After a lifetime of accumulating possessions, most American seniors have more than they need, yet they often find it difficult to get rid of anything. Many adult children meet with resistance when they try to help their parents downsize as part of a move, or to just free up space in a crowded home so they can age in place
Parting with possessions sometimes reminds them they are close to the end of their lives. Holding on to their stuff means holding on to their lifestyle and their independence. They may keep things out of a sense of loyalty or sentimental value. If they grew up in the depression era, they might be reluctant to throw anything away.
If it’s your job to help your elderly parents declutter, meet with them and explain why it’s necessary. Reassure them they will have a say in what to keep and what to get rid of.
Here are tips to talk to them about decluttering their home:
Appeal to their sense of charity. They may not need a certain item anymore, but someone less fortunate could use it.
Encourage them to choose things to give as gifts to relatives. Maybe a granddaughter would like a cherished doll collection.
Look for different ways to preserve memories. Instead of keeping that special dress, maybe Mom would be satisfied with a picture of herself wearing it? Or maybe Dad’s collection of t-shirts can be made into a quilt?
Scan photographs to the computer.
Ask them to consider selling things that may have value, like antiques or gold jewelry.
If they are having difficulty parting with certain things, seal them in a box and put it aside for six months. If they don’t miss the items during that time, revisit the subject.
In part two of our series, the story of one man who discovered his elderly parents’ problem wasn’t clutter – it was hoarding.