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Downsizing for resident move to assisted living

5 Tips for Decluttering Your Parent’s House with the KonMari Method

Before a parent moves to senior living, adult children may face a common task: Helping their loved one declutter.

But where to begin? How to stay focused and work together? What to keep and take? When in doubt, follow the masses and look to the wisdom of Marie Kondo, author of the best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Using KonMari to Downsize for Assisted Living

Kondo’s book features a mindful and systematic approach to reducing possessions, called the KonMari method. It lays out a plan that will keep you focused and productive as you help your parent downsize. The method also offers lessons to guide you and your loved one as you tackle the emotional side of decluttering. Follow these rules, based on the KonMari method, to have your parent downsized and ready for senior living in no time:

Shift your mindset

Kondo suggests that the first step in successful downsizing is changing your mentality. Instead of focusing on what to throw away, look at downsizing as deciding what to keep. This simple attitude adjustment makes it easier for your loved one to tackle years of accumulated clutter with a clear purpose in mind.

Downsize by category, not location

People often store the same type of item in more than one place, according to Kondo. Your mom may keep jackets in both her bedroom and the hall closet. Or you might find nail clippers in every bathroom. If you tidy by location, it’s easy to miss duplicate items. Grouping by category, on the other hand, makes the sheer volume more apparent. It often makes saying goodbye to repeat items easier, too.

Tackle the least sentimental possessions first

The KonMari method lays out a specific order for downsizing. Save the most sentimental possessions for last, as decisions involving emotion and memory slow the process down. Instead, designate a place to put photos and other memorabilia that you come across, and tackle it all at the end. Kondo suggests you go through belongings in this order:

  • Clothing (broken down into subcategories such as tops, pants, socks, etc.)

  • Books

  • Papers

  • Miscellaneous items (such as kitchen or bathroom items)

  • Sentimental possessions

Keep items that spark your parent’s joy

When it comes to items that aren’t necessities, such as clothes, books and knick-knacks, keep the discarding process simple by trusting your loved one’s instincts. Have your parent hold each item briefly and ask “Does this spark joy?” If so, keep it. If not, discard it. If loved ones struggle with this method, gently remind them of the goal: surrounding themselves only with things they love.


Discard items that have outlived their purpose

Your parent may struggle with an item that no longer sparks joy but is hard to part with, such as a gift or expensive purchase. When that happens, help pinpoint what purpose that item served. Receiving that bowl as a gift was heart warming, and buying that blouse was thrilling. But encourage your loved one to see that those items have outlived their purpose, and that it’s OK to let them go.

Looking Ahead to Senior Living

Downsizing for independent or assisted living is never an easy task, but it can provide a positive experience. The reward is a lifestyle that offers your parent quality care in a social setting.

Whether or not you’ve begun helping your loved one downsize, you may want to start exploring senior living options. For more information about independent or assisted living options, contact a Heritage community to schedule a tour.