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14 Tips for Downsizing Your Parents' Home on a Budget

If it's time for your parents to give up the family home and downsize, make the move as painless as possible, emotionally and logistically.

By Elizabeth Sheer, Cheapism
Parents may have agreed to the move, maybe initiated it, and are looking forward to it, but the reality of getting rid of treasured possessions could trigger fear and stubbornness. In fact, a recent study shows that older people are less likely to give away possessions, even when they think they should, because it feels like a loss of control. Giving parents as many choices as possible in the process could help. 


Some decisions on what to keep or discard will be easy. For instance, for parents moving into assisted-living or care facilities, kitchen and landscaping gear can likely can go. But parents may want to reminisce during every decision, which is why downsizing a home is not something to tackle over a weekend; expect it to take several months. Don't rush. The Family Caregiver Alliance says parents' loss must be acknowledged


Consider renting out the newly empty house, at least temporarily. This will generate income to defray parents' relocation costs, and it's helpful to be able to tell a parent resisting signing a lease elsewhere that "if you hate it, you can move back." 


Once a decision has been made about what to take, consult family members who might want what's left, and let parents be the final word on where their legacy goes. What if nobody wants it? The only options are sale, donation, or trash. 


Set aside time for the family to get together and reminisce about the items. Relatives who have been storing their own histories in their parent's house are responsible for removing it, and they might have their own stories to tell. While this might be sad, it can also be cathartic. 


The only way to clear a parent's home effectively is one room at a time, Mazza says. Start in a room's farthest corner and proceed methodically, including closets and dresser drawers, item by item. Handle everything only once: That means no pile for things you will think about later. Get a box of heavy-duty contractor bags and be ruthless about what goes in; once an item is in, it can't come out. Junk drawers, she says, should be dumped automatically into a bag. Label anything that's not thrown out with a colored Post-It delineating what's happening to it. 


Anything chipped or broken, no matter how well loved, can't be donated. Evaluate clothing to be donated and get rid of anything ripped or stained. Costume jewelry with loose settings, scratched records, electronics that are on the fritz, and the like are destined for landfill. Items that are even questionable go directly into the contractor bags. It does not pay to think about this too much, Mazza cautions. 


At a certain point, all avenues have been used and there is still stuff in the house, including an unholy number of big contractor bags. The solution is calling the junk removal guys, such as 1-800-Got-Junk. The national average for junk removal is $100, but if the truck is large because the goods are many, expect that figure to climb considerably. 


Ideally a move will bring new friends and interesting activities, but there may be times parents look back and want to know what became of an item. Have an answer ready that is not upsetting or sad. Saying that pieces have been donated is generally good -- it indicates beloved possessions are somewhere being beloved again. 


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Lifestyle Magazine: 14 Tips for Downsizing Your Parents' Home on a Budget
14 Tips for Downsizing Your Parents' Home on a Budget
If it's time for your parents to give up the family home and downsize, make the move as painless as possible, emotionally and logistically.
Lifestyle Magazine
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