Downsizing and Dementia – Part One of Three

This is the article that I wrote quite a few years ago about a woman named June…..

June had made the decision to move back to the big city to be closer to her children. She was once a married mother of seven and the downsizing process had already happened in various stages in her life. First the divorce, then the children moving out, then changing cities, and then being a grown woman at university in Victoria, B.C.

Months prior to her moving date we started planning exactly what needed to be done. I lived in a different province so we had weekly phone meetings to ensure that she was on track and everything appeared to be coming along as planned. That was how it appeared until I showed up to color code the boxes and assist with the final details of her big move. Green for boxes going into storage, blue for the items going to her new apartment, orange for apartment storage, and each piece of furniture was to be labelled for its proper destination. Everything labelled, lists created, inventory recorded, and packing her personal belongings for the trip.

But as I walked through the door on that sunny West coast day I was greeted by chaos. Every square inch of the apartment floor was covered in papers – some papers were from decades ago and some were yesterday’s flyers, the scattered photographs tallied in the thousands and the only boxes that were packed were the ones that she never unpacked when she moved in years earlier.

This was the biggest downsizing job gone awry and I really wasn’t even sure why. Thank goodness she was my mother and I had siblings to call on. We didn’t know that the advanced stages of dementia caused someone to act this way. Actually, we didn’t know anything about dementia let alone anything about a disease called Alzheimer’s that we were going to be rudely introduced to. That was a day of utter heart-break as I reflect back, yet the movers were scheduled to pick up her life time of belongings and move her across the country … in less than 48 hours.

When I began writing this article (years ago now) I solicited the insight of others who know downsizing very well, allow me to share some of their words of wisdom with you:

I sat in the café across the table from Karen Shin, better known as the Downsizing Diva. Karen shared her view on the common reasons for downsizing: Financial, the house is too big, health, and the natural transition of life – to simplify. I nod in agreement.

Karen acknowledges that a potentially painful moment for her clients is the realization that no one values your ‘stuff’ like you do. Since the young kids are in the acquiring stage they may not be interested in the big ol’ stereo cabinet or Grandma’s dining room suite so be prepared to sell it, donate it, or pitch it. Remember though, there are university students who would love and cherish your furniture! You can reach out to your community to donate your furniture or belongings. If you need help contact an organizer in your neighborhood by visiting Professional Organizers in Canada. Churches are often at the heart of family shelters and accept or can coordinate donations. If you’re still unsure contact your local MPP to find out who picks up what locally.

Karen and I end our wonderful conversation on a final note about the three things that she knows: 1) We all have too much ‘stuff’ 2) You can’t take it with you when you go and 3) We are all going.

Real Estate agent Robin Millar recommends that families consider the options that exist between parents downsizing and younger family members upgrading. As well, she recommends to those who are still reviewing their downsizing options to speak with a financial consultant and explore the pro’s and con’s of renting versus buying. You are welcome to contact Robin by email or by calling 416.486.5588 to speak with an experienced agent in the field of downsizing, upgrading, and evaluating your options.

If downsizing is your goal I hope this information has helped you. If you are located in Toronto there is a great store called The Moving Store they will do an onsite estimate of the supplies you will need to move and deliver everything when you need it. They also offer container rentals instead of buying cardboard boxes. If you aren’t in Toronto you can still order their nifty moving items on line.

10 Helpful Tips about Moving

1.Identify the activities you enjoy: are the amenities in walking distance, are you still driving – look for accommodations that cater to these things
2.Take pictures to preserve your memories
3.Work room by room
4.List the items to a) go to family, b) sell, c) donate, d) recycle
5.Use contractor garbage bags – they are durable and worth the few cents more
6.Prep a working belt with the supplies you need: markers, packing tape, scissors or straight blade, masking tape and sandwich baggies for containing screws and small pieces
7.Use a table to pack on – your back will thank you
8.Create a master list
9.On moving day pack your car with the necessities: Linens for your bed, medications, a mini tool kit and your master files (all the moving information – contact names, floor plans, etc)
10.Pre arrange pet care for moving day

A final note about how things turned out with June. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within six months of us moving her to the city and has since moved into a full time care facility. It is likely that you or someone close to you will suffer from dementia and potentially Alzheimer’s. I recommend you visit the Alzheimer’s web site for more information on the common signs of the disease. It is also very helpful when tackling a downsizing project that you consider speaking with a Professional Organizer. They are experienced, informative, and often the calming, organized strength that is needed to assist you in achieving a peaceful transition.

Feel free to contact me by phone 416.347.9002 or email me directly at Visit the kAos Group web site to learn more about what we do.


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