Whether they are packrats or minimalists or somewhere-in-between, helping parents to downsize can be a challenging and meaningful experience!

Many of us as adult children will be called upon to help our parents downsize from a family home to condo or apartment. As you lend a hand, consider these questions together. 

How can we collaborate? 

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Taking Stock In September

These beautiful shortening September days remind us of the passing of another year. Time to take stock of what items in our homes could be downsized before year-end!

Two questions can help us do this:

1. If I didn’t use this item in the first eight months of the year, will I use it now? And if not, can I let it go?  Consider garden decor and tools, kitchen utensils, and summer clothes that may not have been touched this year.

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The Motivation of One Clear Surface

September 1 -- the start of a new year!  For many of us, there are two New Year’s Days — January 1 and September 1. That September day harkens back to our school days whether or not we now have children in school. We remember new notebooks, new classmates, new possibilities! 

Beginning anew can have just as much impact in our adult years.  This is a great time to continue our organizing or downsizing projects that took a vacation this summer.

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The lazy-hazy-crazy days of summer. Oh Bliss!  

Why did I ever think last spring that I would have time this summer to tackle those projects that have been hanging around for ages?  

I frequently hear those words from others, and I have been known to say them myself (today!). 

What are those projects that are still sitting on shelves?

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A friend dropped by to tell me about her summer plans to corral stuff. She is on a year-long project to rightsize her family home (with three teenagers) and to help downsize her parents from their 5-level split to a one-floor home. It’s been a heavy year of letting stuff go, and she wants a break this summer.  Yet she says her corralling of stuff will continue.

Her secret? Keep it SIMPLE. 

While growing up on a mixed farm of cattle and grain, she was very familiar with the concept of corralling. To GATHER TOGETHER. 

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Digital Legacy Plan? What’s That?

Simply: What is in your digital estate?  What remains of us online after we are gone? Who has access to online banking, passwords, photos — all of our personal and professional legacy — when we are no longer able to manage our online presence. 

This post is a follow-up to one on digital downsizing (see Digital Downsizing: Tackling the Digital Eyesore).

Canadian Angela Crocker has once again written a short readable practical guide to a necessary part of estate planning.

Any of us who have recently served as a power of attorney or executor for someone who had an online presence may know of what I speak.  Lawyers are now raising questions of digital estates as they help clients prepare wills. 

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Is digital downsizing on your TO DO List? Are you like many of us who have not kept up with a manageable level of email, photographs, and documents on your digital devices?  Do you feel like you are always playing catch-up to organize and delete?

One of my favourite books to tackle this issue head on is Declutter Your Data: Take Charge of Your Data and Organize Your Digital Life. Canadian Angela Crocker, a new favourite author of mine, has written an easy-to-read guide to help us downsize our digital lives and move forward with a manageable plan. 

Crocker’s book has chapters on managing email, dedicating devices for particular uses, consolidating data, curating photos and videos, figuring out privacy, appropriate social media, fighting fake news, and digital parenting. Each of these chapters focuses on decluttering, downsizing, and increasing quality of life. 

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How do we let go of a beloved treasure from our homes without feeling attachment?  How do we let special family items pass out of our hands and into the hands of others without wondering about the item's future?

Last week’s blog post considered a question from a recipient’s point of view.  How do I find the balance of saying YES and NO to my parents as they ask me to TAKE items? (See Gratitude: Sometimes We Just Need To Say Yes).

This week’s post is a companion piece.  As the giver of an item, how do I truly LET IT GO? Especially those very special items.

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"How do I find the balance of saying YES and NO to my parents as they downsize their home and ask me to take items?”  This common question comes from adult children who are helping their parents right-size or downsize their homes. 

The adult child's question about a balance of YES and NO frequently follows a time of saying: “I can’t take any more of your stuff, Mom!” (See YOUR DOWNSIZING CAN’T BE MY UPSIZING)

Although “upsizing” was not their goal, two friends offer their wisdom about taking more-than-less as they help their parents downsize.

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What do I do with those items inscribed or engraved with my name that catch my heart every time I see them?

This question came from readers who are moving or downsizing when they read my post  What To Do With Old Awards

The size of their new home means that these items can no longer be easily displayed. In several cases, these inscribed items were found in basement boxes that had sat unpacked for years. A flood of sentimental memories emerged as each item was uncovered.  

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"What do I do with old awards, trophies, and plaques?” ask several clients as they downsize their homes.

