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 El Paso, it can be challenging for the whole family. Baby boomers are the last generation of Americans that that weren’t transient in nature—so undertaking a move from a home that keeps over a quarter century of memories is tough for the whole family. However, there are some suggestions for the best way to navigate the transition, so take heart and read on.

Plan Ahead

In a perfect world, you have been in the loop on your parents’ health care and finances for a few years prior to when they scale down or move to a senior living community. If your world is not flawless and you do not know much about your parents’ matters, get up to speed with these two imperative topics as soon as possible, and keep up to date moving forward. You definitely don’t want to have a health or financial situation and be entirely unaware as to their condition. Questioning your parents about their finances is difficult, 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 more difficult.

Have the dialogues when there isn’t rush, and your mother doesn't feel like you’re pushing her to sell her home. The more you and your siblings can glean over lunch, the better off you will all be when you must make choices rapidly. Convene with their attorneys and doctors to ensure that you can assist in managing things if necessary and that you can obtain medical and health care information if there is an emergency. These two items are crucially important if you live more than a few hours away, as you could need to take care of things remotely. HIPAA maintains that even if your mom's doctor was your second-grade cubby buddy, without the right permissions in writing, they can't provide you any information.

What to Take?

For many families, appointing one sibling to be the person in charge of legal problems is nothing compared to determining who will decide what moves to the new home, what will be donated, and which sibling gets the family silver. Do not allow this create a family rift, your parents are moving and are likely going to hand onto the china and silver. Anyway, 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 items to go around.

After your family has determined that downsizing is best for your parents, if they will be heading to a senior community, there is typically a waiting period of a few months prior to being able to move in. Most communities remodel the units ahead of when a new resident moves in. If the prior resident had been there for many years, they might do a complete update—so you will usually get items like new counters and appliances, Wi-Fi, and updated bathroom fixtures along with fresh paint and carpet. These weeks offer your parents time to acclimate to the plan of moving, especially if they are going to a new town.

Ask for a copy 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 around the floor plan, so you can play decorator until you get it just right. This is a big help emotionally, knowing before you move any furniture what they can move with them and how it will conform to the space. Surrounding themselves with familiar things and mementos can take some of the sting out of leaving home.

Downsizing - MovingLeading up to Moving Day in El Paso

Moving day for your parents is going to be tough, even if you have planned everything to the last detail, and if they're glad to move out of the house and not have the yard anymore. Here's a short schedule to prepare for the big day, giving you about eight weeks to get prep.

Two Months Out

Employ 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 van and do it yourself.

Decide if you'll need some storage, and where you want it to be. The majority of moving companies have storage options, which can be very convenient. It’s not uncommon for people to wish to have a few more choices before they make the ultimate determination. As well, when college-age grandkids are in the mix, some families prefer to store old chairs and other things that could be used in first apartments.

Start thinking about what they can move, which items you and your siblings want, and what to give to charity. However you opt to divide up, you'll need to designate what goes to whom. Different colored small sticky notes are a great way to note things, so that the correct things end up going to the right destinations.

Discuss with your parents on what to donate--although the idea of a yard sale is attractive, if money is not a concern, you will probably do better donating most things and taking the write-off. If they have valuable things, ask a local antiques dealer to appraise them before you give them to a charity. Some organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, can even dispatch a truck to collect your donated items. Call a week or so out to schedule pick up.

One Month Out

Begin cleaning out cabinets, closets, the basement, garage, etc. If you have more stuff than motivation, hire a company to come clean out once you have gotten everything that you want out of the home. This is definitely worth the cost, especially if you're out of town and your parents are having a tough time with the move. You can also arrange to have the moving company take the household goods and personal belongings before the balance of the home is cleared out, sparing your mom and dad from viewing their house looking empty and lonely.

If you are performing your own packing, purchase acceptable-quality packing supplies. The moving company will carry the best quality at the lowest cost and can provide packing guidance. Again, bring out the sticky notes for the boxes or have a plan for keeping things in order. If all of the family is nearby, it is ideal to bring over some big boxes and leave a couple hours later with old prom dresses and t-ball trophies all packed up in the car. That's many times not the case, so as you pack boxes, label them correctly and set them in the recipient's bedroom or a designated corner of the living room.

One Week Out

Verify your plans with the moving company, both for the move to the new residence and moving to storage. If you're not sure how much storage you'll require, they can help you in figuring it out, you will most likely really need twice the space you think.

Moving Day

Be sure to have a solid plan for moving day. Have one sibling, grandchild or friend take your parents out for breakfast, and then on to the new house. You or a sibling stay behind to manage the movers. Ease as much worry as you can that morning, so when the moving truck gets to their place your parents are not tired and anxious. Help them unpack and get settled, and do not be shocked if they're invited to dinner—they're the new kids on the block and everyone will want to meet them.

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