Friday, January 26, 2018

Senior Friendly Guide to Downsizing

I recently read a “downsizing” article from GoodCall®, a company whose mission is to give the reader the knowledge, tips and tools to make “good calls”. There are as many lists on" Tips to Downsize" as there are seniors looking to downsize!  Although most articles offer the same basic advice, I always find it interesting to read the different perspectives from which they are written.
The article acknowledges that most seniors know there will come a day when they’ll have to downsize, either to simplify their lifestyle, cut costs, be closer to children and grandchildren, or to address medical needs. Following are their tips to make downsizing easier.
Senior-Friendly Guide to Downsizing
1. Start early. Give yourself plenty of time for this process, because it will inevitably take longer than you expect. Take your time, and don’t try to sort through your entire house in one day or weekend. A couple of weeks to a month is a more realistic timeline. Take it one room at a time, and take breaks throughout.  
 “Go through each item one by one,” says Alison Kero, CEO of ACK Organizing in Brooklyn. “It’s important to give everything you own your attention for at least a second or two.  It will also help you develop a great decision making system because you’re learning how to focus and then choose, if even for a second or two.”  If you aren’t rushed, you’ll find downsizing to be much less stressful.
 2. Start small. You probably already have a couple of things in mind to toss out in the kitchen or garage, but avoid diving into such a big room at the very beginning. You have years and years of things to sort through. Start in an area with little emotional attachment. The laundry room or linen closet are good options. Understand your needs. If you’re moving into a two-bedroom house, four sets of sheets should be plenty. The rest can go.  
 “Garages/attics/basements are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Debra Blue, co-founder and CEO of Blue Moon Estate Sales. “These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes, old holiday decorations, and clutter. They’re also known to be rather uncomfortable spaces. In the summer it’s too hot, winter it’s too cold, and in the springtime it can be too humid.”
 3. Eliminate rooms you won’t have in your new home. If you’re moving to an apartment or townhome, you might not have a garage or office space. Nearly everything in those spaces will need to be sold, donated, tossed, or relocated to other rooms. These areas might also be good items for consignment or Craigslist sales; nice office furniture and outdoor tools are more valuable than old sofas or mattresses.  “Organize backwards,” suggests Jamie Novak, author of ‘Keep This Toss That.’ “A common suggestion is to pick out the stuff you don’t want and pack the rest. Try the opposite – pack the keepers. What’s left can be looked at and most can be shared or donated.”
 4. Get rid of duplicates. You’ll find this is especially true in your kitchen. You have two or three spatulas and ladles; a couple of oversized stock pots; four different sized cookie sheets; a blender, a food processor, a coffee grinder, and a nut chopper. Now’s the time to reduce the clutter. If you’re feeling wary of handing off that second roasting pan because you use it every Christmas (but at no other time during the year), consider giving it to a child or grandchild who can bring it over for the holiday and take it home when they leave.
 5. Only make Yes or No piles – no Maybes. When you’re going through years of belongings, some things are going to tug at your heartstrings, and you’ll be tempted to make a third pile of things to keep if you have space. Don’t fall for it. You’ll end up with a Maybe pile that’s bigger than either of the other two, and you haven’t really made any progress in sorting, just moved it across the room. Take a hard look at every item you pick up. If you use it regularly or expect to in your new home, keep it. If it’s been sitting in a closet or on a shelf for a year or more, it’s time to let it go.
