Making the decision to downsize into a smaller property with less maintenance is becoming a more popular option for today’s active seniors — especially with so many quality condos designed specifically for seniors on the market locally. For some seniors assisted-living facilities are also a good choice, enabling them to live more independently in a safe and managed environment.

Once committed to downsizing, however, actually reducing the number of your possessions in order to make the move can be a daunting task. Luckily for most, family and friends are on hand to help. But how do you help an older relative or friend through this process?

Leaving your home of many years and memories and moving to new accommodations is always going to be a heart-wrenching and difficult experience. Allowing sufficient time to complete the task of organizing a senior’s possessions, so there is no need to rush, will help to reduce the stress on everyone. Researching to find a moving company that specializes in moving seniors may also be of benefit.

Start by taking some photographs of their house and garden. It is important to celebrate fond memories of their old home and their time spent there. Having paid respect to the past, the process of moving on can then gain some momentum.

When someone has lived in one place for a long time they can easily accumulate a lot of clutter and may have strong emotional attachments to more items than they can take to their new home.
If you are working with a senior relative to sort through their possessions, start in an easy to clear room that is the least important emotionally, this will get the process off to a good start before any difficult decisions have to be made. It is worth checking on the size and layout of the senior’s new home, as they may not be able to take all of their furniture, or may need to replace pieces with smaller furniture more appropriate for the new space.

Determine which items and furniture are to take to the new home, which are to give as gifts to family and friends, which are suitable for donation and which need to be thrown away or left for house clearance — sets of differently coloured stickers can be used while doing this to allow your older relative to quickly and easily label items for their destination. It is sometimes hard for people to distinguish the items they need from those that they simply want, but do not actually use. Start off by choosing essential items and furniture that are moving with them, then which items are obviously not needed, before taking more time to sort through items and furniture that require more consideration. You can make this less anxiety-provoking by focusing on the positives of donating items to friends, family or a charity. Encouraging the giving of special items to friends and family, along with a note to explain the sentimental connection, may also ease the process.

If you are sorting through the home of a senior relative who is unable to assist, don’t assume that all of the items of value will be obvious. People have a habit of stashing money, important photographs and documents in drawers, shoe boxes, suitcases and at the back of closets, often mixed in with less valuable items. Make sure you go through every nook and cranny to ensure that all valuable items are found before calling in a house clearing company.

Ultimately giving your time, respect and care will help to make this a positive life transition for your loved one.