Downsizing and decluttering can be immensely beneficial for older people; find out how to approach this process in a sensitive, supportive manner.
Downsizing and decluttering can be difficult, but are vitally important for ensuring older people can enjoy the best possible quality of life.
In today’s article, we’ll take a quick look at the benefits of downsizing and decluttering, then provide you with a series of actionable tips to help your loved one through this process.
Potential benefits of downsizing and decluttering
The amount of space and possessions likely to be beneficial changes as we get older.
Frailty, illness or the loss of a loved one may make it harder to keep on top of things around the home, which could create safety or hygiene risks.
But, by downsizing or decluttering, your loved one can retain the things that are most important to them while starting to make practical steps that will improve their quality of life in future.
Moving to a smaller home will mean your loved one has less space to look after, making this a more manageable task.
It’s also an opportunity to find a property that better suits your loved one’s changing needs. This could include a change in property type, enabling single-level living or ensuring there’s a spare bedroom to accommodate a family or live-in carer.
Or, your aim might be to find a property that can accommodate care-related equipment, such as adjustable furniture (beds/chairs), lifts and hoists, oxygen therapy equipment or a variety of other sizeable devices.
When downsizing, finding a suitable property can give your loved one a home for the rest of their lives, potentially helping to overcome the need for a move into a care home later.
Clearing out items that are rarely used and/or of little sentimental value reduces your loved one’s cleaning burden, as well as the risk of an accident or fall.
You can use this as a chance to refresh the space and focus on a smaller set of treasured possessions. Or, you can make space for any specialist equipment that might now be required.
How to get started
This process will be different for everyone. But, you can use this advice to help make downsizing and decluttering as straightforward as possible:
- Start talking about it as early as you can to reduce anxiety and make sure your loved one’s wishes are the main driving force
- Try to act before a need arises so that your loved one need not undertake this process while also recovering from illness or injury
- Make this a social activity; be physically present, reminisce about old times and offer plenty of support/encouragement
- Conduct an audit and make a list of the things your loved one needs on a daily basis, and the things that have great sentimental value
- When sorting through possessions, encourage your loved one to create ‘keep’ and ‘remove’ piles only; ‘maybe’ piles leave room for doubt and can cause additional stress
- To reduce the size of collections, your loved one could get rid of duplicates, earmark a small selection to keep or take pictures of the collection before letting it go
- If there is too little space for certain possessions or pieces of furniture with sentimental value, suggest giving them away as heirlooms or legacy gifts to family or close friends
- Keep in mind that your loved one may require family or a live-in carer to stay overnight, and make sure there will be sufficient room to accommodate them during the process
Downsizing and decluttering can be difficult subjects to broach for older people, but can ultimately lead to significant improvements in overall quality of life. Use this advice to try to make the process as frictionless and mutually supportive as possible.