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Get Ready to Downsize the Aging Home


Downsizing the family home: We dread it, we avoid it and we don’t want to talk about it. Whether it is your aging parent’s home or your own, it can be a monumental task. When a lifetime of material possessions requires sorting and disposal, it is painful.

I don’t recommend doing it under duress. Recently, I flew to my parent’s home to do an emergency downsizing. The basement flooded after unusual torrential rains. My aging mother was not able to take part in the decisions. This left my sister and I to assess the damage and value of the sodden remains. What do you hang onto and what do you let go of? We got one room emptied and stored the rest in the driest room. It was, after all, due to a “once in 100 years” weather activity. It wasn’t going to happen again.

Then came flooded basement #2. Two months after flood #1. This time, everything needed to get out of the basement. I had just finished reading Marni Jameson’s excellent Downsizing the Family Home (AARP 2016.) I knew there was more downsizing ahead, I just didn’t know it would be that fast! This book is actually fun to read. It is very informative and had me laughing out loud in recognition of the dilemmas that Jamison herself experienced with her parents’ home.

On the plane propelling me toward my mother and her second flooded basement, I perused the in flight movies. Barely reading the description, I chose Nostalgia, mostly for the superstar cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jon Hamm, Bruce Dern, Catherine Keeler, Nick Offerman, and others. Little did I know that the theme of the movie is about loss, the meaning of possessions and the emotional ties to the past and lives lived. Here is the trailer:

While it was timely and riveting for me, I don’t necessarily recommend it for general movie watching. The cast, as mentioned, is superb, but the scenes are long and drawn out. The lighting is bleak and dark. And the character of the insurance claims agent, well acted by John Ortiz, is confusingly written as a therapist/shaman type who asks deep questions about the meaning of the life lived. I have had been lucky to meet some empathetic claims agents, but it’s more about sticking to the disaster at hand.

Still, if you are preparing to embark on this exhausting life lesson in whittling down material possessions of someone you love, take heart. I urge you to read Downsizing the Family Home for motivation and a plan of action. And, if you’ve got the energy, watch a few minutes of Nostalgia for some emotional validation.


How I feel when I’m downsizing the family home

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