With senior downsizing, it's best to start early

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Traumatic. Difficult. Painful. Those are words that can apply to downsizing when the time comes for a senior to move to a smaller living space.

At the same time, it can be exhilarating.

There are numerous websites about senior downsizing, but they all seem to agree on one thing: Get started early. Beginning months in advance to make the move a gradual process will keep stress to a minimum.

Here are a few hints to help:

Write it down — If you plan to give certain treasures to others, make notes about who gets what, or give them the items now. If you’re going to hire others to help with the eventual packing and moving, make your intentions clear, especially if your things are going in a number of directions. Label everything so there is no confusion about whether things get packed or if they’re going to be picked up.

Declutter — If you had children who moved out without taking all their gear, it all needs to go, either to the child, a charity or the trash. Your own belongings need to be sorted into categories: definitely keep (heirlooms, expensive jewelry), donations (items in good condition such as clothing and furniture), give to relatives (keepsakes and heirlooms) and throw away (things with no real value that you don’t use). Label your piles and boxes so there are no mistakes with valuable items being thrown away by accident. When you absolutely can’t decide: Put those belongings in one special box and hold on to them. You can decide later, once the hubbub of the move is over.

Here are a few websites with helpful information on downsizing:

The National Association of Senior Move Managers at nasmm.org/index.cfm. Caring.com has a number of tips for clearing out. Or Google “senior downsizing.”

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Send email to columnreply2@gmail.com