Imagine the following scenario. Your 80-year-old father is relatively healthy, but recently you’ve noticed he’s become more forgetful and confused. You and your siblings suspect it may be time for your father to move to a retirement home or an assisted living facility closer to where you live. He currently lives alone in his 5,000-square foot home of thirty years. Your parents were very active adults with many interests and hobbies in retirement. In recent years, since your mother passed away, he has lost interest or the ability to take part in these hobbies. Apart from his bedroom and the kitchen, the rest of the home has gone unused for many years.
This would be an emotional time for your family. You and your siblings would be considering different treatment and housing options for your dad. Moving is a high stress event at the best of times, even more so for your elderly parent. The to-do list is long. You will need to unearth all his relevant financial and legal paperwork. You will need to sell your father’s home and help him move. You may want to have an estate sale. Neither you or your siblings live close to your dad.
This type of situation can be extremely overwhelming, complex and wrought with emotion for everyone involved. For some, this situation can become paralyzing.
“After age 50, people are progressively less likely to divest themselves of belongings. After age 70, about 30% of persons say that they have done nothing in the past year to clean out, give away, or donate things, and over 80% have sold nothing.” –Journals of Gerontology
At Simplify Experts we’ve had the privilege to assist several clients downsize their parents’ estates. The scenario described above is based on a real client situation. Caregiving is challenging enough without having to suddenly dismantle an entire estate in a short period of time. The answer is to NOT WAIT until it is time for your parent to move.
- Gently talk to your parents about decluttering. This may be a sensitive and uncomfortable conversation. Material possessions reflect life accomplishments and memories. For some, to part with these items may feel like the undoing of their lives. A life full of memories.
- Find a charity that supports your parent’s values and donate unwanted items to that charity. Instead of feeling like they are losing possessions, you parent may feel like they are spreading blessings to those in need.
- Get rid of duplicates and triplicates. Grandpa probably doesn’t need three old coffee makers and eight cookie sheets.
- Downsize the attic, rafters in the garage and basement and other auxiliary storage spaces which tend to be repositories for unused and unneeded items.
- When your parent no longer enjoys gardening, or can no longer perform a task such as mowing the lawn, you may hire a landscaping service. Don’t wait, donate or sell the lawnmower. Go through the garden shed and clean it out. Downsize the gardening tools and other equipment. Dispose of any hazardous chemicals such as fertilizers and weed repellants.
- Don’t wait until your parent becomes too infirm to participate. Slowly, over time, work with your parent (no more than two hours at a time) and begin creating a home inventory. Keep a notebook with you to write down notes.
- If a cluttered room is too overwhelming, use ribbon to mark off a small area, and only declutter within that space.
- Have valuable pieces such as art or jewelry appraised.
- Slowly downsize your parent’s paperwork. Locate all legal and financial documents and store them in a safe place.
- Take time to go through the pantry and remove outdated food items.
- Offer to donate clothes unworn for many years.
- Declutter bathroom drawers which may be full of outdated toiletry items and medicines.
- Get help! Professional home organizers and senior move managers can help facilitate the downsizing process.
Professional organizers can declutter, sort, recycle, shred, organize, and pack. We can help you prepare for an estate sale and recommend an estate sale professional. We can help you cull the boxes of old paperwork and locate needed documents and receipts. At Simplify Experts we know what documents need to be kept for tax purposes and what can be shredded. You are not on your own in this difficult process.