Wednesday, 12 September 2018 06:45

9 Tips to help Seniors downsize

While I was growing up we moved every couple of years. With each move my mom would ruthlessly declutter and get rid of stuff she hadn’t used or no longer wanted. My lasting memory of each of these moves was mom presenting each of her 4 children with 1 large moving box. We had to sort out our toys, books and stationery and could only take what would fit into our respective boxes. As a result, we never accumulated unwanted stuff and each move was relatively easy.

Fast forward 50 years to my parents’ final move into a retirement home. Downsizing was easy, and decisions were made quickly and without too much stress.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Downsizing can be a stressful and anxious process for most Seniors, and choosing what to let go of and what to keep is often very difficult and emotional.

Here are 9 tips to make the downsizing process less stressful:

  1. Start early. Sorting out a lifetime and a home full of memories will take time. Give yourself plenty of time ahead of a move to work steadily through your home.
  2. Start easy: Start with items that have little emotional attachment and work your way to the more important items. I usually advise starting with linen, guest rooms, spare rooms and garages. This way you will ease yourself into the process and get used to letting go of things.
  3. Eliminate whole rooms: If you are moving from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom cottage, almost everything in those extra spaces will need to go, so it shouldn’t be hard to decide what to get rid of.
  4. Toss duplicate items: If you have more than one of anything, pick one you like and use, and donate the other. Also consider whether you need the item at all.
  5. Reduce your collections: If you have a number of collections it can be tough to get rid of them. I suggest you pick a couple of favourite pieces to keep and take photos of the rest, then let them go. That way you can remember your treasures without them taking up space.
  6. Make yes or no piles—no maybes: Sometimes you will struggle over an item. Put it in a ‘maybe’ pile and move on. Come back to it later when you have had a chance to think about it, and where it would live should you choose to keep it.
  7. Pass down special items: Now is the time to pass down sentimental or valuable items to younger members of your family. But be sure to ask them first!
  8. Allow yourself time to reminisce: While you don’t want to take too long to sort through everything, you should give yourself time to think about the memories and reminisce. It will be easier to move on if you do.
  9. Hire a professional: Consider hiring a Professional Organiser who specialise in working with Seniors. They can help keep you on track, will do all the heavy lifting and clearing of cupboards, leaving you to make the decisions. 

Possibly the best advice is to declutter on a regular basis (as my mom did), so that it is a lot easier when you get to that final move!

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, 05 September 2018 15:37

7 Tips to help Seniors through the moving process

Recently we assisted an elderly lady downsize and move from her family home of 35 years. Her daughter, who lives overseas, had decided that her mom needed to move to a safer, smaller environment. While her decision came from a place of love and concern, it caused a lot of stress, anxiety and pain for her mom.

Just over two years ago my sister and her family made the commitment to emigrate. A difficult decision for them, made harder as our parents lived in a granny flat on their property. The house would be sold along with the granny flat and our parents would need to move. And so, she and I had to talk to our parents about moving into a retirement home.

Although they had already downsized twice – moving from a farmhouse to a small cottage in a seaside village, and then to the granny flat in my sister’s garden – the idea of a retirement home came as a shock. As a family we felt that they needed the safety and security that a retirement home would provide. It took a little while to find the right place, which gave them time to get used to the idea, and prepare for the changes.

Packing up was not difficult as they had already downsized considerably. Moving day came and went, and they settled in very quickly. Two years on, they love it there and wish they had moved sooner!

Talking to your parents about downsizing and moving can be difficult. Believe me, I know. I hope these 5 tips help you and your parents:

  1. Explain why you think its time for them to move into something smaller and safer. Perhaps they have become frail or forgetful. Perhaps the home is too big for them to maintain properly. Perhaps finances dictate. Whatever the reasons, be honest but gentle and help them understand that you believe this is best.
  2. Empathize with them. Having to move out of their home where they have been happy and comfortable will be emotionally taxing and difficult to come to terms with. Give them time to get used to the idea, and process the loss.
  3. Give you parents some control. Remember this is yet another reminder of their frailties and lack of control. Help them organize the move, but give them plenty of time. Rushing your parents will only make the process more difficult for them.
  4. Show your parents the benefits of moving into a retirement home/village. They will be able to socialise with people their own age. They will be safe. There will be assistance where needed. Less housework, less maintenance. The benefits are endless.
  5. Create a memory book. We created and printed a memory book of all their favourite things - the collections they couldn’t keep, the furniture that had to go, the huge photo collages on the walls, pictures of the cottage and garden and their favourite tree. Creating a memory book has helped preserve the memories of those years, especially now that my Dad has started losing his memory. And the best part is that my sister and I made it with my parents. That in itself is a wonderful memory for all of us.

