Michael Edlen: Ideas for Downsizing a Home

By Michael Edlen
Special to the Palisades News

Whether people are currently considering moving to a home that is easier to manage or looking ahead to when they may be in some type of assisted-living arrangement, it’s important to think about strategies now.

Family members, close friends, real-estate professionals and organizing specialists can be consulted and perhaps involved in the process, at least in the early planning stages.

Giving children various childhood arts, crafts and family photos several years before a time when a move out of choice or necessity is anticipated can be a practical start. Other families have their adult children sort various items into such categories as: take now, will take the next time, give away to someone else, or throw away.

Seniors may find it constructive to gradually start sorting things into categories, perhaps taking one shelf or drawer each day: donating items to charitable organizations or giving items away to family members or friends.

My mother had an extensive teacup collection and decided to offer a cup and saucer to a family member, neighbor or visitor who would like one. If there are a lot of useful items that haven’t been used for years, and if they are not the sort of things to give family members, professional estate or yard-sale people can arrange a sale for many items. Color-coded Post-It type notes might be helpful to designate categories of things. It can be a refreshing exercise to consider things that could be thrown away now. Most of us have a tendency to hang onto things for a long time, often with the notion that someday it will serve some use.

However, if an item hasn’t been touched for years, most likely it could be tossed out and not missed. It is also merciful for the children who will be spared sorting challenges in later years. I well remember the many months it took for my father to sort through and dispose of 40 years of accumulated collectibles, tools, files, etc. that my grandfather had carefully packed into the then-full two-car garage.

The process of downsizing can easily take at least a few months. Spreading it out over many months can make it less difficult, both emotionally and physically. A schedule for managing the process can be room by room or week by week or finding some other measure or pace that is comfortable. There are also some space planning and future need assessments that can be considered well in advance of any move. For example, almost all families have very large items stored in the garage or storage unit that would most likely never be needed in the future. Likewise, if a future move will be to a condo, child’s home or assisted-living facility, most gardening tools would be of little use. If one knows where they will be moving to, even if not for many months or even years, they will know if large furniture pieces might not fit.

Even if a move is not planned for an indefinite time, at the least a process of de-cluttering could be accomplished—if the seniors are willing to start letting go.

Out-of-control clutter can even be a risk to health and safety in many cases, so the focus should be to eliminate trip, fall and fire hazards first. If someone is in charge of coordinating the process, it will be helpful for them to remove any discarded items promptly so they cannot be “resaved” by the senior.

Also, if valuables are discovered during the process, they should be safeguarded. Sometimes seniors will have hidden away a reserve of cash in a book, old tin can, envelope in the back of a desk drawer, or have a valuable work of art or antique gathering dust on a shelf or in the attic.

If the tasks of sorting, packing, moving and then unpacking are beyond the resources of the seniors and their family, or if circumstances require a move within a short time, there are professionals who specialize in senior transitions.

They are equipped to take care of the entire process, including sorting, arrangements for disposal of items, making a space plan to be sure things will fit well in the new location, as well as packing and then unpacking. They generally charge by the hour, and will be able to estimate what the costs might be once they visit the home. Some of them are Certified Relocation and Transition Specialists (visit: crtcertification.com).

Michael Edlen can be reached at (310) 230-7373 or email Michael@MichaelEdlen.com.

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