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Arlington couple assists seniors with downsizing

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You have lived in your house for many years and memories are found around every corner. It’s time to downsize, but where do you start? 

Bill and Betty Ubbens, realtors with Weichert Realty and parishioners of St. Ann Church in Arlington, assist seniors with downsizing. They first determine if the seniors are staying in their house, moving to a smaller house or retirement home, or moving out of state to be closer to friends and family. 

Ubbens said some seniors don’t think their homes are cluttered. Bill recommends being sensitive when making suggestions to reorganize and reduce possessions to the most meaningful items that bring them the most joy and happiness.

The Ubbens have found the biggest resistance to decluttering is the “sheer amount of stuff to go through and the time to complete the inventory and planned disposition of the property.” 

Setting goals for decluttering is important, according to Betty. “With each passing day we get older, vitality wanes, health could deteriorate, and even if a senior plans to stay in their current house, clearing the house of clutter, making adjustments to a house to allow better access and mobility take time to incorporate,” she said. 

For seniors staying in their homes, they may need to make home improvements for safety reasons.

“Not having to deal with clutter and the stress of decluttering can facilitate these house improvements,” said Betty. 

Beginning the process and dealing with the flood of memories are two of the hardest things about decluttering, according to Bill. No matter what method you use, he suggests saving personal papers and photos to the end of the process. 

Decluttering should be done sooner rather later, Betty said. “It is best done by those with their full presence of mind so that it is their decision,” she said. “If possible, the distribution of the possessions to the designated recipients takes place shortly thereafter to bring closure to the process.”

For those who can make a spot decision, free from sentimentality, methodically start in a specific location, such as the living room or a desk. Create three groupings — keep, trash or donate. Organize the kept items into those used frequently, occasionally, and only once or twice a year.  

Bill suggests gifting items you intend to keep in the family before beginning any decluttering. “If the children and other family members are aware of these items, we recommend that seniors give them to whom they are intended to go to well before the seniors are too ill or already departed,” he said. “It probably would make the seniors feel good, especially seeing and feeling the gratitude of the recipient of your gift.”

For those who are collectors of art, antiques, jewelry or other collectibles, have them appraised to determine their market value. They can be distributed according to the will or estate provisions, or upon death sold with the proceeds placed in the estate for designated purposes, according to Bill. “Seniors should not attempt to sell their potentially valuable collections without professional assistance,” he said.

If you are looking for creative ways to let go of things you’ve sorted, try an auction. Betty suggests conducting a silent auction with the highest bidder claiming the particular item. “All proceeds from the auction go into the estate or trust and (are) dealt with per the will or trust documents.”

If there are items remaining after the family has attended the auction, Betty suggests a second action for non-immediate family members and close friends with the same rules. “Anything not claimed at auction could then be appraised if there is anything of monetary value remaining, consigned for sale, donated to charity, or otherwise sold or disposed of.”

Decluttering can be therapeutic and give seniors more time to do life’s simple things, such as entertaining friends, getting out of the house, reading or volunteering, said Bill. 

“Many seniors who have experienced decluttering and reorganization of their remaining possessions have commented that it was like a burden released from their shoulders,” said Bill. “They feel so much better emotionally.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018