At Gentle Transitions of Minnesota, we encounter all the ups and downs of senior transitions by working closely with our clients. When you are facing a senior move, it seems there are many hurdles you must cross to get from the first stage of thinking about downsizing to being settled into a smaller home or senior living community.
In this month’s blog, we would like to share some tips and resources that can help seniors and their families when preparing for their move. We’ve assembled some great resources for you, from getting started to finding stashed valuables to getting it all done and remaining sane in the process!
Watching movies and reading books about seniors and how they have navigated the challenges of the golden years can help a senior to accept change. Just knowing that others have been through it too can help! Visit our past blog posts that cover these topics:
- Books that Help Seniors Move to a Smaller Home or Assisted Living
- Movies for Seniors that Resonate and May Help in Real Life
Start with the move date and work backwards. What needs to happen along the timeline? Creating a week by week schedule of activities to complete will help you focus your time and energy. Everything from sorting household items to give-aways, garage sales, moving, settling in and final clean-up of the home should be on the list. (Still overwhelmed by this step? A senior move manager at Gentle Transitions can help!)
3. Design the new space.
You will need the dimensions of the new home. Then you can assess the following:
- Will the current furniture comfortably fit into the new space?
- Which items will be placed in which rooms?
- How can you ensure that the space is pleasant, uncluttered and safe?
- Are there items you will need to buy or install, such as handrails or ramps?
4. Take stock of needs and priorities.
As a senior preparing to downsize, or a family helping a senior to downsize, creating a list of high priority items to keep will help with the sorting process. The needs and priorities list may include not only favorite items that have a high emotional value, but also comfort items and arrangement of favorite and often used things in a familiar way in the new space. Needs and priorities of family members are important too! Grandma may be ready to give up her candy dish, but a grandchild may have a special attachment.
Also be aware that sometimes needs will clash. One family member’s heirloom can be another member’s burden. For insight and some stories of how these scenarios can play out, see the New York Times article, “The Tyranny of the Heirloom.”
A common trend with seniors is cash and valuable stashing. Complete a thorough interview or thought process to identify any stash areas. Seniors and their families have reported stash areas as mundane as cash stuffed under the mattress and as unusual as a valuable ring frozen inside of hamburger meat. Valuable items and cash can be stashed in many ways:
- Hidden in cookie tins, cereal boxes and even pill bottles
- Stashed in under low-value items such as costume jewelry
- Tucked into clothing and pockets inside dresser drawers or trunks
- Buried in the yard or under a favorite rose bush
- Wadded into tin foil in a cupboard or freezer
- Taped or hidden in furniture and drawers
- Stuffed into the mould hole of statues
- Hidden under tools in tool boxes
- Tucked under a corner of the carpet
- Sewn into curtain hems
- Hidden inside outlet holes
Jog your memory and be sure to check items being given away, thrown out or sold.
6. Sort items to sell or give away starting with the least-used room.
A tool shed, garage or storage closet is a great place to start. You can get into a rhythm of sorting and separating out the “must keep” from the “it can go” items with things that have little emotional attachment. By the time you get to the challenging items, you’ll have toughened up a bit about letting go of things that just use up space.
To give you some focus in each room you sort through, an ABC system may help. Simply label or collect all items in that room according to three categories:
- “A” Level: Items that have high emotional value. Once you have these items collected, you can sort through these with the senior piece by piece. Some will be keepers. Some will move with the senior. And some may remain in the family as heirlooms.
- “B” Level: Items that have medium level importance. With these items, you will need to do some additional sorting to determine whether to keep them or get rid of them, based on space in the new home and emotional attachment.
- “C” Level: Items that can be sold at an estate sale or donated. (See #5 above! Make sure none of these items contains stashed money or valuables.)
Countless valuables are sold at garage sales each year, simply because their owners did not understand their value. Just last month, an Oklahoma man found out his dish collection was worth more than $1 million when he brought them to Antique Roadshow. Read more! Some things that may need to be professionally appraised include:
- Coin collections
- Fine jewelry
- Antiques and furniture
- Dish collections
- Knick knacks and collectibles
If you need to find an appraiser, one place to start is the Appraisers Association of America, which is a long-standing association that promotes excellence within the appraisal industry.
Even if you are on a tight timeline to get it all done, burnout is unproductive. Be sure to ask for help from anyone who can lend a hand and take occasional breaks. Listening to some relaxing music while you are sorting and packing can help create a more tranquil environment and relieve some of the stress.
10. If you are short on time, energy or personal resources, hire a senior move manager.
Time and again, we see tensions ease and families and caregivers relax and re-focus on the well-being of the senior when they leave some or all of the organization and moving tasks to our senior move specialists. If it’s all just too overwhelming, give Gentle Transitions of Minnesota a call. We can help you navigate all the scary, overwhelming tasks and focus on what really matters!