Thank goodness for transition.
Without it, I would still be a terribly shy kid afraid of what’s out there in the world. You might still be geeky, too - or you might not have gone to the college you loved, or you might have stayed in a bad relationship.
Growth, in life, is nothing without transition.
Yet as we age, transition takes on a new emotional intensity. Or perhaps the issue is this: Transition in later life can seem to signal the end of a phase, whereas in youth it seemed to signal the beginning.
In my vocation, I spend a lot of time with older adults who are downsizing. Though the physical work is hard, addressing mind-set can be harder. For some, the transition from a long-time family home to an apartment or senior living community seems like a death sentence. On the contrary. Relieving the burden of caring for a home, cooking for a family and driving everywhere should be liberating. It should be an adventure!
When the time comes to clean out a family home, it is important to stay positive and see the easier life ahead. At the same time, it’s essential to recognize that emotional connections to things can present a downsizing challenge that is bigger than the items themselves.
In December, for example, I spent days with an incredibly smart and active 86-year-old woman, going room-by-room through her home of 40 years to help her decide what to take with her to an assisted living facility. In addition to her full house of furniture and clothes, the woman had her wedding china, her mom's wedding china and several sets of everyday china. Her new assisted living community had asked her to pare her dinnerware down to four glasses and four plates.
This is emotionally brutal stuff.
When helping a parent or friend decide what to keep, donate, toss or sell, recognize their emotional ties and memories ... then concentrate on how these items can bring joy and functionality to a new owner.
Some suggestions include:
- Gift items to younger relatives and friends who will bring new life to them. Young families may truly appreciate a treasured christening gown, crocheted blanket or copper teapot. An avid fisherman would love to display great-grandpa’s hand-tied lures.
- Document major family events for future generations. Compile an album or find a website that allows users to upload pictures of items so physical mementos can be more readily dispersed.
- Digitize important family documents and pictures of special items that can then be quickly and economically shared. Let everyone enjoy them!
I hope all older adults who are transitioning will eventually enjoy a more stress-free, adventurous lifestyle than they could while caring for many possessions and a large home.
But first things first: Be sensitive out there!
Owner, Caring Transitions
Caring Transitions helps clients declutter, downsize, sell, donate and dispose of their belongings. The organization transitions residents from their current homes to new settings, often senior living communities, by assisting with floor planning, packing, move management and unpacking/resettling. Caring Transitions specializes in estate sales and online auctions.