Downsizing the home: tips for caregivers
There is an added emotional stress of downsizing the home when there is an element of caring required or loss of independence involved. In an ideal world, individuals have the autonomy to acquire the items in life that matter most to them and then let these go in a way that they are comfortable with. As we all know, however, life does not always go according to plan.
Getting in early when downsizing the home
If you are reaching a stage where you can see the need to downsize, but are not yet there, then you have the luxury of time on your side. Use this to acclimatize those you are helping to move to the idea of a new home and less possessions. If you are caring for a loved one, this may be even harder as their/your shared possessions are tangible links with your past.
To make the process easier, focus on all the easy things to rid yourselves of, such as unwanted documentation (receipts etc.), furniture, clothing and the like. Freeing up space this way will help you realise what is important to you and isolate items a little more so they don’t seem as ingrained in your life as you thought.
Secondly, take your time. If it took you and/or the person you are caring for a lifetime to acquire a house full of possessions, it will take you longer than a weekend to effectively sort through everything without throwing important treasures away.
For those where illness has come suddenly, you may not have the luxury of time to deal with these issues. Whereas outside help is justified in the previous scenario, it is all the more important where elements of shock are playing a key role in events. Look towards counselling to help you and your loved ones adjust to the requirement downsizing the home makes on you.
It is not uncommon for serious familial rifts to occur at this time. This is often due to a lack of communication when it comes to the process of downsizing the home. Every family is different but if there is one caretaker it is understandable for them to feel the most responsibility for the possessions of those they take care of. However, rifts can be avoided if people are as involved as they possibly be in the management of possessions and in the discussions relating to the sale of a property.
Try to keep the management of possessions as democratic a process as possible. If individuals want certain items, talk about why they want them, what emotional value they hold and work this out as best you can where compromise is seen as the best option. This is not an easy process and requires bravery and strong communication skills from everyone involved.
If the person/s that need care have the independence to deal with the matter of their possessions, this is even better. Use this opportunity to create a sense of ceremony in the passing on of material possessions to children and friends by recording these moments, creating an emotional link for these items.
Lastly, seek the advice of a relevant solicitor and accountant if they have a history with those you are taking care of. They can help you identify the key items you need to find and catalogue, in terms of wills, titles to a property, taxes, etc. Knowing exactly what you need will help you rid yourselves of the things you don’t need.
On moving day
Beyond carrying out the usual checks and cost saving measures of moving, be sure to provide comfort to those you a caring for by placing key furniture and items in a way that is reminiscent or mirrors that of how they were used in the previous property. A good idea is to take photographs of rooms before you start decluttering, so that you can see how emotionally-valuable items are displayed or used.