Creating a memory book is a very creative way for your parents to keep everything they are giving away close their heart. The best part is – you made it together!

Probably the most important bit of advice I can offer is to be patient, and give them all the time they need!

Have you had to talk to your parents about downsizing? Do you have any tips?

Thursday, 23 August 2018 09:34

Are Your Affairs in Order?

In my early years as a Professional Organiser I worked in a lot of home offices and studies organising personal papers and putting filing systems in place. Day to day payments, useful information, school files, house files, insurance, social and personal files. Over time I noticed that very few people had all their important personal documents in one place. And even less had thought about having their affairs in order.

Monday, 13 August 2018 17:28

5 Stumbling Blocks to Decluttering

We spend our working days assisting seniors with downsizing and moving into smaller homes or retirement complexes. The decluttering and letting go always comes first, and then the move. The process is the same with each home, and the progress is similar.

Often the decluttering gets off to a good start as we decide on the furniture, cushions, curtains and rugs that will go to the new home. We usually sail through kitchen cupboards, bathroom cabinets and excess linen. Paperwork and clothing take a little longer but we get through it with plenty of breaks for tea. And then we come to a grinding halt!

There are 5 categories that our clients really struggle with and that take the most time. Over the years we have found ways to help clients make these decisions. Here are some ideas:

1. Sentimental items

There is a limited amount of space in the new home, so it’s important to be selective when choosing the sentimental items you want to take with you.

  • Make sure you will have somewhere to display or have to hand those items so you can appreciate them every day.
  • Have a small memory box for special letters and cards that can be stored in a cupboard.
  • Pass on other items to family members who would appreciate them.
  • If it’s helpful take photos of items you are letting go.

2. Presents

A gift is chosen with care and given freely with love.

  • It is important to accept the gift in the spirit in which it was given.
  • But after that, it’s up to you what you do with it.
  • Letting it go does not diminish your feelings for the gift giver.

3. Photos

People often see photos as their most treasured possessions. Yet, so often they are stored in no order or care in boxes, bags and cupboards.

  • Now it the time to go through them and let go all the photos that have no meaning any longer, the photos that are blurred or spoilt, and photos of people and places you don’t recognise.
  • Ensure that the photos you keep are labelled and dated for the next generation.
  • Remember, a few great photos you look at often is far better than boxes or albums of photos you will never look at.

4. Inherited items

You will find you don’t want or can’t keep all the inherited items but feel disrespectful and ungrateful letting them go. But is it honouring the person if those items are left in storage, or in the back of a cupboard?

  • Ask your children what they would like
  • Be clear about who inherits what at a later stage
  • Pass heirlooms on in your lifetime if you no longer need them

5. Collections

It’s easy to let collecting slip over from pleasure to compulsion. Now is the time to prune out your collections you have outgrown and will have no place in your new home.

  • Limit the number you keep. One or two pieces will act as a reminder of the original collection
  • Let the entire collection go if it no longer relevant or brings you joy
  • Display the ones you keep and enjoy them daily!

Remember that the goal is a new home that is comfortable and easy to manage and maintain. You do want your favourite things around you, but you don’t want a cluttered home that is high maintenance.

What is your decluttering stumbling block?

How can I help my mom? What can I do about her stuff she can’t take? How do I get her to let go? These are questions I am asked all the time when people hear that I assist Seniors with the daunting process of downsizing and moving.

More recently a friend came to me for help. She was assisting an elderly couple move from their family home into 2 rooms in a retirement home and had some concerns. The couple were overwhelmed, distressed at having to leave their home, and with their only daughter overseas had turned to my friend for assistance and advice.

We worked through the concerns and I gave her answers to the questions she had. Recently I came across the email correspondence and thought it would be good to share as I am sure there are many people with similar questions and dilemmas:

Q. How do they decide what to keep and what to leave behind?

A. The rooms at the retirement home are small and storage space is at a premium. They need to be sure that what they take, they will use. Clothes should be limited and can be sorted by winter and summer so they can have out of season items out of the way, possibly on top of a cupboard. Other than that, their personal linen, comfortable chairs, a small coffee table and if possible their choice of curtains. Also choose a few favourite personal items that will make them feel at home.

Q. What do I tell their daughter?

A. It’s really important that you keep her in the loop. It’s a good idea to email her regularly with updates so that she feels involved and knows exactly what is happening.

