Moving Seniors, Downsizing and Sorting through a Lifetime of Possessions.
Moving seniors, especially a loved one to a smaller home, nursing home or retirement residence can be daunting.
When helping your parents or any loved one move to a retirement home or in with you, take extra care and try to consider the following tips when assisting with their move.
Here are Ten Easy Tips:
1. Be kind. This may seem like a given when moving seniors. However, when helping to sort and pack their things, keep in mind that their eyesight and an inability to do everything they used to do can result in poor housekeeping habits. Instead of commenting, offer to clean as you pack and try not to criticize.
When moving seniors and to keep the process less stressful, I recommend having a professional cleaning company provide a top to bottom clean. Ideally, before the home goes up for sale and weekly followup cleaning to maintain the house until it sells. And a final clean completed after it’s emptied.
2. Help sort. Like all of us, seniors tend to keep things they don’t necessarily need or will ever use. Be gentle when suggesting to get rid of possessions. Ask them if they use the item and if they would mind if you donate it. If it’s a treasure or something they’d like to keep but the new space can’t accommodate it, suggest keeping it in the family.
Recently we downsized and moved 91 year old May. May gave her nephew the opportunity to take anything in the home that he liked.
Everything left after his weekend visit went to auction to be sold.
3. Take pictures of the inside of their home. As close as possible, try to place objects in a similar way so that their new home will feel very much like the old one. Be as detailed as you can from arranging the bedroom furniture to placing the family pictures on the bureau. This will help to make the new place feel like home. Familiarity is a huge help when moving seniors as it reduces their stress.
Each room was carefully packed. A few photos were taken so that each treasure and possession was placed in the new home just as May kept it.
All of her makeup, soaps and accessories were laid out on her bathroom vanity counter just as she kept them in her master bathroom.
4. Obtain a room layout of their new place. Find out before you move, how much space the new place has. If your parents are moving from a three bedroom house to a one bedroom condo, you will need to help them decide what will fit and how much can be kept. Again, work with the floor plan to create as close as possible the layout they enjoyed in their home.
May wanted her favourite chair, side table and floor lamp. In addition, there was also room for her magazine rack where she kept her current reading materials. As the items were packed all the papers, pens and other personal items were placed into the box. The movers were instructed where to place each piece of furniture.
All items that were on the side table were placed exactly as a they were in old house along with her remote control.
5. Start small. Take a day to spend with your parents to talk about the move and what to expect. Give them small tasks to do such as going through a desk drawer or a box from the attic. Ask them to spend only 15 to 20 minutes a day on one task. Let them decide what they’d like to do and what they might find hard to do. As a result, taking small steps will help your parents get used to the idea of moving.
Items from May’s hutch were placed on her dining room table. Some items were easily identified and packed for give away, sale or keep. Those that she needed to think on were left overnight. She sat and reflected on what she would like to do with each piece.
Upon our return the next day each item was packed according to her wishes.
6. When Moving seniors it is very helpful to pick a room that has less sentimental attachment. Have your parents start sorting through the bathroom or kitchen drawers; a place in the house that doesn’t hold the same emotional attachment as the bedroom or living room or a photo box kept in the attic.
7. Plan the move. Allow enough time that your parents don’t feel rushed. Sorting through years of stuff is difficult and sometimes emotionally painful. Give them time to absorb the change.
8. Be patient. Allow your parents time to say goodbye. If they take longer to clean out the desk drawer because of a stack of pictures they found, let them take the time to remember. This is a very important part of the moving seniors process. Be patient. Listen to their stories.
9. Get them involved. If you have access to the new home, take your parents or loved one there and introduce them to the new space. Do this on their own time, when they’re ready. Let them tell you how they’d like it to look and make a plan to prepare the space accordingly.
A few years ago I went through a downsizing process with 90 year old Beth who had lived in her home for the past 30 years. She selected the furnishings, pictures, décor and clothing she wanted. As well as a few precious treasures that she loved and had space for in her small retirement suite.
Together we created a floor plan for her new home.
She directed how she wanted the rest of her personal affects dispersed. Once the decisions were made we moved Beth into her new home and returned to the house to prepare it for sale and carry out her wishes. The rest of the household items were dispersed to family, her local church garage sale and auction. The task at hand was a large under taking but went quickly and smoothly once the plan was in place.
Beth could relax in her new home
without the stress of enduring the process
as my team and I went to work.
Once the work was completed including all garbage and recycling removed, property maintenance, a thorough cleaning inside and the home staged, I had Beth’s niece bring her back for one last visit and to say good bye to the home she loved so much.
10. Always have a Moving Day Survival Kit
Labels items and pack into your personal vehicle so you can access them easily:
• Keys to new home
• Medicines – approximately 3 days’ worth
• Chequebook and/or cash
• Telephone/Cellular Phone & Charger
• Phone Numbers to Moving Company and to the Truck Driver
• Bathroom basics
• Tool kit
• Box cutter and scissors
• Plastic garbage bags
• Light bulbs – pack various sizes
• Kitchen basics
• Cleaning basics
• Flashlight with new batteries
• Extra eye glasses
• Change of clothes
And one final note,