The Cottages Blog

Downsizing for Seniors: How to Declutter without Upsetting Mom

Posted by Kendra Newton on Apr 27, 2015 12:12:00 PM

Downsizing for Seniors: How to Declutter without Upsetting MomWhen it's time for your Mom to move to a senior living community or a smaller place, one of the things you'll need to help her with is downsizing and decluttering. That can be stressful, since she undoubtedly has a lot of things she's kept over the years. There are memories attached to those things, and getting rid of them can be difficult emotionally. Fortunately, when done correctly, downsizing for seniors doesn't have to be a painful process. There are ways to make it easier on everyone, and avoid upsetting Mom.

1. Start Early

Don't put it off until the very last minute when things are already difficult due to dementia, physical illness, or other problems. As emotions run higher, it becomes harder for Mom to let go of the things that matter to her. When you start early you can do a little bit at a time, so it doesn't seem so overwhelming to everyone. You don't want to make your aging parents feel like you're coming into their home and just throwing everything away. Working on it early, often, and in small doses can make it easier for everyone to handle.

2. Take Pictures

If you’re getting rid of any items that have memories attached to them, take pictures. It's usually the memories the person wants, not the items. When you have the pictures, you still have the memories. Then you can get rid of the items. There are going to be some things that Mom's stubborn about. Those things should be packed up in nice boxes and then conveniently "forgotten." Usually the elderly person won't ask about those things again, and you can get rid of them later, to avoid causing unnecessary upset.

3. Talk to Mom

The transition should be as easy as possible, and downsizing for seniors can be accomplished in ways that don't cause a lot of emotional pain for your elderly loved ones. When you're sorting through and getting rid of things, and your Mom or dad is insistent on keeping something, it's helpful to understand why they want to keep it. For example, people who grew up during the Great Depression tend to hang onto things that they "might need" someday, or that they can fix or use in some manner at a later date. While understandable, many of those things will still need to go when downsizing.

4. Write out a List of Questions

It can help to agree on a list of questions that you'll use to sort through things. For example, if something doesn't work, does it get tossed? If you haven't worn it in a year, can it be donated? Those kinds of questions can help make the decluttering process easier. If you focus on all the good that comes from the decluttering, that can also reduce the emotional stress your elderly loved one is going to feel. You can point out how the donations will help other people, or the sale of some objects will mean extra money. With less clutter, the house will also be easier to navigate and safer, too.

5. Consult Professionals

If you find that you have to downsize very quickly, or you don't live close to your aging parents, you can enlist professional help for the decluttering process. There are people who specifically focus on downsizing for seniors, and they know what to do with all that extra stuff. They also have a lot of empathy for the downsizing senior, and can address the emotional impact that often comes with getting rid of decades of things that have memories attached.

Many adult children who go through the sorting and downsizing process with their aging Mom or dad say that they actually learn so much from it. The memories and stories that come with a number of the items are treasured by them for years.

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Topics: Senior Housing

Kendra Newton

Written by: Kendra Newton

Kendra has several years of experience working in admissions. She loves working with families to plan and care for their loved ones. Married to her husband, Joey, for over 20 years, they have two children, Taylor and Kaylee. Kendra enjoys cooking, reading, swimming, and watching old classics.