 “If you already weren’t using it, or didn’t like it, why on earth would you want to pack it up and schlep it to your next house?” says Hazel Thornton, of New Mexico-based Organized for Life. “I know it sounds silly, but people do it all the time. Moving isn’t cheap, either; do you really want to pay extra to move stuff you don’t even want? Don’t delude yourself by telling yourself you’ll deal with it at your next destination. No, you won’t.”
 6. Reduce collections creatively. It can be hard to let go of a lifetime collection of porcelain dolls or snow globes from all your vacations, but they will eat up a lot of space or else end up stored in a box where you’ll never see them. Instead, pick a couple to keep and take high-resolution photos of the rest, then have them made into a photo book that can sit on your coffee table or mantle. You and guests will be able to enjoy them without the clutter. There are also tech tools or websites such as that will convert those boxes of photo negatives to digital. 
“This is a great way to thin out big collections and focus on the one that really brings joy. When it comes to the rest of your collections or newer ephemera, take pictures with your smartphone! You’ll enjoy it more when it comes up in your digital photos than it being stashed in a drawer or box. The memories will continue to live on through photos and conversations with loved ones.”
 7. Don’t be afraid to sell things yourself. With Craigslist, Ebay, numerous smartphone apps, yard sales, and an abundance of consignment shops, selling your belongings has never been easier. You probably won’t make a ton of money on most items, so consider how much time you want to invest. Yard sales are usually faster, but items won’t sell for as much. Craigslist has its drawbacks, but you’ll have a much wider audience and can probably get more for your stuff. Consignment is a good option for high-end furniture, handbags and other accessories; prices are reasonable, and they’ll sometimes pick up heavy furniture for you. If you aren’t handy with a computer, your grandchildren can probably help. But if that all sounds like more than you care to deal with, hiring a firm to run an estate sale might be your best bet.
 8. Consider legacy gifts early. Is there an antique clock in your foyer that you plan to one day leave to your son? Maybe a china collection your granddaughter adores? If there are certain heirlooms or pieces you plan to leave to your family in your will, consider instead giving those gifts now. This has two benefits: you’ll get the items out of our way, and you’ll be able to enjoy the feeling of giving those items to your loved ones now. While you’re at it, find out if there are any items your children want that you don’t know about – you might find an easy way to make them happy and lighten your load. 
9. Allow some time to reminisce. While you’re cleaning and sorting, there will be some days when you want to stop emptying the kids’ bedrooms and just look through the kindergarten drawings, soccer trophies, and once-prized stuffed animals. It’s OK to pause and let the nostalgia take over for a bit. Cry if you need to, or move on to another room and come back. This is why you started early – just don’t let it prevent you from eventually getting the job done.
 “I always ask my clients how the item at hand makes them feel,” says Morgan Ovens, of Haven Home in Los Angeles. “If it brings up any negative feelings, let it go. If it brings happiness of course it stays! The idea here is to only be surrounded by things you absolutely love. Isn’t that a great goal?”
 10. Use this as a chance to bond. Invite the kids and grandkids over for the weekend. Talk to the young ones about where you bought your favorite trinkets. Tell them about your family’s heirlooms. Let them help pack, ask questions, and spend time with you. Get help posting items for sale online. It can be one more moment your family shares together in the house you’ve loved – before you start making those memories together in your next home. Remember that it’s your family that’s important for the memories you cherish, not the stuff around you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