Q. They need to sell as much as possible as they need the money. All the appliances, all the furniture, paintings, all small appliances, rugs, all kitchen smalls, clothes and linen must go. What do I do?

A. I would strongly suggest either sending most of it to auction, or to a consignment store, as this is the quickest and easiest way to sell goods.

Q. What about selling online?

A. I wouldn’t do this. It is already extremely stressful for them and this would just add to their stress. Having to respond to people who call, and also deal with people who want to view items will add to their stress, and take time they don’t really have.

Q. They keep saying they need the money. What can they expect from the sales?

A. Unfortunately, the market is saturated with 2nd hand goods so they cannot expect to make a huge amount from the sales, unless there are seriously valuable items. Often there is a perceived value and the sentimental value, but it is always the market value that dictates.

Q. Are there any things I need to be aware of to safeguard myself, any pitfalls I should be aware while helping them?

A. It is important that you ensure they fully understand what you are doing at all times and keep their daughter in the loop always. It’s a good idea to have a paper trail, noting what you have done, where things have gone, what is being sold, what is being donated. That way there can be no misunderstandings, and no issues at a later stage.

The couple moved and have settled into their new home. Most of their goods were sold at auction or donated. Their daughter came to visit and could spend quality time with them. My friend found the experience both very emotional and extremely rewarding!

Have you found yourself in a similar situation? Do you have questions regarding assisting Seniors move?

Over the years I have researched and read a lot about downsizing, minimising, reducing and living with less. I am constantly inspired by Facebook posts and blog posts by Becomingminimalist and Bemorewithless to name but two.

A recent post by Courtney Carver of BEMOREWITHLESS really caught my attention. “A Toast to the Tiny Steps” mapped her journey to Living with Less.

It made me think!

How far have I come on my journey of living lightly, of needing and wanting less, of wasting less and refusing more?

My turning point was 15 years ago, when I made the decision to change jobs. I was unhappy where I was, worked long hours and spent very little time with my children. I wanted that to change! I wanted flexibility, more time with my children, and a job that I enjoyed and where I could make a small difference in people’s lives. I knew that probably meant less money and definitely less perks. I would have to cut back, would need to be more careful, possibly more frugal. But the benefits were huge – time to spend with my girls, the flexibility of taking more holidays, less workplace stress, and huge satisfaction helping people get sorted.

What I didn’t realise was the impact my work would have on my life in another direction altogether. While working in client’s homes I began to notice things that I hadn’t really thought about.

1. Recycling

Initially I was happy to recycle. I could send paper, certain plastic, glass and tins for recycling. It felt good for a while and then I wanted to do more. Clients were clearing medicine cabinets, bathrooms cupboard and garden sheds. What would happen to all the pills and potions, along with all the toxic pesticides and poisons? Hello Google! I found places to dispose of all these items safely. Electronic waste, batteries and light bulbs also worried me. And so, we found places that would take these as well. Then came EcoBricks! My Mom and Dad are involved in a project making EcoBricks for a playschool. I started collecting all the non-recyclable soft materials for them to use and felt really good about keeping all of that out of our landfills. Now I fill my own!

2. Reducing

Over the years I have seen a lot of waste, due to people buying too much, buying just in case, and buying because they can’t find what they are looking for. Often after a day’s work I come home and see how I could stop waste in our own home. I now avoid sales, think twice before buying a “buy 2 get 1 free” special deal, and tend to decline freebies! My next step is to stop all unnecessary packaging coming into our home. I use reusable shopping bags and buy loose fruit and vegetables. A visit to Nude Foods has motivated me to take a look at my grocery shopping in a new light. Instead of asking myself if the packaging is recyclable, I am now asking if I can buy without the packaging altogether. A little harder, but not impossible. And so, this journey to zero waste continues. (Will keep you posted on how I progress!)

3. Downsizing

Do you find homes are getting bigger and bigger? Most of the homes we work in have more than one bathroom, and almost all of them have a spare room or guest room. There is usually a double garage and a fair-sized garden. Built in cupboards in every room, storage in the garage, and a ladder into the attic. Ornamentals, cushions, throws, all sorts of appliances, tons of books, sporting goods, linen and clothes fill the spaces and the storage. And with all that comes the stress of cleaning, maintaining, organising and protecting it all! Again, I find that over the years I have let go most of the things that are not special, not essential, not used and not really loved. It is an ongoing process as our lives change!

