Do you have a parent or other older relative who has collected thousands upon thousands of unnecessary items over the years? Simply visiting a pack rat is difficult enough. Helping one move is a downright challenge! Thankfully, there are some strategies to ensure everyone survives this process with emotions intact—and a lot fewer possessions.
1. Consider therapy for your parent.
If you know the move is coming up in a few months and you have a little time to prepare, you may want to consider getting your parent in to see a therapist. Although not everyone who keeps extra items has a mental illness, many people who hoard and struggle to get rid of things do struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental ailments. Their hoarding or pack-rat nature can be a symptom of this problem.
Even if your parent is pretty healthy from a mental standpoint, having to move and get rid of items can be mentally challenging. Seeing a therapist throughout the process will help ensure they deal with it in a healthy way, rather than by trying to hold onto items they don't need.
2. Go through things slowly.
You may figure you can power through a room filled with extra items in a weekend—until you're sitting there with your parent, spending 10 minutes deciding whether to donate or keep each action figure you come across. You will need a lot of patience when you sort through items with your parent, so start this process as soon as possible. Try doing a room a week; that's a good goal to have starting off.
3. Set a quota.
Your parent may be tempted to keep things that you know for certain that they do not need. Telling them "no" can be difficult. One way to make this easier on everyone is to set a quota for the number of boxes you're going to move. For instance, you could tell your parent the moving company will only move 40 boxes—they have to whittle their possessions down to that number. If you get the 40 boxes full and you still have a room to go, then your parent will know they have to get rid of more items. If the quota was set from the get-go, you won't be the "bad guy" when you remind them of this.
4. Hire movers to transport the items.
Even if you do most of the packing yourself, consider hiring a moving company to load everything into the truck and transport it to the new place. This approach has several advantages. First, you will have a deadline by which you need to have all of the items packed; this will keep your parent moving along. Second, you can arrange for your parent not to be present on the day the movers load the truck. This can be helpful if you're worried they will watch things go out the door and wonder where certain items—which were actually thrown away—may be.
5. Emphasize the importance of donating.
If you are really struggling to convince your parent that they need to give up a bunch of items before they move, then have a talk about donating items. Explain to them where their donated items may go—to homeless shelters, thrift stores, and families in need. If you can get them to look at getting rid of their items as a charitable act, they may be more willing.
Helping a pack rat move can be particularly tough, especially during the stage where you're throwing things out or donating them. Plan ahead, and follow the tips above to ease the transition.