Ten gifts to give people who are downsizing


It’s not easy finding the perfect gift for people who are in deaccessioning mode (as museums call it) rather than in acquiring mode. You know, the people who are letting go of no-longer-needed things to give themselves more space or because they are planning a downsizing move. What do you give the person who wants less stuff, not more?

We have some ideas. Here is a move manager’s list of gifts for people for whom less is becoming more. Spoiler alert: Not all of them can be wrapped in tissue paper with a big sassy bow on top.

1 A Beguiling Filing

The world has moved dramatically towards paperless records in the past ten years. But up until then? Papers are us. What to keep and what to shred–that’s something your accountant or your lawyer knows for certain. Working with their guidelines, give the gift of help getting important documents in order. And of taking care of the shredding! (Hint: if there’s pounds upon pounds to be shredded, it’s worth every cent to hand it off for secure shredding via an office supply store.

2 A Photo Finish

Photographs from the past are wonderful things. But unidentified photos in boxes are confounding. Gift some sorting sessions, either with yourself or with a personal photo organizer. You have the advantage of hearing the stories. An APPO member has the advantage of knowing how to best tackle the project. 

3  A Tech Detangle

We know that shoeboxes accumulate photos and file cabinets accumulate documents, but computers are also accumulators. They accumulate things too, but because they don’t take up the kind of storage space you can measure with a yardstick, the extra stuff stealthily builds and can really get out of hand. Coaching sessions on how to organize an email inbox, do mass deletes of junk emails, store and organize photos and other tasks we never get around to in our digital lives is the kind of gift that would make a person feel both more confident and more organized.

4 A Smart Phone

This one you can put a bow on. You don’t have to be a tech lover to learn to love a smart phone. You don’t have to be tech savvy to learn to love a smart phone. You just need a smart phone and someone to show you around it. More than once. If you’re not a member of the tech generations, even though smart phones are intuitive, they have a learning curve. (Disclaimer: I handed my mother-in-law an iPhone when she was in her mid 80s. She looked at it the way she would have looked at a slightly decomposed dead rat. And now she goes nowhere without it and is a complete shark at texting.)

5 Subscription Boxes

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more fun than an “of the month club” gift subscription. Whatever a person loves, they’re probably a club for it. Flowers and fruits and other tasty things are the most common; if you can enjoy it, there’s probably a subscription box for it. Real Simple has some subscription box ideas, but beware of the ones that are mostly stuff!

6 Timely Stories

Are there things you wish you knew about a parent? Or are there things you want to tell them? A time set aside to tell and record stories is a wonderful gift. Pair with with a lunch out or a take-out lunch in. Some people are gifted story tellers, they love to spin a good yarn. Others will need some questions to help their story unfold. However you capture the story, by memory, in writing or by video, the chance to share a story about that connects dots is a gift for both the recipient and the giver. Need inspiration? Check out StoryCorps.

7 A Safety Patrol

When you live in a house for a long time, it’s hard to identify things that could make your house better for where you are at your stage of life. That’s why the gift of an outside pair of eyes, an aging in place specialist, can be a life changing gift. As move managers give you a short cut on the downsizing learning curve, aging in place specialists cut the wide swings off making a house smarter and safer. Start with a paid consultation by a professional rather than a sales call by a contractor who does aging in place renovations.

8 Cleaning Crew

Gifting a weekly or biweekly house cleaning service does two things: it liberates the recipient from the annoying task of chasing cobwebs and dust bunnies. And it helps prevent clutter from building up. Nothing is more motivating when it comes to keeping horizontal surfaces clear than knowing the cleaning crew is coming. 

9 Bucket List Experiences

I have lived in Boston since 1977 and I have been intending to be on Lexington Green at the crack of dawn on Patriots Day since that time. I’ve never gotten there. What are some places and events your giftee has always talked about but never done? A day away is a wonderful thing indeed. The millennials may have made it newsworthy with their inclination to choose adventures over stuff, but most of us already knew that experiences are always better than things.

10 Something they Really, Really, Really Want

Rather than try and guess what would make someone’s holiday the best ever, ask them. What would they like? Encourage them to think out of the box. It might be a lobster roll at the beach in January or it might be a day of closet cleaning. It might be transferring home movies to digital formats or it might be having a lesson in how to use a ride share app. You can add your own finishing touches to make it extra special, but the easiest way to give a gift that’s the right size and shape is to solicit input from the recipient.