Monday, December 22, 2014

The Family

During my last blog, I talked about The Move as being the first and most important step in downsizing.  Remember, during The Move, we selected (through the sorting process) the items that are in the new location or soon will be relocated.  They have been identified and are no longer part of the household inventory.

Now let’s discuss the second step: The Family.  Based on the wishes of the homeowner(s), the remaining items in the home can be reviewed to determine what (if any) treasures will be selected by the family.  This can get a bit sticky.  For example, if all three kids want mom’s piano, who wins?  Many times the parent will select the child who gets the piano; or maybe it is as simple as drawing high card; or maybe the first pick of the first round gets the last pick in the second round (and so on).  Just be careful that the item selection is fair and objective.  I’ve seen many families torn apart and left with permanent scars after dividing the family treasures.

Once these household items have been selected, it is very important to get them out of the house in order to provide room for the remaining steps (The Sell, The Donation & The Disposal).  Furniture that is heading out of state can be shipped or picked-up by the family member.  Shipping small pieces of furniture is very expensive so renting a truck or using your own van should be considered.  If shipping is your only alternative make sure you get at least two quotes.

The family can be a very constructive resource when downsizing a parent.  Working together is fun and eliminates the cost for professionals.  However, don’t be fooled!  Working as a team is very challenging.  Downsizing is a lot of work and the tasks will never be divided evenly.  Maybe some kids are out of town and it leaves the burden on the children that are in town.  Additionally, downsizing requires efficiency and organization.  Without a plan, the downsizing will seem endless and will add significant stress to the family.  Be honest with yourself and determine if your family has the resources and knowledge to get the job done.  If so, have fun.  If not, pass it off to a senior move manager and avoid the stress.

During my next blog, I will discuss The Sell.  It is very comprehensive, but it offers an opportunity to be very profitable.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Whether it's my family or professionally, I've been downsizing for several years.  I've learned a lot along the way and want to share my "process" with you.

We all downsize, the question is when and if we are in control.  Generally, if it is by choice, we can do many of the tasks ourselves. If we experience a spouse's death or medical event, we probably have less influence on the decision making of the downsizing process and require professional assistance (senior move managers).

Whether in control (many tasks on your own) or experiencing a life altering event (professional assistance needed), the same steps must be followed to achieve our goal of moving and liquidating household items.

The five step process that I follow to ensure all activities are accomplished in an orderly way are as follows:

     The Move:
     The Family:
     The Sell:
     The Donation:
     The Disposal:

"The Move" is the transition from your current home to a smaller home or, for seniors, quite often the transition is to a retirement community. It can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Think about how you want your new home to look and feel. Then go through each room and designate (by using a dot system) the items that meet the criteria of your vision.  The "big things" are the easy part.

Next, begin the sorting process. It is difficult to go through life's treasures and decide what to keep, give away, re-gift, donate or sell. The basic questions to ask are:  1. Do I need it?  2. Do I love it?  3. Have I used it in the last 6 months?  4. Do I want my kids to have to deal with it?  Always try to keep in mind the vision you initially created. A senior move manager can help during these stressful times.

Now, your things are ready to pack!  Begin with items such as out- of- season clothes or those items with the least amount of emotional attachment. Packing requires the necessary materials to ensure your items won't be damaged as they are transferred to the new location. A reputable mover is imperative to a smooth transition. A couple of big guys with a truck sounds good because we all believe we don't have that much stuff. But, as with everything else, you get what you pay for.

Unpacking and making the new home "feel like home" is the next step. Safety and functionality are important considerations in the layout and design of the new residence.

Moving is only part one of the five step process.  It is very comprehensive and undoubtedly the most important and difficult of the downsizing process. Senior move managers are professionals that can help "as much or as little as needed".

Now, you have a clear perspective on "The Move".  During my next blog, we'll take a look at the second step of the five step process, which is  "The Family".  Until then, get sorting...    



Tuesday, June 3, 2014


In our business, the most commonly asked question is “Where do I Start”?  The simple answer is to select a room, then sort, de-clutter and organize the contents. 

Most seniors have been in their homes for 30-40 years.  The thought of sorting treasures located not only throughout the house, but in the basement, attic and garage becomes overwhelming.  In fact, it is so threatening that it causes many seniors to freeze and delay moving to a retirement community that is filled with new adventure.

Mary Kay Bochenek of The Moorings in Chicago said, “It is like losing weight or exercising.  They say they will work on it later and it becomes their excuse for not moving forward.  It takes energy to move and make decisions.  It is easier to do nothing.”

Individual energy and assistance (family or professional) is needed to complete a move efficiently and quickly.  As long as the senior and their family are in control, the situation is much less stressful.  However, many times people delay the decision, a crisis arrives and the decision to downsize is made for them. 

As a family looks to downsize or de-clutter while remaining in control, they should focus on the specific items they wish to surround themselves in their home and NOT the items they are leaving behind.  Everyone of us has “treasures” in our home that have wonderful memories, but we all face the same reality that we cannot retain it all as we move forward with our new adventure.  A quick photograph of an item that has been targeted for sale is always a solution that maintains its nostalgia. Use the “10 questions to help you de-clutter” as a guide on what to save or what needs to go.


