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8 Things To Know Before Helping Family Downsize

Last weekend, my brother and I found ourselves cleaning out our parents’ home as they prepared to downsize. They cleaned out slightly a couple years ago, moving from 3,000 SF to about 1,900, but they ended up with extra attic space, so not much actual progress was made. This year found them moving into even smaller accommodations, and anything we didn’t throw out had to go to storage before the new buyers moved in, so we were on a mission. I learned a few things in the process, so here are a few tips I wanted to share if you’re going to be going through this anytime soon.

  • Find an Organizer or Estate Sale company – If you have the time and the resources, choose a professional to help you with the big stuff. 

  • Know your limits – My brother was in town for 36 hours, and we had a U-Haul to get things to charities and the landfill and the storage unit for about 10 hours. So we decided ahead of time that we could only go through so much…some things would just have to be discarded, and some would go to the storage unit until we had more time. 

  • Have a plan for what you can’t get to – Christmas is big in my family (we even once had red and green furniture in our house, and 3 full-size Christmas trees), so my parents weren’t emotionally ready to purge everything just a couple weeks before the holiday. So, they filled a few boxes to use to decorate this year, and we sent the rest to storage, but set a date later in 2020 to go through and sell or give away the rest. 

  • Set a schedule – we knew the truck was due back at 5pm, so we could get 1 load to charity in the morning, and make 1-2 trips to the new place and the storage unit in the afternoon. In order to stick to this, we needed to be done sorting/reminiscing by about 2pm. 

  • Use your smartphone! You know all those pieces of art your parents have saved over the years? Take photos and videos of it! Ok, not ALL of it, but enough that you feel like you can share it with your friends or your kids, or look back on it when you want – without the dust or silverfish!

  • Limit what you keep for yourself – You don’t want to just shift the stuff so you’re cleaning it out of your own house in 40 years! I chose a few pieces, like my baptism certificate, a teddy bear I loved, a decanter that belonged to my grandfather, my college diploma, and a few photos. My brother found a poster-sized map of Disneyland from his 5th birthday, some ticket stubs, his Star Wars action figures, and some photos that he took back to his home in New York. 

  • Ask a friend to join you – It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole when you’re looking through decades of your family memories. Having someone who wasn’t part of those memories keep you on track is super helpful. It also gives you someone to help you decide what’s important to keep, and what will just be a burden. 

  • Bring some Claritin! The dust really gets to you. 

And finally, most importantly, if you are able, help your parents downsize before you lose them. I can’t really imagine how hard this would have been while grieving.

Know someone who needs to downsize? View our list of the Top 50 Homes to Downsize Into by clicking the link and let us know if we can help with the purchase or sale of your home!




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One Response to “8 Things To Know Before Helping Family Downsize”

  • Good article Emily! Yes, Claritin for the dust is for certain. It’s a big job for their kids who experience some stress about it too. A lot of elder people need to sell their old house and move but they can’t visualize what is going to happen to them. It’s a big adjustment for most and if they can see the process and understand where they’re headed, then you’d see more homes going up for sale. Downsizing means avoiding all the maintenance which all of them say is what they don’t want. Hope things are looking up for your firm in 2020. Good luck!

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