“I feel so overwhelmed.” ”I don’t know where to start.” “I like all my stuff.” “My family member is downsizing and he/she has too much stuff.” These are often the comments that I hear from my clients when they call for downsizing help. I understand. I really do. Moving alone is stressful but it is even more overwhelming when you have to move to a smaller place and you have too much stuff and you are not sure what you should keep, or you are attached to your items and don’t want to let them go. Here are a few tips to help you or a family member so you don’t become so overwhelmed.
1. Declutter Early – If it is not too late, the best thing you can do for yourself and your children is to have a clear storage room and basement when it is time to downsize! That may not always be possible, but the less you have the better. Start decluttering a year or two before you plan on moving into a smaller home, and if that is not possible, at the very least, as soon as you start considering the move.
2. A bit at a time – To make it less overwhelming, do a bit at time. Sometimes there are 40 years or more of items to go through so pick a room, a closet, a cupboard and go through the items and decide if they can be donated, recycled, sold, shredded etc.
3. It is all in how you ask – While working with a senior, don’t ask too many questions at once, and try not to ask open ended questions. They get too overwhelmed and confused. Go through the items and pick the best ones and then ask a “Yes” or “No” question. Instead of asking which towels do you want to keep, put together the best facecloths, hand towels, bath towels and tell them you have put aside the best ones and ask if this ok.
4. Let them make decisions – Seniors find moving a challenging and stressful time but it will be less overwhelming for them if they feel they are involved in the process. Let them decide on the items they want to keep. The items may not be new, or what you would want to keep, but if they use the items, and there is room for them, then letting them keep it is ok.
5. Use a floor plan – You can often get a copy of a floor plan from the apartment or assistant living complex. If not draw one out and measure what furniture, mirrors, pictures etc. will fit. While visiting your new home, take measurements and take a good look at the cupboard space and storage space. One problem that I tend to see is that clients think they have more room in their new home then they really have. Moving too much stuff and not having the room for it is not ideal.
6. Let go of multiples – When in a smaller space, you will only need one or two frying pans, set of bed sheets, one pair of slippers, one winter coat, etc.
7. Consignment, Garage Sale, Donation, Auction, Estate, or Garbage? – If it is stained, ripped, chipped or broken, it goes in the garbage or recycle. If you have a lot of high end items, it is a good idea to get them appraised prior to selling them. But keep in mind that there is usually a cost involved having the appraiser come out and a cost to have it appraised, and your items are not worth what you paid for them but what someone is willing to pay for them now. You can put your items in consignment stores which you sometimes get 50% of what they sell it for, but if you have a lot of items, they may not have the room for all of them and they are selective of what they want. With estate or content sales , your items are usually sold in your home with a portion of the sales going to the person holding the sale. This is best to be done after the senior has moved out. Auctioneers work in two ways, they will either come and purchase your items outright and take them away. They later sell the items at their auctions or stores and they keep 100% of what they sell the items for. Or the auctioneer will come and take your items away, put them in their auction and take a percentage of what the items are sold for, and you get the rest. You can have your own Garage Sale or sell some items online and then donate whatever is left over. This method you get to keep 100% of the revenue but is time consuming. I am finding that auctioneers and content sales are becoming more and more popular as it leaves the selling to someone else.
8. At the end of the curb – Prior to garbage day, if you have items that you don’t think the charities will be interested in, but hate to throw it out, try putting it at the curb with a “Free” sign on it. You will be surprised at what some people will take.
9. Don’t hold on to gift giveaways – While working with clients, I often hear “I am going to give this to my daughter”, or “This is my sons”. If so, delegate a space for each person’s belongings and have them pick up their items as soon as possible. The purpose of decluttering is to clear out the house as much as possible.
10. Pictures and Paper – There is usually not enough room to bring all the pictures to a smaller place. Go through the pictures and see if there are any duplicates and ones that you do not remember where they were taken or who is in the picture. Let go of the ones you don’t need anymore. If you still have too many, consider keeping the favorites, and scanning the rest. When it comes to paper, most of it can be shredded or recycled. If it can be found on-line, then you don’t normally need to keep it. Keep the important papers relating to your last 7 years of taxes, birth and death certificates, social insurance cards, marriage license, business license, recent insurance policies and pension documents, mortgage information, vehicle title and loan documents, wills and power of attorney.
11. Ask for help – Downsizing can be emotionally and physically draining. Ask family members or friends to help. If you lack the support you need because your family/friends don’t have the time and energy to help, or they are out of town, consider hiring a professional. Senior Move Managers are there to help every step of the way.
Until next time,
Kathy McEwan is a Professional Organizer, Senior Move Manager, and moving specialist. Her clients are of all ages who could use a seconds set of hands. She is also a member of the Professional Organizers of Canada, the Institute of Chronic Disorganization and has a certificate in Senior Move Management.