By Darla Pompilio, (610) 847 5422, Your Tasks, Our Time
Do you have a parent or senior in your life that could benefit from downsizing their home but
you’re not sure how to approach the discussion? The topic of downsizing can be a difficult for
some. They may have to part with items that have memories attached. Or it may make them
feel like they are losing a piece of themselves. Below are some key aspects to ensure you have a
supportive and respectful discussion with the seniors in your life.
Before You Begin the Conversation
Before you start the conversation with your loved one, keep a few things in mind.
Be Respectful and Non-Judgmental
A Senior’s possessions represent a lifetime of memories. Dismissing their value as worthless is
equal to dismissing the senior’s value.
Most seniors will respond well if you share your concerns and express your desire for them to
be in a safe and comfortable environment. It’s not about forcing them to get rid of things, it’s
about helping them to live their best life.
How to Begin the Conversation
How you start the conversation, and the tone you use, can impact the discussion either positively or negatively. Come from a place of support and love so they understand your desire to help them. Below is a list of questions you can use to get the conversation started.
Open-ended questions will be better to gain more information.
During the Conversation
Getting the conversation started is a step in the right direction. Keeping the conversation going in a positive direction is just as important. Remember these key points as you progress through your discussion.
This is probably the most important step in the process. When seniors let go of their possessions, it often feels like a loss of control. By listening to their wants, needs and desires, you’re helping to ensure that they are maintaining control.
Allowing seniors to tell stories about the past as you sort through their possessions can help ease some of the anxiety during the process of letting go.
Pick Your Battles
Arguing over every item is going to end with lots of hurt feelings and no progress. Letting go takes practice and patience. Keep reminding your loved one of the ultimate goal … for them to live their best life. It will get easier as they become more comfortable with letting go.
This process won’t be done overnight. It’s not uncommon to go through an entire home 2 to 3 times to achieve the desired goals. So be kind. Be patient. And remember, you may be in a similar situation yourself in the future.
That can look like many things: maintaining a written planner, using and sharing an online calendar, time blocking, scheduling appointments as well as daily tasks, or creating a timeline for big events. And, while creating a timeline is a great way to keep track of any project or event that you are planning, it is a most valuable asset in managing a move.
Moving is uncomfortable and inconvenient at best, and downright exasperating and stressful at its worst. This is due to the infrequency and unpredictability of the process.
This isn’t an undertaking the average person practices over and over again throughout the year. We don’t move to a new home every week! Therefore, we don’t get the opportunity to hone and streamline each step of the process. And, even if we do sharpen our skills, there are some factors that just cannot be foreseen. Housing deals fall through, moving trucks get delayed, people in our lives have emergencies that need to be handled. Making a timeline cannot change these unexpected delays but it can put us in control of how to manage them and that’s what being organized is all about – being prepared.
Whether you are moving next year or this summer, it is never too late to create a timeline for your move.
A moving timeline may seem like extra work for your move right now, but the small bit of time taken to set up this management tool will support you throughout the process and keep you in the driver’s seat.
As an auction professional, I regularly have the opportunity to work with Professional Organizers and Senior Move Managers. These professionals provide a wonderful service helping client’s de-clutter their homes for a variety of reasons including preparation for sale, down-sizing & moving to a smaller living space or simply organizing their lives.
During the de-cluttering process, there is often a need to sell personal property and in some cases a great deal of property. Since auctions are a simple, efficient and often productive approach to selling, we can often help the same client. This is the wonderful connection between us.
I developed a passion for auctions as a child from my father. He loved auctions and would take me on his Saturday auction adventures to pretend he was helping my mother. He loved to buy at auction and mom did not appreciate clutter, so you can imagine the action at our home.
These auctions often had big crowds of people and enthusiastic bidding. It was exciting! I would hear energized bidders looking for a bargain. However, I was attracted to selling at auction as the price just went one direction. I have not come across another business negotiation where the price only goes higher. I loved the excitement of the auction environment as a child and still do today. However, the environment has changed.
I have heard these questions in recent years as we help clients looking to sell their property. A great many of these clients were at auctions forty, fifty or more years ago buying much of their art, furniture, antiques, decorative items and collections. They would often spend an entire day at the auction and there would be hundreds of people in attendance. They would see friends and enjoy the camaraderie.
