Home is the launchpad for everything else that happens in life. Is your loved one’s home still serving their needs? Or is it increasingly a cluttered, stressful mess? As their needs change, you can help them live their ideal life by encouraging them to continuously reevaluate their lifestyle. Is it still working for them, or is it time to make changes?
As time passes, your loved one’s priorities for their home may change. That big house that once gave pets room to roam, allowed kids space to play, and offered a quiet spot to escape the chaos may now feel like a source of endless housework and clutter. Too much clutter may even pose a fall risk. And if your loved one needs your support or assistance, the stress of clutter can spill over into your own life, leading to caregiver burnout.
Downsizing your loved one’s home can reduce their workload and help them prepare to write their next chapter. Many older adults find that replacing a big home with a stylish, contemporary apartment or condo gives them the freedom to do more of the things they love while offering a great space to entertain, enjoy their passions, and cuddle up on the couch with a good movie.
Downsizing can feel daunting, particularly if your loved one has lived in their current home for decades. But it doesn’t need to be overwhelming! After all, transitioning to a smaller space is intended to reduce stress and maximize enjoyment. These downsizing tips for seniors will help you better support them. They deserve to live in a home that feels right for their current and future life.
Offer Support, Not Control
Your loved one’s basic human need to control their lifestyle doesn’t change just because they have grown older. Research consistently finds that loss of independence is one of the most common fears about growing older. Even if they need your assistance or are moving to an assisted living community, they still deserve the opportunity to chart their own course.
So don’t storm into their house and announce it’s time to declutter. Ask them what they need, and allow them to control the direction of the process. Try sitting down to create a decluttering plan you both feel confident about.
Identify Your Motivation
No matter how many articles you read about downsizing tips for seniors, clearing the clutter will feel frustrating if you don’t establish an end goal. Why do you want to help your loved one declutter?
Positive goals — focusing on what your loved one is working toward — are more inspiring than negative goals, like avoiding clutter. So work with them to identify their goals for the future. Is it a cozy cottage in the woods? A trendy condo in the city of their dreams? An independent living community that promotes an active lifestyle and new friendships?
Senior downsizing is about ensuring your loved one’s home matches their needs and complements their ideal lifestyle. Encourage them to focus on what they are gaining. When decluttering begins to feel overwhelming, it’s important to remind them of their goals. That might be more free time, more space in the kitchen, the freedom to travel, access to a great new neighborhood, or something else entirely.
Although remaining positive is helpful, remember that positivity can turn toxic when it’s a tool for silencing another person’s emotions. Don’t ignore your loved one’s concerns or ambivalence. Listen to what they say, and don’t tell them how to feel. And if they need a break, don’t rush the process.
Set Clear Goals
A vague goal of reducing clutter can feel overwhelming. How do you even know when you've achieved that goal? Instead, it’s helpful to outline specific benchmarks so you can map the path to achieving them.
Some example goals might include:
- “My loved one needs everything to fit into two bedrooms.”
- “Mom has always been a trendsetter, and she wants to love the decor in her home again.”
- “Dad wants his home to feel like a coherent whole, not a jumbled mess.”
- “My loved one wants an enticing closet filled with clothes they love.”
- “I want it to be easier to help my loved one clean. Everything in their home needs a place.”
- “I want to help my loved one remove fall hazards like floor clutter and ensure all of their furniture is mounted to the wall.”
Break It Down into Actionable Steps
Armed with your goals, it’s time to develop an action plan. Meet with your loved one to discuss broad goals, such as clearing out a bathroom, downsizing to a single closet, or donating all the knickknacks they don’t like.
Next, break these goals down into actionable steps. For example, you might devote a week to closet cleaning. Monday is the day to clear out clothes your loved one doesn’t like, and you might go to Goodwill on Tuesday. On Wednesday, you might organize their clothes, and so on.
Be realistic about how long these tasks might take, and consider overestimating! This avoids feelings of defeat early in the process and may mean you finish ahead of schedule. For instance, if deciding which clothes your loved one dislikes will take a full day, consider budgeting two days for the process.
Create an Overflow Plan
Your loved one might own things they love but don’t use or need, such as family heirlooms that don’t suit their tastes, crafts their kids and grandkids made for them, or sentimental items they can’t part with. You need an overflow plan for these items to preserve them without allowing them to overtake a new space.
One option is to give these items to people who will enjoy them, such as friends or family. A granddaughter might love your mom’s old vintage clothes, and the decor your dad is tired of may feel new, fresh, and on-trend to his niece or nephew. You might also consider interesting ways to help your loved one display sentimental items. For example, wall shelves can help them show off family art projects without taking up floor or furniture space. Some people also put their most precious heirlooms in a trunk. This way the items stay safe, and when they feel like revisiting times past, they can open the trunk and walk down memory lane.
Make It Fun
You’re clearing the clutter so your loved one can enjoy a brighter future (and so you don’t have to worry about clutter overtaking their life). That doesn’t mean the present moment has to be a slog! If downsizing is a pain, you’re less likely to stick with it. Instead, find ways to make the process feel manageable and even fun. Consider their favorite activities, and solicit their advice on how to take the sting out of the process.
These downsizing tips may help:
- Commit to a few hours each day, then do something fun after you hit your daily goal.
- Make it social. Invite friends and family over to help you with the process. Watch a movie, order takeout, or do a family reading of love letters and old diaries.
- Listen to a podcast or watch a show as you clean up.
- Organize downsizing around a fun event, such as a family clothing swap or garage sale.
- Put on music. Everything is better with music!
Not sure if now is the time to downsize? We can help. Check out this quick and easy assessment, “Is it the right time to downsize?”
Post Topic(s): INDEPENDENT LIVING | FINANCES