Moving into a smaller living situation is a big decision. More emotionally challenging, however, are the many little decisions your loved one must make about what to keep and what to let go.
- Possessions, from knickknacks to garden tools, hold many dear memories. Letting go of them is like discarding the people or events they are associated with.
- Downsizing can feel like a little death, at the least the death of their younger self. When boxing up the possessions of decades, it’s not a big jump to realize that one day—after dying—these possessions will be boxed up and permanently disbursed.
Allow plenty of time
Senior move experts recommend a minimum of three months’ lead time. A less hurried approach will allow your loved one to ease into the project and savor memories before saying goodbye. Consider these steps:
- Talk with your family member. Approach the topic carefully: “While we have the luxury of time, Mom, let’s begin to plan how things will fit in your new space. Only you know what’s most important to have with you.”
- Know what space is available. Obtain measurements or, better yet, visit the new residence and measure the floor space (and the closet space!). Create a layout drawn to scale to help your relative visualize what furniture will fit. Likewise, plot space for books, clothing, hobby materials, and other personal items.
- Be sensitive. That set of books may never have captured your interest, but they may hold beloved memories for Dad. This is your opportunity to learn the history of treasured possessions. Such sharing helps your loved one say goodbye, and it provides a way to “pay last respects” to parts of his or her past. What you hear may also change your mind about what to keep!
- Take time. Go at your parent’s pace, even if it seems tortoise-slow to you. If you rush, you’re likely to run into resistance or exhaustion.
Is downsizing on your radar?
We at Iowa City Hospice have helped many families go through the process of moving to a smaller household. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free. As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we can help you support your loved one in making this transition as smoothly and sensitively as possible.