There is an App for that!

THERE IS AN APP FOR THAT!  How many times have you heard that phrase and by the way, who creates all these apps?  My theory is it is some very creative people with a lot of time on their hands!  But, they can be very entertaining!  I collected a few I thought were quite unusual!

1.) NOTHING- this app does absolutely nothing; there is also a Pro version for $.99 that does more nothing
2.) S.M.T.H.-Send me to Heaven; this app is a game where you throw your phone upwards and it calculates the height of the throw
3.) IShaver PRO- is a virtual shaver; to start shaving, just hold on the button and virtual hair will start falling.
4.) MILK THE COW- Download the app and fill the bucket with milk in the shortest time possible.
5.) HOLD ON-See how long you can hold a button on your phone without lifting your finger up.
6.) BINKY- there’s an endless stream of random stuff you can scroll through. You can like and comment on various random 
7.) BLOWER-The app basically uses sound frequencies to blow air out of your smartphone’s speakers.

I was talking to one of our Smooth Transition team members the other day who is also a realtor; she was telling me about a new app used by real estate professionals to predict when you are going to move out of your home! The app uses information collected about you such as how long you have lived in your home, your age, the age of your children, etc. to determine statistically when you will sell your home. This app knows what you are going to do before you do!
Nevertheless, we all better start cleaning out our homes sooner than later! You never know when someone has used the app and knocks on your door to announce that you have lived in your home long enough and it is time to move, which is exactly what happened to us when we sold our home! We had thought about “someday in the future” because our kids were grown and on their own and we were reaching an age that the home was just too big to handle. We met all the criteria of the realtor “magic ball”.  The knock on the door came and the rest is history!
With this in mind, I have a timely article from U.S. News and World Report on “6 Steps to Declutter your Home.” We all need to be ready when that knock on the door comes! Enjoy!

                      6 Steps to Declutter Your Home
                                                           By Tom Sightings

You’re retiring. The kids have moved out. Sometime within the next few years you’re probably going to relocate – whether it’s from a four-bedroom suburban house to a two-bedroom condo, or a two-bedroom condo to an independent living facility. So you no longer need all that stuff crowding your living room, filling up your basement and spilling out of your closets.
Besides, after you’re gone, you don’t want to leave a legacy to your children of a house full of junk, and the long, hard, emotionally taxing job of cleaning out what you should have taken care of years ago.
Decluttering is a move to take control of your life. It allows you to control your physical environment, of course, but also your future. But it’s a big job. So take it one step at a time. One rule of thumb suggests you budget one full day of decluttering for each year that you’ve lived in your house. So if it’s your family home where you raised your kids and lived for 30 years, be prepared to spend an entire month cleaning out, paring down and straightening up.
But you don’t have to do it all at once. Some experts suggest taking a year or two to complete the process. That gives you plenty of time to plan, reconsider and notify your loved ones of your new commitment to an organized life. Here are six steps to help you get on with the job:
1. Warn your children. Invite them, well ahead of time, to range through your house and take what they want. But also insist that they remove any and all of their own materials, including the boxes of old schoolwork, trophies, souvenirs, stuffed animals and textbooks. These things belong to them now, not to you.
2. Tackle one space at a time. It’s easy to get bogged down if you do a little of this and a little of that. So start small. Clean out a closet. Then organize a bathroom, or one of the kid’s bedrooms. The hardest jobs will be your own bedroom, the basement and the kitchen, unless you’re moving into an assisted living facility where all your meals are provided, in which case the kitchen clean up should be easy because all of it goes.
3. Touch something once, make a decision. As you go through your old clothes, books and furniture, decide whether you should get rid of an item or need to keep it. But the key to making progress is to make the decision right away. If you need one suit, then decide which one to keep and dispose of the others. Try not to hem and haw, change your mind or postpone the decision, or that one day of decluttering per year could turn out to be two or three days per year. If you hesitate on too many items the decluttering may never get done.
4. Make four piles. Decide what you want to keep and put that in the keep pile. Then decide right away what to do with everything else, and make a give pile, a sell pile and a trash pile. Once you've decided to dispose of an item, don’t waste a lot of time or emotional energy deciding on which pile, just choose one. If you make a mistake and put something in the trash pile instead of the sell pile, what's the harm? Be realistic. If you tried to sell it, you probably wouldn’t have sold it for much anyway.
5. Take photographs. The hardest decisions are the emotional ones. If you can’t bear to get rid of something you really don't need, then take a picture of it. Put on that special dress, take a picture and then give the dress away. When faced with giving up old license plates, a shelf of trophies and a wonderful old oriental rug that will never fit into your new place, take a picture and keep the photo with you always. Then make sure to send copies of the photos to your kids.
6. Hire a professional. For most people, decluttering is a do-it-yourself project, perhaps with some help from the kids or a friend, and we would have it no other way. But sometimes the job might seem too daunting. There are professionals who will help you, for a fee, ranging from $35 to $100 a hour. Contact the National Association of Senior Move Managers or the National Association of Professional Organizers for referrals to local professionals.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ten Tips to Downsizing and “De-Stressing” Your Move

 The first question many clients ask during the consultation with a senior move manager references the cost of completing the project.  The good faith estimate is principally based on the services you request and the amount of “stuff” that is involved.  Ultimately, price is based on the senior move manager’s time.

