Hello Everybody! I am so glad you are here with me today. I am the Proactive Caregiver and I specialize in educating others on how to be proactive by empowering the caregiver. If you cannot take care of yourself, then you cannot take care of your loved one.
Over the years of taking care of Mom, it came to be a challenge to maintain her home and ours. We downsized her residence 3 times so far. In the earlier years prior to downsizing to the right size in her life, most of our concerns related to simple yard & pool maintenance but then it became more involved with major repairs and upkeep along with safety concerns. The idea of letting go of our childhood home was so upsetting and yet the choice still had to be made for so many reasons. Ironically, my siblings were not in agreement when Mom was ready to downsize the first time. Decluttering was an emotionally charged process.
I know so many caregivers not only face this difficult decision eventually but it usually comes when you are still mourning the loss of who your loved one was and is no longer. It is a cathartic process filled with little land mines of emotions throughout the home. This is why I asked Kim Stanley, Owner of Downsizing my Home and Author of "How to Make a Downsize Move" and "Step by Step to Right-Sizing" to share her journey personally and professionally to help step us through the best way to approach this stage in our journey.
When it came time to accept the reality of downsizing homes for Mom the thought of the financial impact and knowing how much time it would take to declutter her house was stressful so I postponed as much as possible. The problem with that was regardless of the financial impact from clearing the clutter or repairs needed, the move would inevitably happen so postponing was only losing valuable time and not saving sanity, time, or money. This is why I learned that families should not downsize family. As an accountant, I could see the cost involved and the return on investment. As a daughter and sister, the emotional cost was too high to endure yet had to be done for Mom's well being and safety.
We were all in varying states of denial or awareness during Mom's decline due to mixed dementia over the years. Watching the clutter and furniture accumulate throughout our childhood home as she became a hoarder made it difficult to maintain an organized space for her. When our conversations became more about donating the old kitchen set or living room set when she had a new one delivered I heard the same reluctant response. "You're from the throwaway generation. Why get rid of it when you never know when you might need it." This may have been true for some things but when it came to broken appliances, junk mail, and items designed for recycling then Yes! I am from the throwaway generation. Not everything can be or is intended to be repurposed.
The more furniture that was collected throughout the house the more energy within her home felt blocked and stagnate. Mom's energy flow was not only mentally stuck but also emotionally stuck to the memories from each of the items until we were able to move some to the garage. Although she was reluctant to let go of the items at all the garage was the one compromise knowing it was still there if she ever wanted it for any reason. Once the item was removed from her daily life then it became out of sight and out of mind to collect dust or rust in the garage. This garage eventually had to be cleared in order to complete the downsize which opened up the same conversation, arguments, or avoidance to who would have the time or patience to sift through years of clutter.
We did not know much about managing the downsize yet we were able to do as much as possible. Having advice from Kim Stanley or using her step by step guide book would have saved us time and energy. The first downsize was the hardest and most intense but we learned as we had two more downsize homes for Mom. So if you are considering a downsize for yourself or your loved one then keep the following thoughts in mind.
The family should not downsize family (when it can be avoided).
Visualize where you want to go to help focus on your new destination rather than hanging on tight to the old.
Schedule time on the calendar for an hour or two when you know you can handle decluttering.
Start small by picking the room or area which would make more of an impact but not bog you down physically or emotionally.
Organize bins for items you want to keep, gift, donate, or discard to make it easier for fewer trips to Goodwill or Salvation Army.
Take before and after pictures of the rooms as you clear them or of items you decided to keep, gift, donate, or discard.
If letting go begins to create hang-ups or derail the decluttering then stop to take a moment to create a photo diary or video about the sentimental items. This can be a memento for younger generations to have this nostalgic moment captured or it can serve as a farewell to an item or items you can no longer keep.
Plan a family-style auction for designated items or a house un-warming party for friends or neighbors to take what you are ready and willing to part with (if you are not having to sell for estate purposes.)
Create punch lists as you clear rooms for potential repairs or updates to be done. Less is more until more is required.
The best time is now so start planning the declutter long before the downsize becomes necessary to avoid the added pressure of time or a forced sale.
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I hope this gave you more food for thought. Until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise