Your parents have lived for decades in their home, filling rooms, closets, the attic and basement with a veritable mountain of furniture, clothes, memorabilia and more. Now they’ve decided to move to a smaller home or retirement community and want your help downsizing.
The very thought can produce an anxiety attack. What on earth will you do with all that stuff?
The idea of helping parents pare down a lifetime of accumulation is daunting, no question. Indeed, it’s easy to simply rent a storage unit and postpone dealing with the issue. “However, that can be an expensive way to merely delay the inevitable,” notes writer Patricia Lee, in a recent article on Houzz.
Lee urges readers to push on. For anyone facing this situation, she offers these tips:
Acknowledge that it isn’t easy: Discarding years of memories is an emotionally charged process for your parents. In addition, leaving a long-term home is a poignant reminder to them that life is winding down. Summon your patience and “mentally prepare yourself for what is to come,” writes Lee.
Involve your parents: You won’t always agree with your parents on what to discard. After all, “what you consider trash may be your parents’ treasures,” reminds Lee. Avoid taking over completely and allow your parents to have input on sorting decisions.
Work in small sessions: This is a time-consuming job that can deplete aging parents. Schedule your work sessions for no more than four hours a day, preferably a few days a week, if time allows.
Start with the least emotional items: Weeding out photos, letters and other sentimental items is tough. Start with less emotionally charged items, such as linens and clothing, and ease into the harder items.
Take charge of your childhood items: If your parents are holding onto your artwork, report cards and other memorabilia from childhood, now is the time to take ownership of them. Remove any of your possessions that have been stored at your parents’ house.
Remove unwanted items from the premises: “It’s important to keep unwanted possessions moving as you continue the decluttering process,” notes Lee. Don’t leave discarded items lying around. Order a dumpster for trash; schedule pickups from charitable organizations, and take sale-worthy items to consignment stores.
Appreciate this time with your parents: While this is a difficult task, it’s likely to prompt priceless memories from your parents. Be patient and open-hearted and you will take away stories to cherish in the future.
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