The gentle touch

As our population achieves greater longevity more of us are set to potentially enjoy a longer retirement time, but for many, the much-loved family home can eventually become a burden and sadly no longer a viable place to live.

Increasingly those in their fifties are tasked with helping elderly parents face this situation with all its emotional and practical challenges whilst trying to hold down careers and care for their own children at the same time. Often a geographical distance is thrown into the mix to make matters even harder. Meanwhile, some elderly people don’t have grown up children to call on for assistance at all.

Whether it’s moving to a smaller house, retirement living, or care home, it is generally the sorting, packing and downsizing element of the process that is the most daunting for an elderly person.

Here are some useful tips for tackling this area:

  1. Write a list of favourite possessions. Choose a few must-keeps from each room and then it will gradually become clear which are less important.

  2. If possible, sort and cut down gradually over a period of weeks or months. A cupboard or drawer a day perhaps, so that it feels manageable.

  3. Try the ‘four boxes’ technique. Label them keep, sell, donate and tip and sort accordingly. You can always move items from one box to another until you are happy with your decision.

  4. Start at the top and work down. The attic or loft is most likely the place where many possessions are simply in storage. Start here and work on the basis that if something hasn’t been used or needed for ages then it could be discarded.

  5. Items of memorabilia can be offered to a family member or friend who may be interested. If they don’t want them, they can safely be sold or donated to charity.

  6. Consider the floorplan of the rooms in the new home and compare them with the size of a room in the existing home. This way you can work out which items of furniture will fit and which can be sold or donated.

  7. Cut down on numbers. Especially in the kitchen and dining room. A lesser number of place-settings of cutlery and crockery might suffice for the new home, likewise fewer pans and cooking utensils. Will you be entertaining? Will you be eating out more?

  8. Just take the best of everything to the new home and (especially if it has always been kept only for best), start to enjoy using it!

  9. If you are still struggling with downsizing, you could use the ‘is it unique or special’ tactic. An original painting is going to be worth keeping over and above a familiar print. A classic hardback book over a recent paperback thriller.

  10. What else won’t be needed in the new home? Have you still got a video recorder or record player? Is it worth keeping those LPs, cassettes or videos if there is no longer a player that will play them? Are the golf clubs still in play? The lawnmower may be redundant too if someone else will be handling gardening at the new place.

Downsizing and moving on to a new chapter in life can and should be a positive and liberating experience. Michelle and Andrew of the Yorkshire Move Manager find that often it is simply the time to spend with someone going through this process that is required. Quickly building a relationship with clients they provide someone to support them as they make the transition, metaphorically holding their hand like a family member to share the workload of the move. Andrew explains ‘Just having a friendly person to chat with while sorting through piles of possessions makes it a lot less lonely and overwhelming. We don’t carry the emotional baggage that a family member might have to face in the same situation so we are able to help to get the practical job done while helping to make it rewarding and fun rather than sad wherever we can’.

Article featured in the Yorkshire Post 21st February 2015.

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