I was reminded of the feeling when recently watching an old movie “North by Northwest”. There is a fascinating auction scene Alfred Hitchcock used in the story line. It showed bidding and activity at a high end auction over fifty years ago. The auction gallery was filled. People were sitting in every available seat and others were standing. There were no large screens displaying the auction item and no bidding by telephone or internet. There were no computers supporting the auction process at all. What a major difference!
Large screens, phone bidding and internet platforms have expanded the range and number of bidders dramatically. However, it does not look like it to auction buyers from many years ago turned into auction sellers as their lives have changed.
When asked where is everybody? Where are the bidders? I point out the number of ways the auctioneer is accepting bids beyond those from the smaller than they expected bidders attending in person.
I look toward the computers handing the bidding for each of the multiple
internet bidding platforms and explain each computer represents far more bidders than when you purchased in the crowded auctions many years ago. I look toward the staff members handling phone bidding and point out those strong bidders as well. There are also bids left with the office and on our web-site. I explain there is a larger geographic area represented and there are bidders watching the auction from not only our region but from the entire United States and around the world. I point out they have been able to see each item in a gallery of pictures for a month before the auction.
Once the auctioneer starts taking bids from the bidders in all these different ways (including from bidders in person like Alfred Hitchcock portrayed), it begins to make sense. Bidding at auction is even more exciting as it comes in so many ways from so many places!
It’s hard to think about how to start the downsizing process. There’s so much wrapped up in our treasures: difficult emotions, unmet dreams, things we haven’t finished, bad decisions etc. Change is hard and a next life transition might not always be our choice. Despite all the emotions, it can be a freeing and rewarding experience to let go of those things that fill up our time and space.
In the end, you want to feel good about your decisions and be a part of the process so that you can rest easy into this next chapter.
“Where did all this stuff come from anyway? How did it all fit in here in the first place? I can’t believe how long this is taking and how many boxes we have! AAAaahhhh!!!!”
Well, it’s true. When we pull everything out of its storage space, we can see the volume of what we really have. And, for those things that haven’t been seen or touched in years: much of it is astonishing.
“Cans of hairspray? Wait. I haven’t bought hairspray in a can in at least 2…uh, 5…oh, I don’t know – better throw that out. How did these shoes get back here? Man, they’re dusty. And sort of misshapen. Well, okay very misshapen. Nevermind. Out! And, wait. Do we really have 6 new containers of black pepper? Six? I had no idea. This will last us forever!”
You are moving into a new home. Whether larger or smaller than your last, it’s an opportunity to get organized – right from the start! Here are 6 spaces to set up when you move in so you can get and stay organized:
Spice Storage: There are so many options for organizing spices that there is really no reason you need to fight to find what you need, have bottles and jars falling out onto you as you reach behind, or repurchase multiples of what you already have.
Pantry: DIY or go the extra mile and get pro-installation. A pantry organizing system will be a delight to your family today and a great selling point tomorrow.
Under Sinks: Either in the kitchen or bathrooms, under sink storage will make ALL the difference. Enjoy the control and say goodbye to yucky under-sink messes!
Shoes: The struggle is real. First decide where you want to store them (By the entryway? In a closet? Under the bed? In the garage?) Then, reign them in.
Bedroom Closets: If you are renting a home, you may want to save money and purchase some temporary solutions that you can take with you when you move out. For homeowners, installing built-ins is the way to go.
Storage Area: Before you go building columns and walls of heavy boxes stacked one atop another; stop and think. This is what got you into the last mess of storage chaos. Is there room for some shelving? Is there ceiling or wall space to be taken advantage of?
Yes, there really is such a thing as Relocation Stress Syndrome!
Relocation Stress Syndrome, or RSS, was approved as a formal diagnosis in the early 1990’s. (And here you were thinking that everyone else must be so much better at relocating and that it was just YOU who weren’t handling this very well – not true!)
You are not alone if a relocation is stressing you out or making you feel like, perhaps, you’ve lost your marbles.
Although anyone can be impacted, the elderly are at greater risk of feeling the effects of RSS. Many NAPO professionals are skilled with organizing and managing relocations and the sometimes unpleasant side-effects. Some even specialize in senior moves exclusively!
Continue here to read more from NAPO Senior Move Management expert, Susan Osborne, as she describes the symptoms and strategies for facing this not uncommon relocation affliction.