I'm currently working with a sweet couple, married over 60 years, who spent their lives in service to our country. In their extended travels with the military, they lived in several foreign countries and their spacious home is filled with beautiful pieces of furniture and art. Recognizing that they were in need of a little more assistance with managing day-to-day life, they contacted me to help them find the right assisted living facility.
As we toured beautiful facilities that would be perfect for their needs, they grew more and more disappointed with each option we explored - the apartments were "so small!" After briefly touching on the concept of downsizing, of bringing just what you need, and letting go of the furniture that remains, I knew I had lost them. They simply cannot bring themselves to part with these items that help define their life together. The search stopped and they remain at home, with a growing village of providers trying to help them manage day-to-day life.
It really is more than just "stuff." It's a lifetime of memories, experiences, and treasures. Each piece represents a specific time in their lives and giving up those precious pieces is a surrender of sorts. Whether the treasures come from travels across the world or consist of furniture handed down for generations, the artwork is widely recognized or created by grandchildren - it is all important. How does one decide what moves on and what must be forgotten?
So where do the treasures go? These days, many adult children have established homes that are fully furnished, grandchildren are increasingly embracing minimalism and large, older pieces are less of an heirloom than they are an inconvenience. And when there are no children or involved family, what happens? This is a serious consideration for the senior who is letting go of what connects them to their past.
My sweet couple may seem like an unusual situation - refusing to move because of possessions - but I can tell you this is quite common. I encourage families to make this discussion part of their overall plan. As for Mr. and Mrs., I will remain in the village of providers who check in on a regular basis, but I cannot compel them to move until they have come to terms with this particular loss. I respect their stuff.