When Seniors Move – Why It’s Not Just Another Move
Do you remember getting a bunch of friends together to throw everything into the back of a pickup truck to move? Using that kind of a move as a model for moving a senior citizen is akin to comparing apples and elephants.
Okay so you already knew that your mother’s move wasn’t going to be quite that easy. But when you are suddenly faced with an elderly relative move, you just naturally draw on the moving experiences you’ve had. At least I did. Eleven years ago, the pickup truck move was the only kind of moving experience I’d ever had. So that’s what I used as a model.
So what did I do wrong? Ha! That would be a True Confessions moment. I did so many things wrong that I hate to remember them all.
Senior Moving Mistakes
But there is one mistake that stands out above all of the rest. My mom and I spent an excessive amount of time sorting and donating before the move itself. Her house had 5 bedrooms, 2 attics and a basement. And it was full. Not hoarded. Not messy, but very full. All of my dad’s books and record albums and orchid growing equipment. All of my mother’s craft supplies, fabrics, threads, ribbons, and buttons. Weird mechanical gizmos my two brothers had built back in their high school days. Down in the basement I even found my old aquarium from the seventh grade.
So naturally we started in the wrong place. We started in the greenhouse. Well, maybe that was the right place, because those orchids weren’t going to take care of themselves after my mother moved out. So good, we arranged for the local orchid society to come pickup all of those rare and delicate plants to take back for their members to pamper. But from the greenhouse we went on to the sewing room.
Senior Packing – Where to Begin…
Now I know better. Now I know better than to start in a crowded room full of stuff that hasn’t been used in awhile. But I have noticed that on web pages of any number of professional organizers who ought to know better that they suggest that you start in some out of the way place. Don’t do it!
It is far more efficient to focus on what you do want to move. To help yourself or your relative sort for a downsizing move, concentrate on the question, “What do I use the most?”
If I asked my mother that question in the sewing room, the answer would not be the beautifully restored, treadle sewing machine sitting across the room from her state-of-the-art Bernina that can clean finish a hem faster than you can say “rick-rack.” We would not have spent 45 minutes considering what we might do with that treadle if my mother didn’t keep it.
Getting rid of what you don’t want to take with you before the move is a great approach for the non-downsizing move. But in a senior move when most of the things in the house are not moving, it’s the wrong place to start.
Why? There are at least three reasons.
- First, there’s so much to get rid of that a person is likely to be overwhelmed before they even start.
- Second, sorting through every last thing is going to stir up emotional memories during an already emotional event of moving out of a long time home.
- Third, it takes way too much time.
We could have spent months, or truthfully even years, considering all of the fine treasures my mother had accumulated over a lifetime. But eventually we realized that we needed to change our approach.
Imagine your own home and start with the furniture. What things pop into your mind when you ask, “What do I use the most?” Would you think of the bed, the dresser and the dinette? Maybe the sofa, the television and the night stand?
You probably didn’t think of a treadle sewing machine at all. Nor did you think of the asphalt repair supplies, the Parcheesi game or your daughter’s old roller skates.
With the question “What do I use the most” there are likely to be whole rooms of things that you don’t need to sort out at all.
By the end of that move, I wished I could do the whole thing over the right way. I would have packed so that we could have unpacked in an orderly fashion. I would have waited until after the move to even think about donating anything. I would have called in a professional estate sale company instead of running a garage sale myself. And that’s only the major things I wished I could do over. There were so many more little things I learned. Like the importance of plugging in the lamps in the living room before the sun goes down. And not packing the only flashlight.
But the biggest thing I would have changed is to sort with the focus on asking my mom, “what do you use the most?” That one change would have saved us the most time and the most work.
But maybe it’s a good thing that I did it all wrong. Because I realized at the end, that moving a senior from a long time home is nothing like any other move that a person goes through in a lifetime. The average person doesn’t get to do this kind of a move often enough to ever get good at it. And families usually have to contend with this kind of a move as a result of some other crisis, so that they are already stretched to the limit.
That was my inspiration for starting this company, Moving Forward. I was hired by my first client ten years ago, this month. The whole company was just me back then. Just me and a whole lot of ideas.
Now we have ten employees, a 2-room office, a company van, a website and a great reputation in the Puget Sound region. We also have a 30-page training manual so that no employee will ever make any of those mistakes I made when I moved my mom! Or any of a whole lot more mistakes that we have learned to avoid over the years.
Helping a senior to move out of a lifelong home is a whole different project than any other move. It doesn’t follow the same pattern and the typical approaches not only don’t work they can make it much harder than it already is.
You and your senior relatives deserve the benefit of learning from my early mistakes. Give Moving Forward a call and see how to make a downsizing move easy. Even if you have time and the endurance to do it yourself, a couple of hours of consulting can save you weeks or months of time.
Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year and much easier moving experiences in the future.