The difference between a house and a home is the people and memories that occupy the rooms. As family members age and decide to move to smaller residences it can be painful for them to part with the memories of their home. The purpose of downsizing is to shed the extra baggage and create a fresh start but many people find it difficult to let go of possessions that provoke rich memories. When it comes time to help out with senior moves you can keep your estate shipping costs down and still preserve memories with the following tips:
Digitize, Digitize, Digitize
With external hard drives and access to cloud storage, there is all the room in the world to keep memories in a digital format. Scanning old photos saves tons of storage space and also protects them from further aging and fire or water damage. Scanning old paperwork also helps turn giant file cabinets into a single small hard drive (just be certain to shred documents before recycling). Donate books to local schools or libraries and purchase a Kindle or other e-reader instead. If giving up a lifetime collection of books is hard for your family member, consider pre-loading the e-reader with a library of their favorite tomes. Some seniors are more technology-savvy than others, so also consider writing out instructions for using these new formats.
Turn Collections into Keepsakes
There are a number of creative ways to turn bulky collections into decorative (and compact) keepsakes. Has your family member collected piles of t-shirts from their annual 5K, road trips or volunteer work? Turn the unwieldy stacks into a t-shirt quilt that highlights all these memories in a single cozy item. Tackle the linen closet and toss or donate extra sheet sets and towels but consider keeping swatches from items that have special significance. Lace from a hand-me-down tablecloth looks beautiful preserved in a picture frame with a brightly colored backing.
Whether it’s antique fishing lures, seashells or concert tickets, boxes and boxes of collectibles can be consolidated into one item. Encourage your elder to select a handful of their favorites from the mass. Then use a standard shadow box from a craft store to display these items as an attractive keepsake on the wall.
Spread the Love
One way to give memories new meaning is to pass gifts on to the next generation; by giving items to family members they can be enjoyed all over again. It will certainly bring a smile to grandma’s face to see her wedding china being used at her granddaughter’s baby shower, and grandpa’s Eames chair may be the perfect centerpiece to his grandson’s new mid-century modern living room. The cost of fragile item shipping and furniture shipping should be considered, but it’s hard to put a price on a piece of family history being incorporated into the next chapter.
Finally, if you would like the ultimate keepsake from the move, hire a videographer to come to the house for a few hours. Let your family member give a guided tour of the home and tell the stories of special pieces to the camera. Odds are they are more attached to the memory of their honeymoon in Santa Fe than they are to the actual turquoise bird bath in the yard. This not only gives them something to watch if they feel a little homesick in their new dwelling, but also provides a lovely time capsule of their stories and memories for the entire family.