As of 2022 there are 389,334 adults in Sacramento and 67,129 of these adults are older adults. The senior population is growing and whether you are dealing with the loss of a parent or your elderly parents are preparing for a move into senior living, cleaning out your parent’s house can be an overwhelming task and feel nearly impossible. Moving can be very stressful and emotional when sorting through decades of assets and figuring out what needs to be done with the personal belongings of your loved one.
While it may be hard on many families, downsizing is an inevitable part of life. Whether our parent's aging has led them to need more care than they can receive at their own house, or a move to an assisted living facility or memory care community, there will always come a time when we must accept these changes. Perhaps they're simply moving to an independent living community, to be with like-minded peers — they still need to get rid of a lot of stuff. Keep in mind that not only do your parent’s house and belongings have significant financial and monetary value, but emotional value as well. Give everyone some grace during what can be a trying time.
8 tips to make downsizing easier
- One step at a time. Take the process one step at a time. Cleaning up and clearing out your parent’s home in preparation for downsizing into senior living is no small task. One of the most important things you can do to prepare for your parents' downsizing first is to talk to them about it. The first step is to ask them what they want to keep and what they're willing to let go of and maintain realistic goals. You may also want to have a conversation with your family members, siblings, adult children, immediate family, close friends, and caregivers to figure out who will take on which tasks. Start by sorting through your aging parents' belongings and after decluttering you can separate them into three piles: keep, donate, and sell.
- Stay on task. Once you have figured out who will be performing each project, it is important to stay on task. Keep a schedule, a specific timeline, time limit, or a checklist. Don’t wait until the last minute to worry about where all the valuables will be going. How many possessions there are determines how long the process will take. The longer it is put off the more stressful the process becomes. Give yourself enough time to complete the downsizing for your own peace of mind and less hassle in the long run.
- Sorting. Another critical step is to first sort through your parents' belongings and collect any essential documents, legal documents, personal papers, and life insurance policies to keep them together in a safe space while you clean out the house. Keep in mind when sorting that some things may be more of a sentimental value to your loved ones than others. If your parents have a lot of sentimental items, you may want to consider storing them in a safe place. A storage unit may be an option (but, of course, their price adds up over time). Storage units will allow your parent’s possessions to still be accessible to them, but won’t take up any space in their new home. You might want to double check that your loved one doesn't already have a storage unit, or a safety deposit box. Sometimes these details can get lost in the shuffle and lead to lost heirlooms or other important documents. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t miss it there is no need to keep it. Duplicates can also be eliminated. If you have more than you need then it can go, such as dishes, pots, pans, glasses, linens, etc. The fewer things you keep the more you will treasure the things you have saved for your personal space. Depending on your loved one's habits, you might want to do a deeper dive into their home, especially if they've lived there for many decades. Families have given away furniture and sold homes only to discover later that their relatives had stashed cash inside walls, couches, or other items. It is tedious, but it pays to go through every pocket, drawer, and maybe even to check that loose floorboard.
- Set up for a home sale. Before removing any household items like furniture, art, or decorations make sure there are personal items left in the house for the real estate listing. If you or your loved one are in the process of downsizing to move into assisted living, memory care, independent living, or a nursing home contact a Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®). SRES® has unique training and experience in helping home buyers and sellers in your situation. SRES® Realtors will help you sell the home according to your situation. Most SRES® Agents (which is a licensed role) will have you set up the house as if it is still being lived in while trying to sell. Once this period is over then you can start donating, throwing away, selling, keeping, or moving on with your loved ones.
- Plan ahead. Make sure to plan for your parent’s new space. Once you can see how much space is available you can plan ahead and figure out what possessions can be kept. Having a good idea of how much space is available will help narrow down which items will move with your parents.
- Use a system. Keep organized by using a tagging system to identify which items will stay, which unwanted items will be sold and which will be donated, and which will be given away. Creating a system will help keep you organized and make the sorting, unpacking, and moving process run smoothly. Make sure to eliminate anything that may be broken or damaged. Start with the easier parts of the home to eliminate things and then work your way to the harder areas.
- Hire a professional. Once it has been decided where everything will go, it is time to get everything where it needs to go. It may be time to hire downsizing professional movers or a moving company to take on the transportation part of it or you can work with the National Association of Senior Move Managers who will help you downsize from beginning to end. Or it maybe time to start selling things online from places like an online auction house such as MaxSold, or a local estate sale company like Schiff Estate Services, donating to places such as Goodwill and Salvation Army, or throwing things away by using a local hauling company like Rich’s Junk Hauling or Big Rich Hauling. Keep in mind that some non-profits, like Goodwill, are no longer accepting furniture donations: double check before you haul them anywhere. If your items are in good condition you can also consider consignment shops, who love gently used decor and vintage pieces.
- Learn how to let go. Be sure to give yourself time to grieve the loss of the family home. This is a normal and necessary part of the emotional process. Letting go is often one of the hardest steps in this whole process. You may even feel that you are letting a part of your parents go. For those possessions that seem to be harder than others to let go of, consider taking a picture to keep the memories fresh. The memories of the home and its belongings can live on with you even if they are no longer with you.
Please note that mention of local Sacramento businesses and non-profit organizations are not an endorsement by Seniorly.