Moving is stressful! The majority of lists ranking life’s biggest stressors, place moving in the top five – right up there with the death of a loved one and going through a divorce. Additionally, quite often, the next home a senior moves to will be much smaller than their long-time family home, e.g. they may move from 4,000 s.f. to 1,000 s.f. or less. This equates to potentially having to “downsize” 75% of their possessions. This is not an easy task for anyone, but when you add the many other stressors that a senior will face during this process, (as described in more detailed in our earlier blog posts, Senior Transitions – An Emotional Time (Part One) and (Part Two)), it can be completely overwhelming.
I have written about strategies that can be employed to help with downsizing and letting go in the past, but I want to clarify that we understand that even with these helpful hints, this process can sometimes paralyze a senior. I have seen it cause illness, confusion and memory loss. So if this happens, what can be done to continue moving the process forward? Here are four suggestions to help alleviate the stress for a loved one that may be going through this situation.
Start the Process Early – If there is limited time to meet a deadline, such as the home sale closing of the senior’s current home, more stress will be present due to the hurried nature of the process. Many decisions need to be made throughout a downsizing and move. It is a much better scenario when all decisions don’t have to be made in a matter of a few weeks. In this way, the project can be broken down into small, manageable steps.
Take It in Stages – If the possibility exists, take the downsizing and move in stages. One possible scenario if the current home of the senior doesn’t need to be sold immediately, is to focus only on the move as a first step. The senior can choose the appropriate living situation for the next phase of life, determine which possessions they want to take and will work in the new space, and get settled in. At a later date, the process of finding new homes for the items they chose not to take can be undertaken.
Storage As a Possibility – Although renting a storage unit for a long period of time may not be ideal due to the associated expense and the “out of sight, out of mind” factor, it can sometimes be appropriate to reduce the stress level of a senior. Similar to the prior bullet (Take It in Stages), the senior can focus on what they would like to take to their new home and store the rest if the house needs to be emptied due to an impending sale. Once they have recovered from this first step, they can address the stored items.
Cull Later – I recently worked with a senior in Brunswick, Maine that was moving from a home that he had lived in for about 20 years with his beloved wife that had recently passed away, into a retirement community. Although he knew it was time to leave his large home, both for safety and social reasons, it was an extremely difficult process for him. The house needed to be emptied prior to his leaving and it was chalk full of cherished possessions. Deciding what to take and what to leave behind was exhausting for him and I could see he was getting more and more worn down by the process. As time went on, I made a decision to pack up more than he would need with the thought that once he recovered from the move – we would have a culling session. He recovered very quickly from the move and called me within a few days to ask me to come back to “right size” him.
One of the most important goals we have as Professional Move Managers helping seniors downsize and move is to determine the best way to reduce the stress level for our client. Flexibility in our planning is key, as is figuring out what strategy will work best for each individual.