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Downscaling Make challenging decisions easier when downscaling
Make decisions easier when downscaling


Make challenging decisions easier when assisting an elderly parent, looking at the excuses that are offered when downscaling for retirement.

After organising homes and offices for 17 years, I find it amazing how people react when I ask them about the items they keep and the excuses offered in defence. In “Tips to help while downscaling”, we met Petra, and  I discussed how to assist someone downscaling for retirement. (She, of course, is just a name for all the different people I have worked with.) We are dealing with some challenges when assisting an elderly relative, friend or client when they need to part with their prized possessions for retirement.



I’ll do it now that I have the time

I come across a box with unused postcards from many trips worldwide and postcard albums. I ask,” Petra, do you want to keep these albums and the postcards, or can we donate them?’

“No, I have to keep those! I promise that I’ll put the postcards into the albums and the photos into albums.”

She wants to do all these things that she hasn’t been able to do in the past because of time constraints, but is she really being realistic? They are good intentions, but the reality is if she hasn’t done so, how important is it to her. How likely is it that she will do it in the future? Will she now take the time to sort through the boxes of photo envelopes which she hasn’t done in the past?

I have to believe that she will take action and encourage her to be realistic about hobbies, activities and interests in which she’ll still partake. These decisions will determine what she’ll keep and what can go!

Guilt – is a compelling emotion

“Petra, I see that this gift is still in its gift bag. Can we give it to someone in need? “No, I can’t give that away because it was given to me by my best friend!”

I explain that her friend gave the gift in love? Once you have received it, it is up to you to decide what to do with it. Does it add value? Do you need it? If not – let it go. You don’t shun the love by passing it on to someone else that can use it or appreciate it


“Look what I have found!” picking up a pair of shoes that still sit unworn in their box.

“Heidi, I can’t get rid of them; that would be very wasteful; I’ve spent so much money on them!” she replies.

Unfortunately, you will never get the money back that you have spent on an item. Holding on to it will not make you feel better. Instead, sell it and let someone else that wants it to enjoy and use it! One needs to shop more intentionally to prevent this from happening.

Sentimental items

We finally get to the kitchen, and I ask her what we should do with the small display shelf like we have found various others? In most instances, her reply is, “I love that, and I have to have it.”

It is challenging because these items are carefully curated and displayed. How do you get around this one, you’ll ask. Patrick Lencioni says, “When everything is important, then nothing is.”

Determine why it is meaningful; I again remind her of the limited space. She chooses the most precious one. Getting rid of an item gives her more freedom to enjoy the ones she has decided to keep.


Were sorting her clothes. I hear the smile in her voice,  “Oh wow! I’ve forgotten I have this!” turning around with a very colourful flared bellbottom, “I’ve always thought I would be able to wear this again!” I tell her to imagine herself in it now, and we both burst out laughing!

It is good to keep the humour going and be realistic about which clothes she will still wear and not what she hopes will still fit!


We stumble across an old, crumpled yellowed ticket. “Oh, wow! We went to this wonderful show! I really have to keep it because it reminds me of the wonderful time we had!”

True, sometimes an item will remind us of memorable times gone by; however, do we need to keep everything. I asked her why she had kept it? Will she remember the enjoyable occasion without the item?

I limit her to one memory box to keep trinkets. She places the item into the box lovingly until she finds another one and has to decide once again.

I trust that this has given you some guidelines for handling excuses and keeping everyone in a positive frame of mind while making difficult decisions whilst downscaling for retirement. This is certainly not the be-all, but I hope it will awaken alternatives as you go.

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