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When you’ve lived in the one home for decades, it goes without saying that you’ll have accumulated a lot of stuff – much of it that you don’t need anymore. So, when it comes to downsizing where do you start?

While downsizing has many positives as we move into our senior years, it can seem like a big undertaking and can sometimes take on a negative connotation.

Clarissa Brandt and Leah Steinberg have helped a lot of seniors to downsize through their roles as senior move managers with Brisbane-based relocation agency Care to Move. They believe that a more positive way to look at downsizing is rightsizing your environment to better reflect your stage of life.

“We really need to embrace every stage, because every part of lives represents a new chapter. Sometimes we can let a home or possessions hold us down when there is so much more to enjoy,” says Clarissa.

“We see too many situations where people leave the decision to move on to an appropriate living environment too late and they don’t get to make that choice for themselves.”

So, what’s stopping people from getting free of their possessions and moving on to a smaller abode?

The psychology of downsizing

If you’ve tried to downsize yourself or help an elderly parent to downsize, you’ll know how hard it can be to part with some of your stuff.

This has a lot to do with how emotionally attached we can get to our possessions and the memories associated with those items.

“People do get an emotional attachment to their stuff, so much so that stuff can get a bit sticky and it’s hard to let go of them,” says Leah.

“We say the best way to tackle it is to start early and have a plan. While there’s no perfect downsizing timeline, 12 months would probably be ideal. This gives people time to methodically work their way through what needs to be decluttered without rushing.”

“If there are things you have emotional attachment to, taking photos can be a great way to keep the memories alive even when there’s no room to bring these items into your new smaller home.

“A great app we use is called Keepsake, where people can take photos of their cherished items and write or record a story about that item. This can then be shared with other members of the family too. There’s research out of America that found taking photos and keeping the photos rather than the actual item gave people the same feeling and emotional connection as keeping the item itself.”

The decluttering process

Decluttering your possessions can take a lot longer than you think, but by getting organised and approaching the job methodically it can be much less painful.

Care to Move offer the following downsizing tips for seniors:

  • Diarise the days you’re going to concentrate on decluttering. This will help to keep you accountable and on track.
  • Set yourself a goal and a four-hour window each day to tackle your decluttering.
  • Have packing tools at the ready such as boxes, rubbish bags and packing tape
  • Set up clearly marked boxes to place and sort your items into keep, waste, donate and sell.
  • Create zones in your house to store your sorted items.
  • Have a process. Start with wardrobes and then move through the kitchen and then concentrate on books, knick-knacks and papers and photos.
  • Remember that owning less is better than organising more. It’s better to get rid of the stuff you no longer use than to pay to keep it in storage.

Getting rid of items

There are a number of ways you can part with your unwanted possessions, depending on the item.

Selling

If the item has value, you can try selling it. There are a number of ways you can do this – you could sell online via ebay or gumtree, buy and sell groups on Facebook or hold a garage sale.

Donating

You can donate items to charity. The benefit here is that most large charities will pick up your items, including furniture free of charge. Animal shelters and the RSPCA are always looking for old sheets and blankets, which is a great way to put your old linen to good use.

Recycling

Some of your unwanted items may be able to be recycled. Timber and other building materials, old pairs of glasses, computers and mattresses are just some of the items you can recycle through the appropriate channels rather than throwing out.

Throwing out

There are companies that can pick up your waste from your home or you can hire a skip that can make throwing out things easier. There is a cost for these services but it may prove more convenient than multiple trips to the dump.

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Belinda Peters
Belinda brings more than 17 years experience in journalism to her role as Seasons Digital Content Writer. As our blog editor, Belinda will take the confusion out of aged care with entertaining and informative stories from across the aged care industry and our Seasons communities.