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Tips for Seniors Downsizing Their Home

But one of the most challenging practical and emotional challenges is downsizing their possessions to fit in a new, smaller home.

Remember, you're talking decades of items accumulated over a long and full life. It's not just a matter of tossing a few things into a garbage bag or hauling a few trunk loads of stuff to Goodwill.

Some tips on making the process a bit easier:

1. The downsizing process is a good time to identify items to be passed along as heirlooms. To make it easier, have the senior make a list of things they want to give away (or have them mark the items with sticks), and then have children or other relatives use that list to pick the things they would like to keep.

If there are items that no one expresses an interest in, help the senior look into ways of selling it, or donating it to charity.

2. Certified relocation specialists, computer programs or even just simple cutouts can help a senior determine exactly how much room they'll have in their new home for their belongings, says Nancy Pelham, a Dallas professional organizer and owner of Helping Hands Personal Service. It's important to have a firm idea of how large the new home is and how much stuff it will accommodate. You don't want to find out from the moving company that everything won't fit. Have a very realistic assessment of space limitations.

3. During the packing process, the senior can use different colored stickers to identify items to be moved to the new home; thrown out; or given away. If you plan ahead, the senior can do this a little bit at a time so it doesn't get overwhelming. Because there are usually many things to go through for a senior who's moving, start this process early.

4. If you're helping your parent or elderly relative move, you might get frustrated by the length of time it takes. However, don't forget that this process is emotionally difficult for them, and they need your help. Also, it might make it easier for both of you if use the time going through the items to reminisce about earlier days -- it helps them recall nice memories, and it fills you in on important family history.

Finally, when packing, remember that some items you are moving might be worth far more than you estimate because they've become antiques. If these items have been more valuable, considering carrying them with you rather than entrusting them to the movers. If you want the moving companies to handle them, consider buying separate insurance.

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