I recently clicked on a Yahoo news story of a neighborhood house fire in Windsor, Canada. The photograph of a sad toddler had caught my attention. She was holding on tightly to her teddy bear with a grim look on her face while sitting on the back of a fire truck. Fortunately the story had a happy ending, but what struck me about the photo was how we value our belongings differently throughout our lives' journeys. Whether precious photos, family heirlooms or a stuffed bear, we all assign our own intrinsic value system to our belongings based upon the circumstances or moments in our lives they represent. For Seniors transitioning to a community or a more secure apartment setting, the task of downsizing collective "stuff" can be daunting. Storage options are typically quite limited in senior housing, forcing new residents to sort through years of memories to accommodate their new lifestyles. Fortunately however, with a bit of practical experience combined with some shared ideas of other seniors and family, there is hope for making this monumental task manageable. What's required is just a little planning, a few tips and some help (if possible) from family and friends.
Commit to downsizing before the move, not afterward. Seniors have enough to worry about familiarizing themselves with new surroundings. Having previously settled on the distribution of belongings will allow them to adjust quicker and more easily as well as eliminating the movement of items more than once.
Include family and friends to help with planning and organizing. Naturally, we would rather our loved ones receive personal items than strangers or trash collectors.
Take accurate measurements of new living spaces. Obviously knowing your space limitations will help guide what you ultimately decide to keep for yourself. This should include both living and storage space. Consider using a plan-o-gram to help with the layout of transferred items.
It seems you can never have enough boxes. Smaller square boxes are easiest to pack items in and will be lighter and easier to move than large boxes. Stock up on newspaper or bubble wrap to protect fragile items.
Utilize four categories to organize belongings: Keep, Discard, Family & Charity. Other categories like Undecided will only prolong and complicate the process. Consider these tips to help with decisions of what to keep or give up:
-It's important to focus on function, but the sentimental items will warm a new home
-Use yes/no questions rather than asking how mom or dad feels about an item
-Discard chipped, worn, stained and broken items
-Ask when the last time an item was touched or used
-Consider the rule "When in doubt, throw it out"
Consider taking photos of artwork, family crafts and creations. Our lives have been enriched by the many special moments and achievements of our children, many of which are represented by endearing creations like birthday messages and school projects. These along with old photo collections may be condensed into scrapbooks or captured on a flash drive and displayed on digital picture frames.
Begin sorting in lesser used and less cluttered rooms. Processes become more efficient with experience. Rooms used infrequently should be easier to sort and will help set the tone for more challenging areas.
Label and document accurately. Mark boxes clearly to account for what has been sorted and packed and to help expedite the move-in as well. Names of family members should be displayed clearly on boxes meant for their receipt. It may also be a good idea to organize a list of items sorted (kept and discarded) for future reference and kept in the new residence.
If the idea of downsizing, whether for yourself or someone else, is too much to fathom, luckily there are professional organizations that can step in to help. Most of these companies can help with a wide range of senior relocation needs including sorting and packing, moving, charitable distribution, estate and tag sales, trash removal and more. Below is a list of some local businesses assisting with downsizing.