Parents Downsizing? A Guide to A Smooth Transition

by Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group

Moving - Parents MovingIf it’s time for your parents to scale down in Little Rock, it is difficult for the total family. Baby boomers are the last generation of Americans that didn’t move around much—so dealing with a move from a house that maintains over a quarter century of memories is rough for the whole family. But, there are some suggestions for the best way to navigate the transition, so take a deep breath and keep reading.

Plan Ahead

In a perfect world, you have been kept updated on your parents’ health care and finances for a few years before they downsize or move to a senior living community. If your world's not flawless and you don't know much about your parents’ matters, get information on these two specific items quickly, and stay up to date moving forward. The last thing you want is to have a health or financial situation and be completely unaware as to their position. Asking your parents what their financial picture looks like is hard, but being surprised when you learn your dad's “best friend” is that Nigerian prince stuck in the Tokyo airport and has taken all his money is more difficult.

Have the dialogues when there is no imperativeness, and your mother doesn't feel like you are pressuring her to sell her home. The more you and your siblings can glean over the dinner table, the better off you'll all be when you need to make choices quickly. Convene with their attorneys and doctors to ensure that you can assist in managing things if necessary and that you can access medical and health care records if there is an emergency. These two items are incredibly important if you are more than a couple of hours away, as you could need to take care of things remotely. HIPAA maintains that even if your mom's doctor was your third-grade cubby buddy, without that paper trail, they cannot provide you any information.

What to Take?

For lots of families, picking one sibling to be the point person for legal issues is a small concern compared to determining who is going to choose what moves to the new home, what will be donated, and which sibling keeps the family china. Do not let this start a family fight, your parents are moving and are likely going to hand onto the china and silver. In any event, most downsizes are accompanied by a notable loss of space—going from a three or four-bedroom house to one or two bedrooms and one living space--so there is a plethora of things to go around.

Once your family has made the decision that downsizing is the way to go for your parents, if they will be heading to a senior community, there's usually a waiting period of a few months before their unit is ready for them. Most communities refurbish the units ahead of when a new resident moves in. If the prior resident had been there for a few years, they could do a complete update—so you'll normally get items like new kitchen counters and kitchen appliances, Wi-Fi, and updated bathroom components along with fresh paint and carpet. The time offers your parents time to grow accustomed to the plan of moving, especially if they are moving to a new area.

Get a print-out of the floor plan of their new abode or apartment. Some retirement communities will give you not only a floor plan, but some peel-off furniture stickers so you can actually place the furniture and accessories. The pieces can be moved all about the paper, so you can play decorator until you find the layout that you like best. This is a enormous help emotionally, realizing prior to moving day what they can take with them and how it will fit in the space. Surrounding themselves with familiar furniture and mementos can take a little of the sting out of leaving home.

Downsizing - MovingLeading up to Moving Day in Little Rock

Moving day for your parents will probably be difficult, even if you are very organized, and however much they're ready to move out of the house and not have to deal with the yard anymore. Here's a short schedule to get ready for the big day, giving you a couple of months to get prep.

Two Months Out

Employ a professional moving company. Work with your budget to determine if you would like a full-service move, a la carte (select only certain services the movers do) or get a moving truck and do it yourself.

Figure out if you will require short term storage, and where it should be located. Many moving companies provide storage options, which can be very convenient. It’s not uncommon for people to would like to have a few more choices before they make the final decision. Also, when college-age grandkids are present, some families opt to hold on to old furniture and other items that will be of use in first apartments.

Start thinking about what they can move, which items you and your siblings want, and which belongings to give to charity. However you prefer to split up, you'll need to designate what goes to whom. Assorted colored small sticky notes are a wonderful way to sort things, so that the right items end up arriving at the right destinations.

Be flexible with your parents on what to donate--although the thought of a moving sale is tempting, if money is not an issue, you will probably do better donating most items and taking the write-off. If they have valuable items, ask a local antiques dealer to appraise them before you donate. Some organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, will even dispatch a truck to pick-up your donated things. Call a week or so out to arrange pick up.

One Month Out

Start cleaning out cabinets, closets, the basement, garage, etc. If you've got more belongings than energy, appoint a company to come clean out after you've gotten everything that you want out of the home. This is positively worth the cost, especially if you don’t live nearby and your parents are having a hard time with the move. You can also plan to have the moving company load up the household goods and personal possessions before the balance of the home is cleared out, sparing your mom and dad from viewing their house looking empty and sad.

If you are performing your own packing, buy good-quality packing supplies. The moving company will carry the best quality at the lowest cost and can give packing guidance. Again, bring out the sticky notes for the boxes or be organized with keeping them in order. If all of the family is local, it's simple to bring over some big bins and pull out of the driveway an hour later with old prom dresses and diving trophies all packed up in the car. That's many times not the case, so as you pack boxes, label them correctly and place them in the recipient's bedroom or stake out corners of the living room.

One Week Out

Confirm your plans with the moving company, both for the move to the new home and putting items in storage. If you are not sure how much storage you will need, they can assist you in figuring it out, you will most likely actually need twice the space you think.

Moving Day

Make sure you have discussed everyone’s roles for moving day. Have one sibling, grandchild or friend accompany your parents out for breakfast, and then on to their new abode. You or a sibling stay behind to handle the movers. Mitigate as much stress as you can that morning, so when the moving truck pulls up your parents are not tired and anxious. Help them unpack and get settled, and don't be shocked if they have a dinner invitation already—they're the new kids on the block and in high demand.

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