It can be a heart-wrenching experience but, for many people, the process of downsizing in preparation for a move to a new residence is an inevitable reality. It’s the point where we look around at the accumulated stuff of life and are faced with decisions about what is truly important.
That process can be particularly distressing for the elderly who may find it overwhelming to think about letting go of the items that they have gathered over a lifetime.
It’s a process with which Anne Watley, a DFH realtor located in Sidney, is very familiar. “I like to work with the family so that the individual who is moving…particularly an elderly person…sees the move in a positive way,” said Watley. “I have them envision the space that they are moving to and help them realize that it isn’t as scary a thing as they might imagine.”
Watley said that it’s important to choose a realtor who will be respectful of the emotions involved. She starts out by talking to her clients about what is truly important to them and how it might find a place in their new home. “They might have a particular piece, like their grandfather’s desk, that they absolutely need to keep. We identify those pieces and start to build an idea of what their new home will be,” said Watley. “After that we can slowly start to talk about what pieces of furniture and other possessions they can part with. It’s after those discussions take place…and it can take a long time…that you can get on with the process of staging a home for sale.”
Watley said that the “crash and burn” method of culling unwanted or unneeded items from a home just doesn’t work. “A move like that can be very stressful …and I have no desire to add stress to an already stressful situation,” said Watley. “I take the time that’s needed and make the process as gentle as possible.”
It’s an approach that Stephanie Deakin of Clutter Clean Services follows as well. Deakin is the president of the Vancouver island Chapter of the Professional Organizers of Canada. For 11 years she’s been helping seniors make the transition to new homes. It’s a process that she’s become very adept at handling.
“It’s difficult to make decisions about your own stuff,” said Deakin. “We have emotional connections with things and we don’t see them as clearly as we might. Even when family members try to help that process, they find that they have their own connections to things and they aren’t as impartial as they thought.”
Deakin said that an important strategy for helping the elderly let go of much loved possessions that just won’t fit their new life-style is to recognize and honour the value of the items on an emotional level.
“They may love a piece of furniture that just isn’t going to fit in their new home, but we help find a new home for that item…with people who will love it just as much.” Deakin works with charities like Herowork to make those connections and help move items to new homes where they will be valued.
“Of course people can always send their things to auction,” said Deakin, “but that can feel like abandoning something you love.” Yard sales can be even worse, psychologically. “You really need a strong stomach for a sale of that kind as people will tend to come in and say some pretty rude things about your treasures and then try to haggle a low price for those items.”
“It’s a tough process, and it can take a while to accomplish a move to a smaller residence,” said Watley. “But the important thing is to do it gently and with respect for a lifetime of memories.”