Garage sales can be pretty unremarkable, but several years ago I went to a garage sale that shifted my perspective. While on my way home I spotted a yard sale sign not too far from our house. I convinced my husband to come take a look with me. As we approached, I could tell this was no ordinary yard sale. The large, fenced yard was packed with stuff. 50 years’ worth of stuff.
The owners of the house came out to greet us. They were elderly and bone-weary. As we picked through their possessions, we learned that they had lived in that house for more than half a century. Now, in their eighties, they needed to downsize. As my husband selected a few useful gardening tools, the woman commented that she wished they had begun the downsizing process 10 years ago, instead of waiting until they ‘had’ to do it.
“We are way too tired to be going through this sale at our age,” she said with a sigh.
Her comment and seeing their worn faces as they managed the sale left an indelible mark on my mind. My husband and I walked away from their yard sale with heavy hearts for the large task they had before them. Her remark comes back to me time and again as I find many of my clients in the same predicament.
As a Senior Move Manager, I meet many couples who have made the decision to downsize and are sometimes preparing for a yard sale. They have come to the realization that they just don’t need as much stuff or space anymore. Often empty-nesters, they want to be free to travel or want to take care of less space. People who make that decision proactively are surprised by the freedom they feel. And, I’ve yet to meet anyone who has regretted downsizing with or without a huge yard sale!
However, when an adult child makes the decision for their parents that it is time to downsize, there is usually a very different experience. When an adult child gets into a battle of persuasion with his or her parents, things can get nasty.
If you are an adult child in this situation, it doesn’t have to be that way. You must understand first of all that your parents are grown individuals who have lived independently for years. If someone stepped in to try and tell you what to do with your things, you’d probably balk at it, wouldn’t you? Give consideration to the fact that is how they will be feeling and it is natural to initially resist the suggestion of downsizing or moving.
If you can put yourself in their shoes and avoid the temptation to come across as bossy or as a know-it-all, you’ll have a much better playing field. You are still their child, and you need to treat them with respect. The best reasons to tackle a downsize before something happens that forces the issue is that your parents will have more control over the downsize if they address it while they are healthy and feeling most mobile. Explain this with tact and respect and you’ll have a better chance of being heard. But keep in mind, you can present your best, most logical reasons why they should move or downsize, and you still may not win that argument. Your parents may stand their ground and refuse. Don’t let it come between you. There will come a day when they are ready, and the seeds you plant will likely take root.
Hopefully if there is a yard sale event it can be a joint family one – we all have too much stuff!!