By the time my mom moved from her independent living apartment to her new assisted living apartment, we had already downsized her belongings several times. This time she was moving to an apartment with a third-less cabinet space and no stovetop.
“Mom,” I asked, “which one of these four spatulas would you like to keep?”
“I want them all!” Mom declared.
I gently explained the lack of drawer space in the new apartment. “Mom, you won’t have a stove. Which one of these spatulas would you like to keep?” I repeated.
“All of them!” she said. We kept all four spatulas. Forget the fact she had 2 forks, no knives, and plenty of spoons in her possession.
Downsizing is overwhelming and emotional for the owner of those personal possessions. It feels as if they are giving up their belongings and it’s beyond their control. It’s not just belongings they give up. It’s the feeling of loss in their ability to cook for family again, or the lack of space for a treasured table where grandchildren once covered it with Legos and coloring books. Some items can be passed to family and special friends, but in most cases, the items do not hold the sentimental value as they did for the owner, leaving the items for resale or donation.
There are some practical downsizing steps the owner and their families can take. This is a short list of recommendations but will help prepare for the emotional tasks of the moving process.
- Start sorting household goods early, allowing Mom or Dad to be in control. Begin the conversation about giving away family heirlooms to those in the family with interest, then make a list or follow through if possible.
- Reduce kitchen appliances, dishes and utensils to an appropriate and useful number. Keep up with the disposal of expired food and medications.
- Donate books and music collections to a local library. If they are ready to part with items for resale, consider a social media resource, such as Facebook Marketplace or CraigsList, ensuring safe transactions are in place for the owner.
- Begin sorting and shredding old but sensitive documents.
There are benefits to start downsizing early. You may have rich conversations with your loved one over a special piece of jewelry or an antique clock and learn something you didn’t know. You might find there is a reason to keep it in the family with this new knowledge of the origin.
Next, there’s something cathartic about reducing and recycling. It feels good to clean out a closet at your leisure rather than at the last minute before a move. Clearing space of non-essential furniture is a safety measure for many, making sure pathways are clear for mobility and comfort.
Since moving my Mom (more than any senior should move), my husband, and I have downsized our own home so our children will not have to go through what we have. Wait. Who am I kidding? I have 4 spatulas and I use them all. There will be plenty for them to sort, dispose, and donate. In the meantime, I do love a clean closet.