Many clients require full service because they in fact have a lot of “stuff” and have no desire or ability to complete the move themselves.  This approach eliminates most of the physical and mental stress.  But, it also costs the most money.  For the individuals that want to manage cost by getting involved and managing some of the move themselves, NASMM (National Association of Senior Move Managers) has develop ten tips for downsizing.  Following all or part of the these suggestions will minimize the scope of your project and as a result, better manage your cost of completing the move.

1).  Start Early – End Happy:  It’s never too early to begin the downsizing process.  Begin by focusing on typical problem areas such as the attic, basement, garage, closets, or file cabinets.
2).  Get Generous:  Since you can’t take everything to your new home, now is the time to make arrangements to “gift” some of your treasures to special people in your life including, and especially family, helpful neighbors, friends, favorite organizations, or church/synagogue.
3).  Save your memories:  You may have boxes of old photographs from every holiday, vacation, and birthday party attended.  What do you do with them?  Consider the following ways to preserve family photos and stories:  a customized process of audio and video recording called Life-Storying.  Copy your special photos on to CDs, or try your hand at scape booking.  Also, services now exist that will take all your photo, slides, and videos and do it for you.
4).  New Looks for Books:  If you own large quantities of books, you need to spend time downsizing your collections.  Books occupy lots of space and are heavy to move.  Consider donations to libraries or senior centers, or sales to used bookstores.  Call on a book dealer for older books with potential value.
5).  Use it Up…Don’t move it out:  Take an inventory of your canned goods, frozen foods, and paper products.  Plan to use as many of these products as you can before moving.  If you simply have too many items, thinking about passing them on to a local food pantry.  Check to see if the Senior Move Manager you hire participates in the NASMM Move for Hunger Initiative.
6).  Recycle the Toxins:  Take time to put together a box or two of household, yard, and automotive cleaning products, as well as paint products that are considered hazardous.  Visit for more information on hazardous collection in your area.
7).  Don’t Lose Touch:  Create a list of people, places, and utilities/services that need to be notified of your upcoming change in address.
8).  Space Plan Ahead:  Most Senior Move Managers can provide you with a customized floor plan of your new residence.  A floor plan will help you determine the pieces of furniture that will fit in your new home, and the best location of each.  Knowing which pieces will fit in your new space will help you in your rightsizing process.

9).  Pack a Survival Bag:  Put together a survival bag for move day.  It might include personal needs (medications, eyeglasses, toiletries, change of clothes, important papers, etc.); kitchen needs (snacks, drinks, folding chair, disposable cups/plates); basic tools (hammer, screwdriver, flashlight, tape, etc.); cleaning supplies (sponge, paper towels, soap, etc.); and payment for mover – be sure you know which form of payment they accept.

10).  Ask for Help:  Don’t be too proud or independent to ask for help.  Moving is not easy and you shouldn’t do it all yourself.  But, don’t wait until the last minute to ask for assistance. 

Some of these downsizing tips require months to accomplish.  The best place to find help is through the National Association of Senior Move Managers ( or Smooth Transitions ( if you are located in the St. Louis area.    

Friday, July 29, 2016

Helping the Elderly Downsize: A Must Read

Helping the Elderly Downsize

New York Times

Kaya Laterman

July 22, 2016

During the last several years, I have attempted to educate readers and clients about the features and benefits of senior move managers as they work to downsize their homes.  Listed below is a link to an excellent article that appeared in the New York Times that summarizes the challenges to downsizing and the benefits of using a senior move manager.  Enjoy…


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Transitions Ballad

Jean Long Manteufel, senior move manager and CEO of Long’s Senior Transitions ( writes her Transitions column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging.  

She recently posted a very creative poem that begins with the reality of a senior’s challenge, doubt and stress associated with downsizing.  However, the perspective starts to shift and the senior soon recognizes the enjoyment of the new adventure.

Jean captures the transition perfectly and deserves tremendous credit for her creativity. The poem flows to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey."


