What we learned as a family:
There are many decisions and activities along the way for downsizing a senior. The following is hardly all inclusive. It doesn’t talk about legalities, real estate or finances which certainly are also very important, especially during this period of time. Rather, this list focuses on what our family found most helpful in the day to day activity of “downsizing” with our mother. I hope you find it useful as you think through this process for your family.
- Communicate, communicate, and communicate!
- Write it down: This is a wonderful time to talk and learn things you never knew before about your family.
- Treat the person who is downsizing with respect and engage them in all decision making.
- Give the senior work to do where they can sit yet feel productive (i.e. go through files and papers, junk drawers, write background on important items such as heirlooms, papers, etc).
- Think through what can be done by you and what can be done more effectively with a professional such as a senior move manager, junk hauler, cleaning person, stager, etc?
- Assign a family member as project manager and keep them updated.
- Keep a notebook (bright colored so easy to spot) of vendors, contractors, phone #, etc.
- Maintain a centralized and running “To Do” list with “owner” assigned.
- Have everyone add to the “To Do” list as they think of things
- Meet at least once daily to go over the status of projects, To Do list, etc.
- Best time to work is 9AM-3PM.
- Try to keep the work load equitable between all who are helping.
- Before moving anything, take photographs of rooms, furniture and items. Take close ups of special things. Upload photos to electronic album.
- Determine a fair way to divide furniture and items amongst family members. (Your parent(s) may already have this planned out)
- Dedicate an area in the house for each family member to put items they will be taking.
- Early on, clean and de-clutter surfaces to prep the house to sell. (This is when my mother learned to let go and she got excited about her new home).
- Make a floor plan: “Know the space you are moving to, what you want to take, and most importantly, create a floor plan so you know what will fit!”
- Have a sense of humor – these times can be stressful.
- Storage services: Avoid if you can as it can be expensive. Some retirement communities include storage as part of the package. Decide that if a family member or friend does not want an item, to send it on its way to a charity or for consignment.
- Movers and downsizers: How long have they been doing this? Do they seem trustworthy and understanding? Are they used to working with seniors? Are they bonded and insured appropriately. What is their staff turnover? Get references.
- Paper shredding: A mobile service can come to your home so it can be done there. Do this all at once to justify the cost…usually a couple of hundred dollars.
- Junk hauling: Have this person come at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the process. Some will credit your bill for items they may resell.
- Antique appraisers. Use the best and most reputable. Great resource for related services such as auction houses, junk haulers, “collectable” professionals, etc. Assign one family member to oversee. Get everything in writing.
- Estate sales: We elected not to do this as it is time consuming. For us it was cheaper (and easier) to donate, consign or give to family members and friends.
NEXT: Part 3 – Senior Move Managers
“Dreams don’t work unless you do.” Peter Daniels