Downsize and Declutter in Your Retirement Years
Many seniors today grew up in homes where they learned the value of storing, reusing and repairing items from their parents. As important of a lesson as that is, many seniors have accrued a lifetime’s worth of household items they no longer need; in some cases, these items may even make their space less livable. Whether they feel the items have sentimental value or that they may need the items “someday,” helping a loved one declutter can be stressful and provoke anxiety.
Below are some tips for helping with decluttering and/or downsizing a loved one’s living space so that they can live in a clutter-free (and stress-free) environment.
How to Get Started
Start with a Conversation
No one likes to be ordered to do something, especially when it comes to getting rid of things that may have sentimental value. Gently start a conversation about the importance of choosing a date and time to declutter and organize their home, especially if they’re moving in the near future. Be patient! Remind your loved one of the “feel-good” aspect of donating usable items to charity. You can also highlight the fun part of the project—spending time together and talking about old memories.
If your loved one reluctantly agrees to decluttering, start small—focus on one room or project. You may start by donating any duplicate kitchen items or by sorting through items in a small, seldom used room. Let them lead the way. Separate items in four piles: keep; donate; sell; toss (or, if possible, recycle).
How to Finish What You Start
Bring in an Outside Helper
Invite a hired hand—like a housekeeper or neighbor—to help provide an objective voice when considering sentimental items. Encourage your loved one to share the stories of the most valuable items and suggest giving some to family and friends so they can continue to be cherished and valued.
Keep Each Session Short
Especially when you’re just starting out, it can be overwhelming to get rid of so much at once. Aim for maybe two to three hours of work a day and get items out of the house right after a decision is made to avoid rethinking a hard choice.
Make it Fun
Use holidays or birthdays to re-gift old items like toys and pieces of clothing (these can be put in a “dress-up box” for grandchildren). Ornaments, cookie cutters, gift bags, etc. can also be passed down for family members to use and enjoy.
Remind Your Loved One to Buy with Intention
Decluttering a household is a big task, and if care isn’t taken when making purchases, the process may have to be done again and again! Be mindful when purchasing gifts for your loved one, and engage in conversation with them about the importance of buying with intention. It’s easy to slip, especially when online shopping is so easy and so many stores seem to have sales every other week. Try to ask yourself or your loved one if the desired item is needed. Remind yourself—and them—that the savings from not buying unnecessary items can be put toward purchasing higher quality items that last a lot longer. Or, better yet, they can be spent on invaluable experiences with family and friends.