Parents Downsizing? A Guide to A Smooth Transition

by Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group

Moving - Parents MovingWhen it is time for your parents to downsize in Little Rock, it is challenging for the entire family. Baby boomers are the last generation of Americans that didn’t move around much—so dealing with a move from a home that maintains years of memories is hard for the entire family. However, there are some suggestions for the best way to navigate the transition, so don’t give up hope and read on.

Plan Ahead

In an ideal world, you have been privy to your parents’ health care and finances for a few years prior to when they downsize or move to a senior living community. If your world's not flawless and you do not have a clue, get information on these two specific topics quickly, and keep up to date going forward. The last thing you want is to have a health or financial crisis and be completely in the dark as to their condition. Asking your parents for information about their finances is tough, but being blindsided when you discover your dad's “long-lost cousin” is that Nigerian prince stuck in the Tokyo airport and has gotten all your parents’ money is tougher.

Have the dialogues when there's no urgency, and your mom doesn't feel like you are forcing her out of her residence. The more you and your siblings can glean over lunch, the better off you will all be when you need to make choices hurriedly. Convene with their attorneys and doctors to ensure that you can aid in managing affairs if necessary and that you can access medical and health care reports if there is an emergency. These two things are vitally important if you live more than one or two hours away, as you could need to take care of things remotely. HIPAA states that even if your mom's doctor was your third-grade soccer teammate, without the right permissions in writing, they cannot provide you any information.

What to Take?

For a lot of families, picking one sibling to be the main person for legal questions pales in comparison to working out who will discern which items move to the new home, what will be donated, and which sibling gets the family silver. Don't allow this start a family argument, your parents are moving and are likely going to hand onto the china and silver. In any case, 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's a plethora of stuff to go around.

After your family has made the decision that downsizing is the way to go for your parents, if they will be moving to a retirement community, there's usually a waiting period of a few months before they actually make the move. Most communities renovate the units prior to when a new resident comes in. If the prior resident had been there for many years, they might do a whole update—so you'll normally get items like new countertops and appliances, Wi-Fi, and updated bathroom fixtures along with fresh paint and flooring. The time offers your parents time to grow accustomed to the thought of moving, especially if they are going to a new area.

Obtain a print-out of the floor plan of their new abode or apartment. Some retirement communities will hand you not only a floor plan, but a sheet of adhesive peel-off furniture stickers so you can actually place the furniture and accessories. The pieces can be moved on the floor plan, so you can play decorator until you find the layout that you like best. This is a big help emotionally, understanding prior to moving day what they can take with them and how it will take up the space. Surrounding themselves with familiar belongings and mementos can take some of the sting out of leaving home.

Downsizing - MovingLeading up to Moving Day in Little Rock

Moving day for your parents will probably be tough, even if you are very organized, and however much they're ready to give up the house and not have to deal with the yard anymore. Here is a timeline leading up to the big day, giving you a couple of months to get prep.

Two Months Out

Hire a professional moving company. Think about your budget to figure out if you want a full-service move, a la carte (pick and choose what services the movers do) or rent a moving truck and do it yourself.

Think about if you'll need any storage, and where it should be located. Most moving companies have storage options, which can be very useful. Some people aren't sure what will really work in the new space and wish to have a few more options before they make the final decision. Also, when college-age grandchildren are around, some families opt to store old couches and other items that will be of use in first apartments.

Commence determining what you parents can move, which things you and your siblings will divide up, and which items to donate. However you opt to split up, you'll need to indicate what goes to whom. Assorted colored small sticky notes are a wonderful way to note things, so that the correct items wind up arriving at the right residences.

Work with your parents on what to donate--although the concept of a garage sale is inviting, if cash flow is not an issue, you will probably do better donating most items and taking the write-off. If they have valuable things, ask a local antiques dealer to appraise them before you donate. Some non-profits, like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, can even send a truck to get your donated things. Call a few days or so out to schedule pick up.

One Month Out

Start clearing out cabinets, closets, the basement, garage, etc. If you have more house than motivation, hire a company to come clean out once you've moved everything that you want out of the residence. This is well worth the money, especially if you don’t live nearby and your parents are having a difficult time with the move. You can also arrange to have the moving company load up the household goods and personal things before the remainder of the house is cleared out, sparing your mom and dad from seeing their home looking empty and lonely.

If you are performing your own packing, purchase good-quality moving supplies. The moving company will have the best quality at the lowest prices and can give packing guidance. Again, bring out the sticky notes for the boxes or be organized with keeping them in order. If everyone is nearby, it's easy to bring over some big tubs and pull out of the driveway an hour later with old prom dresses and t-ball trophies all packed up in your vehicle. That's usually not the case, so as you box things up, label them accordingly 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 residence and putting items in storage. If you're not sure the amount of storage you'll need, they can assist you in calculating, you will most likely truly need double the space you think.

Moving Day

Make sure you have discussed everyone’s roles for moving day. Have one sibling, grandchild or friend take your parents out for breakfast, and then on to their new home. You or a sibling stay behind to handle the movers. Ease as much worry as you are able to that morning, so when the moving van gets to their place your parents aren't tired and anxious. Help them unbox things and settle in, and do not be surprised if they are already invited to dinner—they are the new kids on the block and in high demand.

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