The Seniors Guide for Decluttering and Feeling at Home

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Adjusting to life in a retirement home can be tough – it involves big changes, like leaving behind a home and all the memories it contains, as well as the feeling of losing a measure of freedom. But you can help your loved one make a smooth transition. Here’s how.

  • This type of move can involve significant downsizing.
  • Make sure everyone involved knows when to start packing, when the move will occur, and when you’ll come to the new home to help with the transition.
  • Your loved one may have mixed feelings about the move, reluctant to make such a big change.
  • Your attitude about the process, and the way you handle the situation can have a big impact.

Decluttering and Downsizing 

Packing is stressful no matter how you look at it. Start early and take it slowly. Your loved one’s participation can help them feel in control – but remember that this is a big job, and too much at once can be overwhelming. Keep packing, sorting and organizing to a couple of hours per day.

If the person who’s moving has a lot of stuff, there’s a big decision on the horizon. He or she will have to decide to store, sell, or divide items between family members. This should definitely be your loved one’s decision. Together, you can categorize each item and decide what your family member, parent or friend will take, store, donate or sell.

Be on the lookout for important documents that you and your loved one must keep, such as:

  • Birth certificates
  • Deeds
  • Diplomas and degrees
  • Financial documents
  • Medical records
  • Military records
  • Passports
  • Powers of attorney
  • Wills

Keep important documents in a central location, and let other family members know so nobody gets the wrong idea or feels left out of the process. 

If your loved one is okay with it, have adult children claim keepsakes during the process. Sports trophies, high school yearbooks and other items can go home with their owners to make things easier for everyone. Seniors should bring cherished mementos and keepsakes to the new place so it feels like home.

If your loved one has pets, you’ll have to make arrangements for them, too. Let your parent, family member or friend decide where they’ll go, if possible.

What if You Can’t Get Your Loved One to Part With Items? 

Many people don’t want to let go of things they feel are important. If necessary, you can try:

  • Talking to an antique dealer to find out how much items are worth. 
  • Hiring a professional organizer. If you’re too close to the situation and your help becomes frustrating, bring in an impartial third party who’s used to helping people let go.
  • Letting your loved one know where items will go and that they’ll be treasured. 

Handle the Paperwork 

You may need to change your loved one’s address, transfer utilities, or finalize registration. Make sure you tackle these issues early so you’re not scrambling later. 

  • Bank and credit card accounts
  • Driver’s license and vehicle registration
  • Insurance policies, investments, and retirement accounts
  • Medicare and Social Security
  • Newspaper and magazine registrations
  • Voter registration

After the Move

Your loved one needs plenty of time to settle in, get to know people and start to feel at home, so don’t try to rush the process. Here’s how you can help.

  • Understand that the move represents a loss.
  • Make memories and continuity a priority.
  • Show support and visit often.

Author bio: Jennifer Karami is a writer at Redfin, a technology-enabled real estate brokerage. With a 1% listing fee and full-service agents, Redfin’s mission is to redefine real estate in the customer’s favor.

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