Physical items received for a sports championship or a prize-winning 4-H heifer or recognition of community or employment service remind us of hard work and accomplishment.  Perhaps we also have an award that was presented to a parent or grandparent.

What do we do when we are downsizing and have less space to keep them?

Ask yourself, do I want to display this item and am I inspired when I see it?   If the answer is YES, display it where you can appreciate it.

If the response is NO, perhaps it’s time to let it go. 

Here are a few options as you consider YES or NO: 

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Ten people in my circle are moving homes in the next two months. As they pack, all are downsizing decades of accumulated stuff. They all have lots to say about the timing of decisions at a time when the ground feels as though it is shifting beneath them. 

in the midst of this upheaval in their lives, they offer these helpful hints:

  • Set limits on what times during the day you will make decisions. Although some of us are morning larks and others are night hawks that doesn't mean that the best decisions are made upon first waking or late at night.

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One bookcase can contain the books of a lifetime! 

Some of us have a lifelong love affair with books. They helped us escape to a fantasyland as a child and continue to inspire us today. For others, a book collection represents the tools-of-a-trade or career or tells the story of family life through the decades. 

Do you feel that you can’t part with books yet your own downsizing means you need to?  

Here’s one plan to consider.

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Are you someone who owns many books and the time has come to rightsize or downsize?

For any of us who are book lovers or whose career has involved collecting books, there comes a time when we know that at least some of them must go.  This can be a very challenging task! 

For some readers, organization guru Marie Kondo’s question does a book “spark joy” may help you quickly decide to save a favourite children’s book or let go of one that is only partially read or you will never read again. 

However, for many of us, we look at our bookcases, and joy abounds on every shelf!   

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Are you looking for a way to make your downsizing or spring decluttering more fun?  How about the Five OR 10 Game?

If you are burdened with too many bowls or screwdrivers or garden rakes or ball caps (perish the thought!), here is one way to decrease your numbers.

As your eye wanders over your collection, set yourself a number. Is it five or 10 or 12 (what’s your lucky number?). That number is your limit. Now choose which five or 10 or 12 items to keep. 

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I am rooting around in a closet to find a seasonal jacket, and I cast my eyes on my beloved unworn red shoes! 

I love THOSE shoes!  I love RED shoes! 

I feel strong and positive.  I could walk anywhere and face any challenge when I have red shoes on my feet.

I have a hard foot to fit and it took me a very long time to find those red shoes.

I paid a lot for them and expected that they would give me years of service.

I wore them ONCE several years ago.  Long enough to mark them up beyond returning. 

Long enough to realize that they didn’t fit properly after all.  

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How many of us have a pile of stuff that we just can’t get sorted?  I’m overwhelmed by 3 boxes of unsorted papers in a corner of my office.  I wonder every day if there is anything valuable in those boxes. Looking at them tires me out and I ignore them for another week. 

Similarly, friends Pete & Sue have a shed filled with old garden tools and feel overwhelmed at the thought of organizing it.  My neighbour Linda has a corner in the lower level of her house piled high with outgrown family clothes, school supplies, and sports equipment in disarray.

Do you share a similar feeling of “I don’t know where to start”?

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No matter how much we are able to tap into our compassion (see Mindful Compassion While Seniors Downsize ), there are times when we need to initiate challenging conversations when we are downsizing with our elders.

Their energy is flagging, and so is ours. There's a time limit on this project as their move is happening next week. It feels as though there are too many decisions to make, and too much stuff lined up for the moving truck. 

If you have been firm about not taking on your parents’ stuff (see Your Downsizing Cannot Be My Upsizing), this may be the time to give a little.

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I love this pithy line shared by an adult daughter who is helping her mother downsize.  After selecting what she would take to her new smaller home, the older woman suggested that her daughter could take much of what was left. Her daughter’s response was “Mom, your downsizing cannot be my upsizing.”

In Mindful Compassion While Seniors Downsize, I shared some reasons why seniors struggle with downsizing.  For many of these generous folk, an easy solution would be for their adult children to take everything that the senior no longer needs and incorporate the items into their own homes.  

How many of us have been asked to do just that? And can’t or choose not to. 

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Many adults are helping senior family members downsize because of an imminent move to a smaller home or because their current home feels too full of stuff. 

Unless continuous clearing of possessions has been a priority for older generations or they have strong minimalist tendencies, most seniors have a lot of stuff.  This may be difficult for younger generations to understand. I commonly hear “Why can’t you get rid of stuff? or “Why did you buy all this stuff?” as younger family members struggle with their feelings of frustration and weariness in supporting their elders.

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