Transitions: In tune with seniors ready to move

March 6, 2016

              Transitions Ballad

On top of my table, all covered with stuff,
Are decades of treasures, going through them is tough.

My kids say, “Mom, leave here.” I wish they would know,
To leave this old house, well, it hurts my heart so.

My dear and I lived here, raised our family of four.
Now I am without him, I hurt to the core.

But time has a way of ... moving along.
I can’t keep this house up; I’m just not as strong.

My house has outgrown me; the upkeep’s such stress.
The windows need washing. The garden’s a mess.

The times they have changed now; I don’t move so quick.
Doing laundry in the basement, of that, I am sick!

Old neighbors have left here; I feel so alone.
This new place, I am told, will soon feel like home.

Is it true what folks tell me? I will make friends anew.
It’s hard to make changes, so I hope it is true.

It’s so overwhelming. Where do I begin?
The list is so long that — I guess I’ll jump in.

“Call a senior move manager,” my friend tells me true.
“She’ll help you consider, just what to do.”

The gal helps me pick out — the things I should take:
The sofa and chairs for — this new home I’ll make.

“Take things that are useful, and that you adore.
Fewer things will be needed.” She says “Less is more.”

From the den I will take a ... thing I enjoy,
The table my dear made, when he was a boy.

From the bedroom, so special, photos of all.
My family mementos, to adorn the new wall.

She says “Plates and glasses, of each, just take six.”
This “Now-sizing” idea, is starting to click.

The movers have pulled up. It’s now time to go.
Good-bye to my old house, I will miss you so.

Once I have my things out, the kids can go through
And take what they wish, they are their memories too.

My gal will then clear out and sell what she can,
Then get the house ready — to list. That’s the plan.

I’m so glad I called her and saved myself grief.
She made this job easy. What a relief!

I know this adventure — will bring on new things.
It’s time to look forward — to whatever life brings.

A month after moving, my apartment’s just so.
I wish we had done this, a few years ago.

I’m busy with projects. I’ve met some friends new
And re-found an old one — from back in high school.

My new home is lovely, so cheery and bright.
Don’t tell my children, but perhaps they were right.

Consid’ring a new home? To your house bid adieu.
Make a transition; you’ve still got living to do!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Downsizing to the Community. Be Disciplined

During past posts, I have outlined in detail the essential steps in downsizing.  The MOVE (sort, pack, transport, unpack & design) is always the most comprehensive and also the most important.  An orderly move allows the senior to transition into their new home with minimal emotional and physical stress.  Secondly, the Family selects treasures not included in the move.  Thirdly, remaining items of value are considered for SALE via auction or estate sale.  Fourthly, unsold staples are DONATED to local charities and lastly, the balance is DISPOSED (or recycled).  Now the home is ready for listing or occupancy.

The steps are all inclusive and need to be followed in chronological order.  Seems pretty simple doesn’t it?  Conceptually yes.  But, practically speaking, the answer is clearly no.  If married seniors (mom & dad) are moving from their four bedroom home (35 years occupancy and raised a family) into a two bedroom retirement community, the task is daunting.

Again, the five step process is easy to understand.  But, the challenge and the absolute key to success are in sorting.  A good benchmark is a 75% reduction in items leaving the home and heading to the community.  Moving 25% of the items into a new apartment allows the family (or senior move manager) the opportunity to design the apartment in an organized, uncluttered and functional way.  Think about it.  A new home with 30+ years of treasured furniture, paintings, photographs, clothing, and china is a showcase versus taking too many items and living inside a “storage unit”.

Okay, I know you are still with me.  But, it remains very difficult to sort.  Yes it is and as a result, let’s grab the low hanging fruit.  The number one opportunity to consolidate is the kitchen.  Remember, the seniors are moving to a community and they will receive two or three meals per day.  Secondly, holiday dinners are at the kids’ home and not the seniors’ home.  Thirdly, the retirement community knows the first two points and as a result, they do not provide very much kitchen cabinet space.  Therefore, two sets of china (formal & everyday; serving of six) and silverware are the maximum quantities.  One of everything else is more than enough.  No need for three spatulas, four soup ladles, five bottle openers…  I had a client that once was a big cook.  She wanted to take three pie pans to the new community.  Clearly, baking a pie was still a part of her interest, which is great.  But, not three pies at a time (LOL).

