HOw do you downsize A HOUSE FULL OF STUFF?
At some point, every family in America will be faced with the task of helping their aging parents downsize a home that has probably been lived in for decades. Whether the downsize is to move to a smaller home or an assisted living facility, it can be a tremendously overwhelming process. Where things get tricky, of course, is figuring out what to do with a lifetime of possessions. A home is museum of your family’s life, so it can be emotionally difficult to let things go.
In this post, I’ll share the 5 keys to success for a downsizing project. As a bonus, I’ve created this FREE Discussion Cheat Sheet. Click to download.
Ready to Start the Discussion about Downsizing a Lifetime of Stuff? Keep Reading
#1 Take it One Room at a Time
Downsizing a lifetime of stuff can be an overwhelming and emotional task. Start early, be patient, and respect the emotional distress downsizing can have on your parents.
To help get you started, I’ve created this free Discussion Cheat sheet. Download and put it to good use!
Want to help organize your aging parents? Read on.
Start Talking Before It Gets Awkward
I Know Your Excuses...because they’re the Same Ones I Used
- For APs, NOT TALKING about things is the norm.
- Ditto that for many families. And if you come from the Midwest (like me), we truly excel at not talking about things!
- Talking about Later Life Plans means eventually talking about Death. And nobody likes to think about that.
- There is legal paperwork involved and it’s too complicated, expensive, confusing, and/or overwhelming to start.
- There’s some sort of family discord and somebody will definitely object, be offended and/or hurt by the efforts to discuss Later Life.
- Everyone assumes that the adult child living closest to Mom or Dad will take care of it all.
- Money. Discussing financial plans for Later Life is awkward at best, taboo at worst.
Suck it Up, Buttercup.
Timing Is Everything
(aka Don’t Start Talking at Thanksgiving Dinner)
Emphasize Your Role as an Advocate
End the Conversation with a Plan, No Matter How Small
For example, you could say “Next time we talk, I’ll bring along a printed copy of a blank Living Will for us to discuss”. You also want to make sure you have an agreed-upon plan if your loved ones can no longer make decisions or in the event in an emergency.
A great resource is this free conversation guide, created by A Place for Mom.
What’s the Plan for All the Stuff in the House.
- Sterling Silver (but not silver plated items)
- Coin, stamp, artwork, gun, crystal or other valuable collections
- Truly unique, high-end antiques that are in pristine condition
- Family photos
- Sentimental items (christening & wedding gowns, military memorabilia, etc.)
The best way to describe this is to quote this article from Forbes magazine: “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff”. Start planning now for what will become of:
- “Brown” furniture
- Most mass-produced china and glassware
- Organs (the musical instrument, not your innards)
- Greeting cards, magazines and newspapers with no historical significance
- Old Tupperware, appliances with frayed cords, and cookbooks
- Flower delivery vases
- Plastic souvenir cups and empty Cool Whip bowls. Trust me: your aging parents have these.
- Your school papers, textbooks, and every drawing you ever did. Keep your diploma, let the rest of it go.
- 80% of the stuff stored in the garage
- Clothing that hasn't been worn in decades
Want to help your aging parents with clearing out all the stuff in the house?
Clutter Puts the Rage in Garage
The 3 Commandments of Closet Organization
Four Important Legal Papers
There are 4 important legal documents you should ensure your aging parent has.
- Will: An up-to-date Will is an important document.
- Living Will (also called Advance Health Care Directive)
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care:
- Durable Power of Attorney for Finances:
- Organ Donation registration
- Final Disposition Instructions (funeral and burial wishes)
- Digital Legacy Plan (learn more about what this ishere)
How can you find out what documents you need in your state?
Want more Advice on Helping your Aging Parents?
They have all the papers in order! Now what?
You've started the process of later life planning!
Coming soon...Later Life Planning Guide, workshops, and one-on-one coaching
Back To Schoool
Before & After
Closet Organization Ideas + Hacks
Downsizing Your Home
Family Schedule Logistics
Garage DIY Organization
Later Life Planning
Organizing Aging Parents
Selling Your Stuff
Weekly Family Routine