Downsizing Checklist for Caregivers and Parents
Downsizing for the senior in your life (or rightsizing, as we like to call it) can be a huge, overwhelming task. Relocating has many crucial steps, and thinking of the event as one huge task can be daunting.
The trick to tackling a massive undertaking is to divide the task into several small tasks. Organizing the downsize into manageable bits will make the process more stress-free for you, and the senior in your life.
We’ve created this downsizing checklist, to make everyone’s life easier.
1. Planning Stage
Plan your work, and work your plan! The act of writing your plans itself has been shown to reduce stress. As you remember each and every aspect of the downsizing, write it down in a central location.
Important steps in the Planning Stage:
- Clean and Organize in Stages
Get ahead of the task as much as you can. Nothing adds stress to a task like all-or-nothing thinking, and a marathon approach may cause burn out. Give yourself months to prepare, if at all possible.
- Set a Hard Moving Date
Nothing motivates like a deadline! Leaving a move date up in the air is a recipe for endless delays and long-term stress. Set a reasonable date, which takes into account all of the factors of the move and stick to it.
- Measure Furniture
The senior in your life may be very attached to that antique dresser, but it may not fit in their new living space. The worst time to figure this out is when it’s stuck in a doorway. Take measurements of anything large that may be accompanying the resident, and decide what simply won’t make the cut. This can be a stressful decision, as folks can be extremely sentimental about their possessions, but sometimes, a firm decision needs to be made.
- Plan an Estate Sale
There’s a good chance downsizing will lead to a surplus of sellable furniture. Unless you want to pay monthly at a storage facility for something that may never see the light of day again, consider setting up an estate sale. It’s cheap, easy, and you may even get a decent amount of money!
- Decide Whether to Hire a Moving Company or Ask Friends & Family
A relocation is usually three times as much work as you think. Friends and family may have their hearts in the right place, but may lack the vehicles and equipment to safely move possessions to the new community. A moving company has the skills, equipment, and trucks needed to move everything to where you need it. Make the decision early and carefully, and stick to your plan!
2. Organizing/Decluttering Stage
The next phase of reducing stress and moving forward with a downsize is the Organizing/Decluttering Stage. You will need to sort your senior’s belongings by importance, what is sellable, what should be given to friends and family, what should be donated, and what should be thrown away.
- Decide What is Important:
While sorting the possessions, look out for tax documents, deeds, medical records, wills, any diplomas/certifications, identifications (driver’s license, passport, social security cards), prescriptions, and anything else that may be important to keep.
- Decide What is Sellable:
If you plan to have an estate sale, or sell off items on Craigslist or eBay, keep value in mind. A beloved piece of art or furniture may be precious in the senior’s eyes, but unsellable on the market. Think about the condition and resell value of any items that cannot be taken to the new community.
- Decide What Goes to Friends & Family:
Passing along heirlooms is a time-honored tradition, and some friends and family would be overjoyed to have a meaningful item passed along. If that upright grand piano can’t be relocated to the new community, consider giving it to a musical friend or family member. These heirlooms can grow a deeper bond with a loved one, and may bring joy to families for generations.
- Decide What is Donated or Thrown Away:
Some items may be beyond repair, or have little resell value. If you’re having trouble finding a new home for some items, it may be time to let it go. Donating to places like Goodwill will pass the possessions along, and will give you a small tax credit. If the item is unlikely to find a new home even at a Goodwill, there is no shame in throwing it away (or recycling, if possible).
3. Packing Stage
Now that you’ve decided what stays and what goes, it’s time to pack! Organization is extremely important while you’re packing, so nothing is filed away to the wrong place, or gets broken.
- Get Organized
Before boxing anything, identify which room each relocated item will go to. It’s very important to designate a box for essential items, such as medication, bathroom supplies, bedding, or anything that will be needed within hours of unpacking.
- Identify Fragile & Important Items
Plenty of priceless artifacts have been ruined in transit. If you care about the well-being of the possessions, take care to properly package fragiles with newspaper, bubblewrap, cardboard, or insulation. Be sure to mark the box as FRAGILE, so any movers will know to handle the package with care.
- Invite Friends & Family to Help
Packing is always a bigger undertaking than you think it is. Many hands makes less work, so incentivize your friends and family to help out. Promising a nice dinner or a return favor can go a long way in enticing friends and family to help!
4. Moving Stage
- If Using Friends & Family, Be Sure to Communicate
Make sure plans are absolutely solidified for the move. Who will be where, with what tools, driving which truck, at what time? Effective moves require all hands on deck, and absolute clarity of responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to touch base often, with regular reminders.
- Make Sure You Have the Appropriate Gear and Muscle
As mentioned before, planning is important. Make sure the friends and family that help with the move, or moving company understand exactly how much material needs to be moved, and how heavy it is. Will you need a pickup truck? A moving truck? A trailer? The ability to move something more than 200 lbs? These are important questions that should be answered before moving day.
- If Using a Moving Company, Get Contracts in Writing
In some instances, moving companies can be responsible for destruction of property. In these events, it’s important to have contingencies in writing. Though it is rare for a moving company to cause irreparable harm, it’s important to have a plan for a disaster. Better safe than Sorry!
5. The New Life Stage
At this point, you’ll have a house full of boxes. Though this final step is important and can take time, the hardest work is behind you. Unpacking, setting up the new residence, and providing ongoing support can be a very rewarding stage in the downsizing process.
- Update the Address
With all the hustle and bustle of a relocation, this is easy to forget. Notify the post office of the new address, and the need for a forwarding address. Update the address to the senior’s bank, post office, and any other important institutions.
- Unpack Essentials, then Bathroom, then Bedroom
Where to start with all these boxes? Instead of spending hours deciding the feng shui of the residence’s decorations, start with the essentials. Medications, glasses, cell phones, and toiletries should be the first priority. It’s important to have bathroom needs and a cozy place to sleep taken care of before the day is done. Everything else can be unpacked in the following days.
- Check in Regularly
There are so many ways to support the senior in their new residence. Sometimes, it’s as easy as a phone call. Be sure to keep in touch, track their progress, and let them know they can call on you for support. Make sure they’re happy, socializing well, and thriving in their new community.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Rightsizing a senior’s residence is a challenge, and it may feel like too big of a task. If you feel out of your depth, or overwhelmed by the challenge of moving, sometimes you need an expert to help out. If you need additional assistance, use our interactive map to find senior living communities in your area. You can schedule an appointment to meet with Senior Lifestyle staff and talk through any concerns you may have with rightsizing.
For information on ongoing care, and enriching the lives of seniors, be sure to read our Senior Lifestyle Blog!