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When It's Time to Downsize

Do your parents need to downsize to a more manageable home? A new year is upon us, and there's no better time to help them start planning their next phase of life.

If your mum and dad are like almost every other parent on the planet, they'll be listing several reasons not to downsize! So let's clear the common stumbling blocks out of the way.

The fear of letting go

Your parents might have lived in their current home for many years. While it sounds perfectly practical to move them into a smaller, more secure environment, their memories and connections will be very powerful. Perhaps they're still living in the home you grew up in, or your own children spent many happy times running around the house and garden.

It's important to understand that memories become a source of real joy for older people, and the family home is filled with them. There will also be a reassuring familiarity, not only in the home itself but in the surrounding community too. Something as simple as having a friendly corner store within strolling distance, or a neighbour who drops in to trim the hedge and have a chat - these are joys that make a huge difference to quality of life for an older person.

Letting go can be very scary.

How to help

If your mum and dad focus on what they're about to lose, they will cling fiercely to it. The answer is to shift their focus on to what they will gain.

  1. Financial relief - letting go of a larger home, with all the associated upkeep costs, can lift a huge burden and hopefully provide a nice chunk of disposable income.

  2. Simplicity - a simpler, more low maintenance life is wonderfully relaxing and freeing.

  3. Security - a smaller unit or apartment can be easier to keep secure, and retirement communities even more so, with people around, alarm systems and medical help close by.

  4. Opportunity - moving is a chance to realign their lifestyle, meet new friends and try new activities, lock up and leave their home to travel more ... potentially a whole new lease of life!

  5. Easing the way to later life - a home more suited to ageing helps keep older couples safe, healthy and at home together for longer.

Ask their friends and neighbours to talk positively with them about the move too.

The stress of actually moving

One of the biggest barriers to making a decision to move is the prospect of sorting through decades of 'stuff'. It can certainly seem like an impossibly huge task, and can't be done at lightning speed.

Because it isn't just the work involved - it's the decisions that have to be made that can seem overwhelming for both you and your parents. How long have you had this, mum? Do you still use it? Why do you still have it? Shall I get rid of it? No? Why not? Sound familiar? And that's just one item!

On top of that, there's the guilt/sadness when things are thrown away, the stories that come up as items emerge from cupboards and basements, the mess and the memories.

How to help

Get help! This of course is a shameless plug for us to come and help you because it's what we love to do. But if you want to do it yourself, here's our advice:

  1. Be prepared for this to take twice as long as you think, respect the time your parents need to reminisce and make decisions, and understand that an item that seems worthless to you might be priceless to them.

  2. Think in terms of 4 piles: Sell, Donate, Discard, Keep.

  3. Deal with the Discard pile straight away, recycling as much as possible.

  4. Next deal with the Sell and Donate piles, which should be as large as possible! Identify the items that hold enough value to be sold individually on GumTree or Marketplace, then hold a garage sale for the rest of the Sell pile. Anything that doesn't sell goes into the Donate pile.

  5. Take the Donate pile away quickly, before your parents start to reclaim possessions from it! It's amazing how we forget about objects once they're out of sight.

Throughout the process, try to make mum or dad feel good about what they are doing. Reassure them that it's wonderful to pass on pre-loved possessions for others to use and enjoy. And if there are large items they really don't want to let go of, offer to store them if you can.

The worry about what comes next

Unless your parents are exceptionally adventurous and young at heart, it's likely they will be feeling apprehensive about moving forward into the 'unknown'. What will it be like? Will we have nice neighbours? What if we don't like it? Will people forget about us?

Anxiety about the future is totally understandable in this situation, so it's important to go easy. Their new home ideally should be in a familiar suburb and close to family and/or good friends who will drop in to see them regularly. A retirement community is ideal in many ways, and definitely worth encouraging.

During the time between choosing their new home and actually moving into it, you can do a lot to help ease their anxiety.

How to help

Explaining to your parents why they don't need to be anxious might not get you very far. Anxiety is deep-seated and wrapped up with what they feel and fear, as opposed to what they know to be true.

  1. Spend time on precious possessions and photos, reminding mum and dad that these will be right next to them in their new home.

  2. Take photos of the interior of their new home to remind them what they're going to, and make sure they're fully involved in deciding where furniture will go when they move.

  3. Visit the area as much as you can, and get to know the local cafes, shops, and any other places your parents might want to know about, such as a community centre, doctor's surgery, pub, park or fishing spot.

  4. If they're moving to a retirement village, see if you can take them along to a few events prior to moving, so they can start to become familiar with the layout and meet some of their new neighbours.

  5. And finally, make sure that vital items, such as medications and framed photos, are in a sensible place like the kitchen bench throughout the sorting, clearing and packing up process. This will reassure your parents that nothing important is going to be lost, and will help to ease their anxiety.

If you'd like help with the process of sorting, removing, selling and packing items ready to move, get in touch with us. Use the contact form on this website, email us at or call us on 0434 246 564 (Jane) or 0413 744 346 (Sara). We're happy to have a chat with you about your situation and how we might be able to ease you through the process.

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