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Tips From a Professional Organizer For Your Downsizing Project

Tips from a Professional Organizer to help with your Elder Downsizing project

Whether you are an older person downsizing yourself or a child or younger person helping an elder, this is one of the most difficult and stressful experiences of your life. How do you take the memories of decades of life in the form of a vast accumulation of tangible items, and make decisions on what to keep? The emotional attachment to items of nostalgia is almost impossible to detach from. Though logically we know we cannot keep everything, how can we possible part with anything? Here are stages to put follow to help reduce the size of your physical portfolio.


Break this decision into two decisions: one right away and then at the end of the entire process. It is easiest at a first attempt and almost impossible at the end. There are some obvious decisions of the items you can immediately toss. The broken chair, old papers or records, expired food items. These are in the category of easy decisions. Toss them immediately and never look back. As the decisions become more difficult kick them down the road and make them after you complete the entire process.


This also requires being broken down into two stages: absolutes and everything else. Discuss the process before you start and make sure they know the only decisions that are being made during this stage are the things that are absolutely being kept. This will help put them at ease. Also, you will have a chance to revisit this stage so avoid arguing and applying logic. Decisions made at this stage are not final. They are decisions until you get to the next stages.


Everyone feels what they have is worth something. After all, they bought it so someone else will buy it from them. This is true for very few things. And when it’s true, it rarely has the monetary value that one thinks. This stage should be worked in conjunction with the next, Donate. Help them take a realistic view of the worth of items. Have at your disposal a pc or phone with eBay or sites like it bookmarked so you can show them the true monetary value of their possessions. Remind them that the value also includes a physical effort to get the item in the hands of someone who is willing to pay for it and this has a cost. Sometimes monetary, and sometimes to purchase shipping supplies, package it, and drop it off to a shipping carrier like UPS or FedX. At the end of the process, the actual value may not be as much as first thought.


Here is the fun stage. All people would prefer to donate than to throw away. Knowing that someone else can get enjoyment from an item that gave them enjoyment makes them human and makes them energized. Find a list of charities and causes that are important to them. Examples are charities for children, veterans, homeless, women, minorities, the poor, or religious institutions. Knowing that their item will find a “good home” with a charity that they support will make the decision to keep, sell, or toss, much, much easier.


Now go back to the beginning and see what remains. Chances are that when you revisit this stage, that which could not be possibly tossed is now junk. Be patient. It’s not an absolute though the mountain of possessions will be greatly reduced. Time will help this stage so don’t rush it. Let it play itself out. Once the emotions decrease, the amount that can be tossed will increase.

One Bonus Professional Tip

If you are working with an elderly person through this process, go slowly. Do you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. This is an elephant and one of the most difficult decisions a person will ever have to make. Go slowly. Go one bite at a time. This will ensure that you have the patience, and they will have the energy that it takes to successfully complete this project. Take your time and don’t argue. When there is a disagreement, postpone the decision until all the others are made. Many times a difficult decision today is quite easy next week or next month. And yes, plan that this process will take months. Elephants are large animals, and we get full easily. Six, seven, eight, nine decades or more is a long time to accumulate a lot of memories. You can’t dissolve or let go of them in a few days or weeks.