Downsize and you’ll feel better. Throwing out the clutter will lift a weight from your shoulders. This is the type of advice that seniors who are moving into a smaller home will frequently hear, sometimes from their own adult children. People mean well, but those words have little meaning for those old enough to have become attached to things.
It’s usually not the big things, either. Even the most mundane object that looks like a throwaway to everyone else is charged with meaning for Mom and Dad. It might be something as simple as a worn blanket, dishware the family used for decades, a trinket bought on some long-ago vacation or an old baseball glove.
How can one put a value on such things? While they certainly aren’t necessary for a new home, parting with such objects is difficult because it is forever entwined with a precious memory. It’s part of the journey of change that those helping their parents or seniors move should know about.
Downsizing With Parents
Adult children sometimes get frustrated with parents who seemingly doddle as they go through the items in their home while preparing to move. With time obligations of their own to juggle, sons and daughters might not have a great deal of patience.
But what is actually happening is much more profound than decluttering an old house. For many people, just seeing an object – a baking pan, an old book, a board game tucked away in the hallway closet – sparks memories. As they go through the items, parents are reliving their own lives.
It’s a difficult concept for the children to understand, especially those still in their young adult years. It takes living five or six decades of life before people realize that the things that become the most special are not the nice car or carpeting. It’s the scratched up pot that cooked thousands of meals or the manila folder with a kid’s drawings from 4th grade.
These objects can pack an emotional wallop that even the parents might not expect. That’s because the process is about more than unlocking memories. It’s also about parents knowing they are closing a chapter in their lives. Throwing out items is a way of saying goodbye to the past. And saying goodbye forever is never easy.
How to Manage Downsizing With Parents
Adult children who realize all the above take the first big step toward making downsizing easier with parents. It’s impossible to go in as if this is a work project to manage with maximum efficiency. When helping parents downsize, it’s important to keep some ideas in mind.
During this time, patience with parents is paramount. They might not even know why throwing out that tea kettle or set of towels is so difficult for them. Give them time to make decisions. They will get there, eventually.
Listen to Them
One of the major benefits of this phase of their lives is that parents tend to open up and tell many stories as they go through their belongings. You want to be there for that, because once they have gone, those stories might remain lost forever. Now is a great time to learn some family stories you can pass down to your kids. That’s also one of the benefits of caregiving with aging parents.
It’s a Process
Older people going through one of the last big life changes are aware they must accomplish the task, but the time it takes to go through items and process emotions is necessary to move through this stage in a healthy way. Whatever you do, don’t rush them.
Take Something Yourself
If your parents offer you something, even if it’s a small thing, take it if it’s something that has meaning to you. A small token of a house you once called home is more than worth the tiny amount of space it takes up in your current house. Downsizing is an emotional time for parents, whether they are the type to show it or not. Treat both them and their items with respect. While they may feel attached to things, it’s a perfectly normal way to be at this stage in life. Certain times in life require setting aside time tables or just focusing on getting the job done. This is one of those times.