We’re not sure why so little is written about the process of moving … perhaps anyone having recently done so wants to forget the trauma as quickly as possible. While the focus of this article is on seniors, the advice holds for anyone contemplating a move in the year ahead. So what do you do when the task at hand is picking up everything you own and taking it somewhere else? That varies depending on your circumstances. Expanding families are motivated to move to gain more space. Moving up is normally less stressful than a downsizing since you are going to a larger home and may have the luxury of taking everything with you. For those facing unanticipated job relocations, financial hardship, or changing housing needs due to age and health, the process is more difficult.
Fitting into smaller quarters involves very difficult decisions about what to take, what to sell, what to donate, and what to throw away.
Having worked with seniors and their families we can offer these suggestions:
1. Early on, obtain professional advice from consultants regarding planning your move and the time that will be needed. This is especially necessary when moving to independent or assisted living communities as many of the daily requirements of life may be included where meals, house cleaning, and transportation are being provided.
2. Family heirlooms not regularly used should be given away while you are alive, not after. This way you can confirm the item was desired and needed, and if not redistribute to another, and if no one wants it perhaps it should be sold or donated. The reality maybe that your children may not share your tastes, or perhaps have already obtained their own home furnishings and don’t need duplicates.
3. The participation of children and family is helpful, but depending on family dynamics can bring out the best in families, or open old wounds with unanticipated consequences. Chances are that you know every button to push after years of parenting, and the temptation to treat your adult children as adolescents is an easy trap to fall into. Don’t do it. A move is a great time for your children to demonstrate the responsible traits you helped develop.
4. Get help with packing and supervise the job, but let others do the heavy lifting. Boxes, padding and packing paper and tape are available at stationery stores, truck rental companies, even your grocer, so getting what you need is not a problem. Organization is the problem: so get lots of marking pens, adhesive labels, and a notepad to identify what’s in those 30 to 50 cardboard boxes.
5. Start packing early with the help of friends and family — this way you can share your back-stories about those items you treasure so that their meaning is understood.
6. Be brutally honest with yourself about what you need versus what you want. Often seniors are moving from larger to smaller, or from small to smaller still. Unfortunately that is a fact of life that is often unavoidable due to financial or health pressures. If you can manage to attain a state of “grace and gratitude” during this difficult, soul searching process, it will be easier for you and your family.
7. If you are selling your home, ask your Realtor for their suggestions concerning the staging of your home for sale, or obtain a consultation with a professional. Many of your family treasures may add to the visual appeal of your home, while some may detract, so an objective 3rd party can provide guidance. Removal of some furnishings may make the home appear larger and more spacious and having a few items stored in a garage or mini-storage is a low stress, low cost alternative solution.
Lastly, be kind to yourself in this process. No one understands the importance or significance to you of your home and its possessions better than your Realtor: a professional whose career, in essence, involves moving people from one home to another… we just don’t talk about the details very often.