Growing old means facing certain changes in life that aren’t so pleasurable. From physical decline due to chronic illnesses that come with age, cognitive decline because of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, a spouse’s passing, or even the need to move from your home into an assisted living home. It is never easy, but with proper preparation, your family and your elderly loved one can get through this smoothly. In addition to taking care of your loved one, there is also the daunting task of cleaning your parents home once they move out.
Preparation is the key to making these life events a little more bearable. No matter the location – whether they’re on the next block or the next city – families all want the same thing: an easy transition from their home.
When moving into a new residence, people of retirement age are generally downsizing – sending clothes to charities, getting rid of unused appliances – basically donate, sell, or throw away the things that aren’t of use and no longer needed.
However, downsizing can take a toll on your elderly loved one. Moving overwhelms people when they think of all the memorabilia they accumulated over the years. If your elderly loved one moves into an assisted living facility with less storage space, all the possessions the senior owns may become a barrier to moving into the facility.
Is Cleaning Out and Downsizing Necessary?
It is not easy for anyone to just simply throw away the things they own, especially those that they have grown attached to or have sentimental value. It may honestly feel as if they are giving up on treasured memories.
Your loved one has many years and a wealth of memories that surround their family and their home. After many, many years of residing in their homes, downsizing can cause emotional discomfort. That’s what makes cleaning your parents home even tougher.
If you feel like your elderly loved one refuses to give up their prized possessions, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, a study conducted by the Gerontology Center at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, found out that among the 22,000 participants of the survey, 30% of seniors over the age of 70 had nothing they could give away over the past year, despite the fact that over half of them thought they owned too many belongings. 56% of people ages 50 to 59, as well as 62% from the ages 70 to 79, claimed that they own more than what they actually need. it is usually the difficulty they feel with letting go of things that they view as a part of their identities – their past, memories, and possessions.
Is There Such Thing As An Elderly Hoarding Disorder?
There are some people who think that they do not have too much clutter to begin with – and it’s not an easy task to convince them otherwise. If your elderly loved one’s items are interfering with their everyday function and threatening their health, they are most likely suffering from elderly hoarding disorder. This can make cleaning your parents home a monumental task.
If the person’s clutter is extreme in the sense that the living space is unusable, unhygienic, or maybe even hazardous, along with the symptoms of self-neglect and withdrawal, your loved one may be experiencing Diogenes Syndrome or in other words, elderly hoarding disorder. This disorder is more common than you think. A study conducted by John Hopkins in 2008 found out that 6.2% of people over the age of 55 show symptoms of the hoarding disorder.
With regards to downsizing and cleaning out the house, it is best to talk to your elderly loved one about it. Surround your elderly loved one with family and friends. Or better yet, ask them to donate their excess belongings to the needy. This lets them know that they are a blessing to other people, rather than feeling shame and sadness.
Tips to Cleaning Out The Clutter
Moving your loved one into an assisted living facility is not an easy feat – emotionally and physically. Here are tips on how you can purge your elderly loved one’s home prior to moving into a home:
1. Divide the Physical Labor
Being the one responsible for everything has its own advantages. You don’t have to wait for other people and do everything your way. However, along with these advantages, doing everything on your own can be physically taxing. And if truth be told, this job is massive. You will most likely need help along the way. Do not hesitate to ask for a hand from family members and close friends.
2. Locate All Important Documents
Cleaning out a house means finding papers everywhere. Before you throw out any piece of paper, sift through the pile and find all the important documents:
- Life insurance policies and statements
- Titles, and real estate deeds
- Wills and trusts
- Stock certificates
- 401(k) records
- Recent bank statements (if you don’t have them, you can get older one electronically)
- Tax returns and receipts that are needed to fill out next year’s income tax return.
3. Keep sentimental photos and memorabilia.
Not every clutter is a waste. There are sentimental belongings and memorabilia that are irreplaceable and worth keeping. If your loved one is a war veteran, or just had a very interesting past, keep:
- Medals and awards
- Poems and journals
- Family photos through the years
- Newspaper clippings with important news (marriage, awards, and even obituaries), and more
Many of these ‘vintage’ memorabilia have a sentimental value. Cleaning your parent’s home definitely doesn’t mean throwing everything away.
4. Be Wise About Donating or Selling Your Loved One’s Belongings
If you are thinking of selling your loved one’s possessions, it is best to be wise about it. Most clothing has little resale value unless it is vintage (clothes from the ‘60s or earlier). Designer resale or consignment stores are most likely only taking clothes in perfect conditions or pieces that were bought in the last few years. There are other consignment stores will take the sellable items, price them fairly low, and take the 50% of what the customers pay. And the price goes lower if it the clothes are not sold after a month.
A better option may be to donate the clothes to a charitable organization like Goodwill or the Salvation Army and take the tax deduction. Trying to squeeze the maximum amount of value from each article of clothing may not be worth the effort.
5. Store It Away and ‘Forget’ About It
Your elderly loved one may have possessions that you are certain they would not use again but they disagree. In that case the best thing you can do it to box them away – elegantly. Use official, sturdy-moving and elegant-looking boxes. Label each box according to its content, and put them in the basement or storage unit. Most of the time, these boxes are paid no mind or even seen again. But your elderly loved one feels relieved that his/her prized possessions are safe.
Bonus Tip: Hire Someone to Do It for You
If most of the family members are out of town or are just too busy to attend to the house, consider hiring a senior move manager. These people help you plan and manage transition and relocation issues that affect older adults and make the transition go smoothly. We can recommend some fiduciary services that can help with everything from the important documents to providing more tips on setting up the home to sell.