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Senior couple moving boxes

Chapter 8 - Downsizing and Decluttering

Let’s Pack Those Boxes - Make a plan
In the previous chapter, we talked about creating a list of what’s coming to your new home and what will be given away, or sold, or passed on to family or friends. We also talked about taking your time — to share stories and enjoy the emotional ride, the laughter and the tears, as part of the process.
You have to plan what to take with you… And the best way to start that process is to understand the space you’re moving into - Vicky Riley Keyes.

Now it’s time to load the boxes and begin downsizing. But before you book the truck and order the pizza, you need to realize that this, too, takes time. Trying to squeeze the move into a single day or week is way too much, emotionally and physically, whether you’re the one moving or the person offering support. This is especially true if there are family members who can’t make it on the day of the move, and want to be there.

A better plan: encourage mom or dad to start the paring-down process much earlier, well before the week of the move. Today, even. Spending a mere 15 minutes a day makes a big difference when it comes to thinning out your belongings. Vicky Riley Keyes, whose company, Red Coats Moving Solutions, helps seniors through this very process, recommends going clockwise around a room. “This helps keep you focused, and will remind you which areas you’ve already tackled.” It also helps guard against doing too much at once and feeling overwhelmed.

Make a Plan

Downsizing is like taking a trip, says Riley Keyes. “You have to plan what to take with you, first of all. And the best way to start that process is to understand the space you’re moving into.”

If your mom is moving, measure the space of the new suite, and remember that in long term care, she’ll get basic furniture, including a bed, side table and chair. Understanding the available space will help determine what can fit, and how to work around small alterations. For example, there might not be room for that wooden desk and old computer. But would a laptop solve this problem? Does your dad have a favourite chair? Does it fit into the new space? If so, then plan the room around it. The key is to think about function first.

Your Favourite Things

OK, but what about her shoe collection? Or all of his records and books? Riley Keyes recommends an in-and-out rule: “Choose a cap when dealing with multiples,” she says. “Keeping 10 pairs of shoes is fine, but if you buy another pair, get rid of one.” Likewise, it’s OK to take some cherished dishes, such as their wedding china, but do they really need the whole set, or are four place settings sufficient?

“Take the good stuff,” says Karen Shinn, a certified consultant on aging who helps seniors declutter and move through her company, Downsizing Diva. “Don’t take the make-do mug; take what you really like, within reason of course. We tend to think we have more room than we do.”

Because you’ve already measured up the new space, you can recreate it at your mom or dad’s home by mapping out their new bedroom or living area. Using tape, block out the size of things to see what fits. That way, they can envision the flow and see what works and what doesn’t quite fit.

Hire Some Help

Moving isn’t easy. Luckily, there are professionals to help. Unlike family or friends, these pros don’t share your memories; to them, it’s quite literally stuff, and the focus is on finding the best way to make the new space functional.

Planning ahead means you’ll avoid the knee-jerk reaction to leaving things behind, or packing too much. “You can still go back and get a few things,” says Shinn. “If you leave yourself some time, nothing needs to be permanent. Move first, and then see what’s missing.” Of course, this only works if we’re talking two or three things.

And again, this is where a professional can help. “We tend to want to bring all the memories,” says Shinn. “And sometimes family members are too close to be objective.”

“Let someone else help by taking charge of the move-out,” says Shinn. “And save your energy and focus for the new home.”

Moving can be emotional and stressful. There are people who can make it easier, and allow you to focus on the bigger picture — your mom or dad’s future home.