Transitions Ballad
March 6, 2016
Helping the Elderly Downsize: A Must Read
July 27, 2016

Downsizing to the Community. Be Disciplined

During past posts, I have outlined in detail the essential steps in downsizing.  The MOVE (sort, pack, transport, unpack & design) is always the most comprehensive and also the most important.  An orderly move allows the senior to transition into their new home with minimal emotional and physical stress.  Secondly, the Family selects treasures not included in the move.  Thirdly, remaining items of value are considered for SALE via auction or estate sale.  Fourthly, unsold staples are DONATED to local charities and lastly, the balance is DISPOSED (or recycled).  Now the home is ready for listing or occupancy.
The steps are all inclusive and need to be followed in chronological order.  Seems pretty simple doesn’t it?  Conceptually yes.  But, practically speaking, the answer is clearly no.  If married seniors (mom & dad) are moving from their four bedroom home (35 years occupancy and raised a family) into a two bedroom retirement community, the task is daunting.
Again, the five step process is easy to understand.  But, the challenge and the absolute key to success are in sorting.  A good benchmark is a 75% reduction in items leaving the home and heading to the community.  Moving 25% of the items into a new apartment allows the family (or senior move manager) the opportunity to design the apartment in an organized, uncluttered and functional way.  Think about it.  A new home with 30+ years of treasured furniture, paintings, photographs, clothing, and china is a showcase versus taking too many items and living inside a “storage unit”.
Okay, I know you are still with me.  But, it remains very difficult to sort.  Yes it is and as a result, let’s grab the low hanging fruit.  The number one opportunity to consolidate is the kitchen.  Remember, the seniors are moving to a community and they will receive two or three meals per day.  Secondly, holiday dinners are at the kids’ home and not the seniors’ home.  Thirdly, the retirement community knows the first two points and as a result, they do not provide very much kitchen cabinet space.  Therefore, two sets of china (formal & everyday; serving of six) and silverware are the maximum quantities.  One of everything else is more than enough.  No need for three spatulas, four soup ladles, five bottle openers…  I had a client that once was a big cook.  She wanted to take three pie pans to the new community.  Clearly, baking a pie was still a part of her interest, which is great.  But, not three pies at a time (LOL).
Secondly, clothes are another huge opportunity.  Guys take two sport coats, two suits, 5-8 sport shirts, 5-8 dress shirts and 3-5 slacks.  Everything else is overkill.  Ladies, will and should take more based on fashion and season.  But, be disciplined.  No need for 25 pairs of shoes and 25 matching purses.
Lastly, paintings/pictures are an opportunity to downsize.  There is much less wall space in the new location and much of this space will be directed toward family arrangements.  I always like to error on the side of too many family photos versus not enough.
In summary, when seniors downsize to a community remember, they offer many very attractive services.  Books (library), exercise equipment (gym), BBQ pits (outdoor patios), etc… are provided for the seniors’ enjoyment and do not require duplication.  There is a limited amount of space in the new “Shangri-La” and it requires discipline in the sorting exercise.  The fallout of taking too much stuff is facing the reality of a second move from the new apartment to reduce the clutter.  Or, living with the clutter and disorganization of a failed sorting discipline.
Be strong on the front end and you’ll be happy on the back end.

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