4. Living lightly

A lot of us in South Africa have experienced power outages. Water restrictions are in full force in the Western Cape and elsewhere. We have had to adapt and look at ways to save our resources. And so new habits have formed. We switch off lights, unplug appliances, think about how we can save electricity. We collect spring water, use grey water where we can, install rain water tanks, and flush loos only when needed. Over the years, I have slowly introduced natural cleaning products into our home. Our cleaning arsenal now includes vinegar, bicarb, salt, lemons and a lot of elbow grease!

With a little effort we are living lighter, and better off for it! I find I am more aware of our resources, more aware of our impact on the environment. Along with that changing a few habits, and starting new ones, I find my life is richer for living lighter, for needing and wanting less, for wasting less and refusing more!


Friday, 22 June 2018 05:29

5 Reasons Why Just Enough is Enough

I found an article in the March 2017 issue of House and Leisure by Lynette Botha titled The Beauty of Small. She writes about a holiday cottage they go to regularly, small and contained and yet with everything they need and love. No clutter, no excess, no extras!

It got me thinking about the times I have stayed in guest cottages on our many road trips. Most of them have been comfortable and inviting with everything we needed for our stay. No clutter, no extras, just enough.

I am working on less at home. Just enough of everything. WOW, scary stuff letting go the extra glasses, the mountain of extra towels, the items I have kept “JUST IN CASE”. My spares for when I run out, and the extras for next year or the year after that. The stuff I have been keeping for visitors but never use, and the huge bag of sample size toiletries for our road trips (again never used). Out, out, out!

As I fill yet another bag for charity I am reminded of the many benefits of having just enough.

5 good reasons why just enough is enough:

  1. Easy to store and find everything. As there is not a lot to store, there is no need to stack too high or have too much in one space. That means we can find things easily.
  2. Less work. Less stuff means less work. Much less to clean, less to dust, less to maintain. Less work means more play!
  3. Quality rather than quantity. I have quality items that can be used over and over and will last a long time. This also means less impact on our environment, s I am not replacing things that often.
  4. More time. With less to take care of, sort and organise, there will be more time to do the things that matter. More road trips and family adventures for me!
  5. More joy! Using only what we need and love means enjoying the things we have. We use the best dinner service as it’s the only one we have. And that applies to many other items in our home.

Think about it! Is just enough, enough for you?

15 years ago, I saw an article in the local paper about an International Professional Organiser who was in Cape Town to give a series of talks. I was fascinated and went along to see what it was all about, and the rest is history!

Looking back over my years as a Professional Organiser, I realise how this job has changed my life. I have spent my time in other people’s homes, working with them in their personal space, and sharing their anxieties over stuff, organising issues, clutter and accumulation.

I have seen hoarding at its worst, homes bursting at the seams with too much stuff, endless collections, tons of family heirlooms (wanted and unwanted) and garages filled with junk.
Some clients have been keen to learn how to stay organised and clutter-free, others who couldn’t bear to part with anything, but wanting it all contained and ordered. There have been clients who have come back over and over, and plenty who I haven’t seen again.

I love going to work, meeting new and interesting people, getting to know their families. I love that I make a difference, however small to their quality of life and I love the lessons I have learnt along the way!

5 Life Changing Lessons

  1. Less is definitely better. I have always been organised, but the more I declutter and organise other people’s homes, I continue to declutter my own home as I realise how much time is spent on maintaining a home filled with things.
  2. Experiences are way better than stuff. I have realised that so often nice stuff is just that, NICE STUFF! But a coffee treat with a girlfriend, or an outing with my daughters is so much more!
  3. Time is precious. One of the reasons I started my business was to be able to spend time with my children growing up when I wanted to. Now that they are grown up, I love the flexibility of taking time off to go on mini breaks and wonderful adventures. My business works for me, not the other way around.
  4. Waste less. I see a fair amount of waste on a daily basis. Although there is a big drive to recycle, not many homes actively recycle. I see waste in the multitude of unnecessary purchases, duplicate items, and wardrobes full of clothes that are never worn. Too many gadgets, too much packaging, too many impulse buys that are never used. It has made me think about my own home, and over the years I have slowly become less and less wasteful.
  5. Let your life be your legacy, not your stuff. This is a biggie for me. Again, I love nice things and enjoy having key pieces from family members that bring back good memories. A crystal glass my mom-in-law loved which I use daily. A ring from my grandmother that I modified so that I could wear it all the time. A small glass sweetie bowl, a string of purple beads and a pair of soft gloves all bring a smile to my face. But way more than that is what I learned and how I was moulded because of them. I would like to think that how I have lived my life is what my children will cherish, and not the stuff I will leave behind.

Most of all, this job makes me want to better a better person, makes me think about how I can be a better example, and how I can make a difference, one small step at a time.

I love my job!

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