When you’ve lived a long, full life, chances are you have the “stuff” to prove it. Packed away in the attic, strewn about the cellar and garage, scattered throughout your entire home. If you’re like most people, just the thought of having to deal with it is overwhelming, let alone actually tackling the project. When it’s your parent’s house that needs to be cleaned out, the task is somehow even more daunting.
Fortunately for Cathy Morrow, of Yarmouth, her parents had already downsized once, back in 1985, when they built a smaller house. Yet, when the time came to downsize again, Cathy says she wasn’t sure where to begin. “There were things I just didn’t know what to do with, like the 12 linen tablecloths in a closet in the attic!”
Cathy’s father died two years ago and her mother, who is about to turn 92, recently moved to a nearby retirement community. “I have a sister, but she’s in Colorado, so I had the responsibility of dismantling the household.”
She turned to sisters Liz Pattison and Kim Dorsky for help. Their families were long time friends, and Liz and Kim had just started a business called SimplySized Home that was made to order for Cathy and her mother. They help people clean out their homes. “No words can describe the kind of relief they gave me,” Cathy says. They made it easy.”
Liz and Kim were kind enough to share some of their downsizing tips for the Advantage Home Care blog.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
“We usually start in the attic or the major trouble spot and begin the process by sorting things,” say Liz and Kim. “We go through boxes and touch everything. We put like things together, all of the china for instance, and display everything for the homeowner to view.”
KEEP, SELL, DONATE, TOSS?
Once things have been sorted, the homeowner decides what items to keep for themselves or family members. Depending on their value, the family may decide to sell or donate remaining items. The sisters are huge proponents of donating things that can’t be sold but would be very useful to someone in need. “There are people in the area who need pots and pans, who need bedding, that sort of thing. There are organizations out there that take those kinds of things.”
Cathy and her mother were more than happy to donate things — all the tools from the garage and basement, for instance, went to Habitat for Humanity.
And of course, there’s always plenty of stuff that can be hauled off to the dump or recycling center.
Organizing and sorting may make the downsizing process more efficient, but it can have the added benefit of softening the emotional ties people often have to some of their things. Cathy remembers going through a box of items that belonged to her late father. “I knew the things in the box came from my Dad’s desk,” she explains, “but they weren’t in place on his desk. It’s the same as when you go through old photos. For some reason, having them in a box takes you one step away from the emotional stuff so you can go through them like a bullet.”
Sorting through childhood memorabilia can also be highly charged with emotion. Even Kim and Liz have had to do it. They recently helped their own parents clean out their attic, but at least they had each other to lean on.
Their suggestion if your children left home years ago, but you’re still storing their stuff along with yours is to invite them over now to make some decisions! Keep, sell, donate, or toss? Make it as easy as you can for them. Offer to dispose of whatever they don’t want so they don’t have to do it themselves.
SOONER, RATHER THAN LATER
One final piece of advice from the downsizing experts is don’t put it off. “Do it while you’re young and in good health, and not in a crisis situation, when emotions are usually running high,” they advise. “You’ll be ahead of the game.”
And just think how wonderful you’ll feel when the job is finally done!
Do you have any downsizing tips you’d like to share with us at Advantage Home Care? We’ll be sure to pass them along.