Secondly, clothes are another huge opportunity.  Guys take two sport coats, two suits, 5-8 sport shirts, 5-8 dress shirts and 3-5 slacks.  Everything else is overkill.  Ladies, will and should take more based on fashion and season.  But, be disciplined.  No need for 25 pairs of shoes and 25 matching purses.

Lastly, paintings/pictures are an opportunity to downsize.  There is much less wall space in the new location and much of this space will be directed toward family arrangements.  I always like to error on the side of too many family photos versus not enough.

In summary, when seniors downsize to a community remember, they offer many very attractive services.  Books (library), exercise equipment (gym), BBQ pits (outdoor patios), etc… are provided for the seniors’ enjoyment and do not require duplication.  There is a limited amount of space in the new “Shangri-La” and it requires discipline in the sorting exercise.  The fallout of taking too much stuff is facing the reality of a second move from the new apartment to reduce the clutter.  Or, living with the clutter and disorganization of a failed sorting discipline.

Be strong on the front end and you’ll be happy on the back end.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Disposal

Well, the downsizing process is nearing completion.  We have Moved (sorted, packed, moved to new location, unpacked and designed); shipped desired treasures to the Family; sold unwanted items via the Sell to Auction houses, dealers, and on-line; and Donated items of value to our preferred charity.  The last component of downsizing is the Disposal.  Sounds easy, but the process is somewhat comprehensive if done correctly.

Our goal during the Disposal is to rid the home of all remaining items while attempting to recycle as much of the Disposal as possible.  The first step is to collect all hazardous material (which includes paints, insecticides, cleaning material, oil, etc.) and deliver them to a reclamation center.  Generally, the city site will allow maybe 50 pounds to be unloaded at no costs with an incremental cost per pound over the free allotment.  Disposing hazardous material in the trash is illegal and irresponsible to our environment.

Much of the remaining items can be recycled by the local community waste management company.  For example; cardboard, glass, cans, metal, leaves, and grass should be staged at the curb during your neighborhood recycle day.  Most recycle containers have a listing of the acceptable items for recycling.  If the recycling is significant and much larger than a normal week of disposal, it is wise to notify your waste management provider so there is no problem with the pick-up.

After recycling and hazardous material have been addressed, everything else needs to be trashed.  Generally, the easiest and most cost effective way is to utilize the waste management provider that services your neighborhood.  As with the recycling, a phone call is appropriate if you have a substantial amount of trash for pick-up.  The provider will ask about the number of boxes/bags for pick-up.  They will also inquire about large items like mattresses, cabinets, carpeting, etc.  Each of the larger items has a disposal dollar amount and they will itemize your list and bill you accordingly.  Don’t try and under estimate your items because you run a real risk of not having the provider pick-up the undeclared items.  Lastly, appliances usually need to be picked-up by an appliance recycle company.  Large televisions can be delivered to Best Buy (32” max) or a local television recycle center. All computer and electrical items should be disposed of at an electronics recycling center.

Now that everything is out of the home, it is appropriate to broom clean the floors, vacuum, clean the counters/bathrooms, and ensure the exterior of the home is presentable.  Any items that stay with the home (wood, shingles, and paint) should be orderly.  Remember, the buyer will do a final walk through of the property and if contents are excessive, the buyer can delay closing until the items are removed to an acceptable level.

The home is now ready to place on the market or it is ready to occupy for the new homeowners.  Wow, it has been a tremendous amount of work.  But, the process is complete and everyone can settle and enjoy their new surroundings and consolidated treasures.  It is a very freeing feeling! And as senior move managers, it is very rewarding to see the seniors go from overwhelmed to overjoyed.