Many older adults find themselves ready to downsize. You might be doing it for your own home, or you may be helping elderly parents. Either way, it can seem like a daunting task! There are many emotions happening, on top of the actual work of cleaning, sorting, selling, and donating items. Not sure where to start?
Involve Parents In the Discussion
If you are downsizing for yourself, you can skip this part.
However, if you are an adult child, and feel that it is time for your parents to move out of a big house and into something more manageable, remember to involve them in the decisions. Of course every situation is different, but the more communication the better in general. Some tips for making the conversation as smooth as possible:
Talk to Family First
Along the same lines of communication, now is a good time to reach out to siblings (yours and possibly your parents'), cousins, nieces and nephews, etc. You might be surprised of the things that you don't find valuable that are very meaningful to someone else in the family. The last thing you want is to create hurt feelings by throwing something out that someone wanted.
Find Out What Has More Than Sentimental Value
While sentimental value is real, it is easy for that to spill into assumptions about what has monetary value. I have seen people sell extremely valuable items for $2 at a garage sale because they didn't have personal attachment to it, and on the other end hang on to things forever that they can't "get what it's worth."
Because of the huge variety of value in various items, it is important to get expert advice. Click here to read an article from Forbes that will give you a place to start. You will get the most accurate pricing from talking to someone who doesn't have a stake in the appraisal. Someone who owns an antique store for example has a vested interest in making a profit on the sale.
You can also write down all the information you can about the item (brand name, year, etc.) and do an online search. You might be able to find similar items on eBay.com or other sites that will give you some idea about what it is currently selling for.
Because searching every individual item can be exhausting, going through the other steps of sorting and finding family homes for what you can first will really help here.
Preserve What Is Important
If there are things that you or a family member wants to hold on to, this is a great time to make sure that it is preserved properly so that future generations will be able to enjoy it. Often photos and documents are the most likely to suffer the deterioration of age. However other things can be lost too. A friend of mine had an old film camera from a grandparent. They sealed it in a plastic tub, but the roof leaked and water still got into the tub, completely destroying it. Make sure that you know the proper process for each type of thing that you want to save. Also, there will be different tips depending on if you simply want to repurpose an item, compared to maintaining it's market value. Furniture is one of the examples of this. If you are only repurposing it, then painting it might make the most sense, but for some pieces much of their value will be lost along with the original finish. Here are a few resources to get started:
Give What You Can
Once you decide what to keep, what will go to family, and what to sell, there will inevitably be things left over. You still want to keep as much of it out of the landfill as possible. (As tempting as it might be sometimes to just rent a dumpster). As the old adage says, one man's trash...
If you are not sure where to donate the types of goods you have left, you can check out this extensive list from Miss Minimalist of 101 different places to try, and exactly what types of goods they will accept. Sometimes knowing that something is going to a good home can help with the emotional stress as well.