Easing the Stress of Downsizing

 

Moving can be filled with emotional and physical challenges, especially for senior adults who need to transition into smaller, more manageable spaces.

Linda Lammers specializes in alleviating the stress.

She is the founder and owner Change Is Good, a business that helps seniors move and downsize. The company is part of a growing industry that specializes in “senior move management.”

These services fill a gap for families who live far away or are not physically able to help an elderly family member move. Staff also provide a neutral outlet for families who may disagree about what should happen to household and personal items.

“We go to great lengths to show compassion to our clients and their families,” Lammers says. “We tell families: let us do the hard stuff.”

Lammers started the business after moving her parents, who had been the third generation to live in their family farmhouse. Even with adult children willing to help, downsizing and packing was difficult. Details, such as confirming movers and ordering window treatments for the new residence, almost were forgotten.

“I told my sister there had to be an easier way to do this,” Lammers says.

Change Is Good is a certified member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, an association dedicated to helping older adults relocate or age in place.

 

When Lammers works with clients, she assures them that they’re the boss. Her first question to them: What’s important for them to look at or use? The answers vary.

Some clients want to take very little with them when they move into a smaller living space, whether that’s a condo, senior living or a long-term care residence. Others want to take everything and only want help packing.

Lammers will not make decisions about what her client’s should take unless it’s a safety issue, e.g. no step ladders, no expired food. But Lammers and her staff will present options if a client doesn’t know what to do with stacks of magazines or a closet full of old coats. For example, they’ll offer to donate them or arrange an estate sale.

“Most of the time, people just want to be know that their stuff has value to someone,” Lammers says.

As part her services, Lammers will visit the space that her client is moving into and design a floor plan. Armed with this information, she can recommend what items will fit in the space.

One client assumed a hutch constructed by her late husband wouldn’t fit into her new apartment. Lammers measured it and assured the client that there would be space for the hutch, if she wanted it. The woman was delighted.

“People already feel like they’re losing control,” Lammers says. “Many are moving because of medical issues or other things outside their control. We let them have control over this.”

And, on moving day, Change Is Good will unpack items and get the new space ready for living. The coffee pot will be plugged in, the bed will be made, and the television remote will be in a familiar place.

“It’s a huge change and everyone’s emotions are high,” Lammers says. “We try to make it a little easier.”

CHANGE IS GOOD WEBSITE: http://changeisgood.us.com/

 

TIPS FOR DOWNSIZING

Whether you hire somebody to help or do it yourself, here are some tips for tackling your downsizing move.

  1. Start early. Don’t wait until there’s a medical crisis to pare down belongings. Even if you’re not planning a move soon, it doesn’t hurt to prepare.
  2. Make a plan. Do you need help? Who will be involved? What steps need to be completed? Where will you start? For some seniors, it makes sense to start in the rooms with items that have the greatest emotional value and are used every day, i.e. kitchen, living room, bedroom. For others, it’s easier to start with rooms that are less cluttered.
  3. Involve the family. Every family has different dynamics and expectations. Have a heart-to-heart with family members about items that have both monetary and emotional value. Do the children or grandchildren want them? If not, what will be done with items?
  4. Create piles. When going through items, separate them into four categories: keep, donate, give to family members, and trash. Do some research to determine who/what organizations may benefit the most from donations. Could a local preschool use old magazines for art projects? Are household items or winter gear needed by a local homeless shelter?
  5. Keep memories without the clutter. Make DVDs of photo albums. Save two or three pieces of a cherished collection and take digital photos of the rest.
  6. Ask what you need and what makes you happy. Downsizing means paring down to the essentials. When going through items, ask if it is needed or if it brings joy.
  7. Can’t decide? Set aside. If you are struggling to decide what to do with something, it’s okay to set it aside. A few packed boxes can be placed in storage or a second bedroom or even along a wall (if it’s safe). Make a pact that if the box isn’t opened in six to nine months, the items inside can be given away, sold, or thrown. One you live in the new space, it may be easier to give up some things.
  8. Be kind. Downsizing is hard work. Going through a lifetime of stuff can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Acknowledge this is stressful work and find ways to celebrate even the small steps.