simply made room on their basement shelves.
Also found in the house are the usual silver serving sets and flatware, with evidence that many an hour was spent with Hagerty’s silver polish over the years to keep the tarnish at bay. There are collections of crystal stemware that have accumulated and of course, the many and assorted candy dishes. I have rarely worked in a home that did not still shelter an electric knife in its original box and often one of those electric warming trays that were “just the thing” in the sixties…

Family dynamics and senior downsizing

The average age of my clients is 82 years. Their sons and daughters are typically in their fifties or sixties. One child will look around and want to call a dumpster. One will want Mom and/or Dad to keep everything in spite of the looming space challenges. And the third child will simply want Mom and/or Dad to be happy but not want to take on their other, more opinionated, siblings. They may not live close by or they may be simply too busy to help their parents, due to the demands of their own families and careers. Some of my clients have not had children, and their friends may not know where to start. Tastes and values may differ and friends are afraid of saying or doing anything that could be hurtful.
Family and friends genuinely want the best for their loved ones but they sometimes lack the objectivity, patience or energy to assist. A recent client told me that she knew a Move Manager would listen to what she actually wanted, and that she would not have to “take sides” with either of her children who could not seem to agree on anything. . .

Senior downsizing: The way forward

Engaging the services of a sensitive, knowledgeable and objective Senior Move Manager can keep relationships intact, keep the project on schedule and avoid the tensions created by differing approaches. It can also ensure that your aging parents are taking only the items that genuinely make them smile.
If you or your aging parents are facing an upcoming move, please consider the following five tips:

1. Start early. Going through a lot of belongings means sifting through a lot of memories. It’s tiring and I generally recommend that sessions be short.

2. Take one room at a time. It helps with focus as well as efficiency.

3. Use the new space as your guide. Be creative. Digitally organize photos and keep the “best of” in a category. Move with only the items that make you smile.

4. Separate:
• What you want to keep
• What you are hoping to share with family or friends
• What you prefer to sell
• What you wish to donate
• What is garbage or recyclable

5. Work with someone who is objective and skilled in the emotional as well as the practical. Look for a senior move manager with a background in mental health support, crisis intervention and/or dispute resolution. Preventing issues is always preferable to trying to sort out problems later. A good senior move manager can connect you with reputable movers, appraisers and trusted service providers so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Also, check that the senior move manager has sufficient liability insurance to be working in your home. A well-insured professional can offer financial protection for the client in case of loss or damage to their belongings during any aspect of the move.

Laurie Bell, Founder and Managing Director,

 

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