1.)  Is this item something I use regularly?

2.)  If not, is it something I love?

3.)  Am I keeping this out of obligation or expectation?

4.)  Am I holding on to this because I think I should love it?

5.)  Am I saving this just in case?

6.)  Do I have multiples of the same thing?

7.)  Could something else I own do the same job?

8.)  Am I holding on to a broken item to fix one day?

9.)  Is this item worth the time I spend cleaning/storing it?

 10.) Could I use this space for something else?


No time like the present, so get started now and if you face overwhelming challenges, we can help.  At Smooth Transitions, we are sensitive to the importance of lifelong possessions, while also being objective with the realization that “stuff needs to go”.  We can help as little or as much as needed.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What to give Mom for Mother's Day

It is better to receive than give. Sounds backwards, but for our parents it is more beneficial if we begin to help them de-clutter their home. So this year, instead of giving mom a mother’s day present, have her gift one of her special treasures to you. Old picture albums have more meaning when she can tell you a story, which in turn, you can share with your children. Additionally, so many items in mom’s attic are now back in style. Think retro, i.e. clothes, kitchen items, and toys.

Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. She was successful in making it a recognized holiday in 1914, but was disappointed that by the 1920’s, it was becoming commercialized. What would she think today?

Mothers are very special people, so as Sunday approaches, think about what you can do for your mother or with your mother; not what you can give your mother.  Chances are she has all the picture frames and flower vases she needs. So why not sit down with her and give her a well-deserved cup of tea and tell her you love her.

Below is an article written by DAVID J. EKERDT, lead researcher in downsizing and relocating in later life at University of Kansas.                    

Happy Mother’s Day!

Adults with older parents or even grandparents will soon be searching for suitable Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts. If these presents are not consumables — a box of chocolates or a bottle of spirits — then they will only enlarge the material convoy that accompanies Mom and Dad through their later years.
Older people want our love and affection, but they probably don’t need more stuff. A 2010 survey of Americans 60 and older found that 60 percent agreed they had “more things than you need.” Fully 75 percent said that the thought of dealing with their things made them somewhat or very reluctant to think about moving.
So why pile on more? Instead, I suggest that you help whittle things down by making yourself available to receive some belongings your elders would like to offload.  It’s a myth that older people cling to their possessions. Of course they cherish certain things, but most homes hold uncounted thousands of objects, only some of them special. My studies of household downsizing in Kansas City and Detroit reveal that seniors feel almost universal relief at having lightened the load.
Transfers of possessions from older to younger family members normally require some occasion, such as a wedding or graduation, lest the gesture, coming out of the blue, be viewed with alarm. (“You’re giving me the antique table? You’re not planning on dying, are you?”) And the younger generation’s readiness to embrace what’s on offer — the crystal, the matched floor lamps, the baseball card collection — cannot be assumed.
But Mother’s Day and Father’s Day afford the perfect occasions for the unqualified reception of stuff. You can approach this a few different ways. For example, write this in a Mother’s Day card:
Mom, you have said so often that you don’t want me to give you one more thing because you already have too many things. So this year I am taking you at your word. I will make a contribution to your favorite charity and then, when you are ready, I will be happy to take any of your things that you would like to unload.

Or you can suggest belongings she might give you. Lest anyone accuse you of stripping the shelves, propose things that live deep in the recesses of the home: vacation videos, excess flowerpots, sporting goods or long-ignored books. Stuff in the basement, the attic, the closets, the shed, the garage.
Ask for photo albums now, while elders can still tell you who all those people are. Suggest nothing that, like the tufted family rocking chair, will set off World War III among your siblings. In fact, siblings can organize themselves to receive things as a group, thereby forestalling the charge of having taken unfair advantage.
Another technique: Wrap an empty box as a present, with a note inside that says, “Fill me, please.” The gift will initially seem puzzling, but this becomes your chance to explain your intentions. And if the box is eventually filled and passed back to you, empty it and begin the cycle again. The transfers might become a habit.
If you try this for Mother’s Day, your father will almost certainly ask whether you are going to pull the same thing next month. “For you, especially,” would be a good reply.
When the jewelry, random houseplants, random hand tools and back issues of National Geographic come, you can archive, curate, sell, donate or re-gift them. All you need at the moment of exchange is a smile and the promise that you know “just the right place” for these things. Leave it at that.

The looking-glass nature of human connection means that receiving is giving, that taking things is a gesture of generosity. Honor your mother and father by welcoming their things no matter what, and then welcoming yet more.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Your Parent’s Stuff is Priceless ... Until You Have To Sell It

When the time has come to clear out the contents of our parent’s home, because we are not experts, we have a tendency to attach an emotional value on the items. How do we put a price on the Grandfather’s clock that chimed so loud, it woke us out of a teen-age sleep? The chipped cookie jar has immense sentimental value, but who would buy a chipped cookie jar?

When we moved my parents out of their home of twenty-six years, we had no idea what direction to turn, but we were sure we needed to do it all ourselves. My siblings and I felt we “owed” it to our parents to comb through every item and determine its worth. And there was the “stuff” that was collected and saved by us through the years, but never really important enough to take with us as we moved out.

Barry Golden founder of MaxSold, a four-year old Canadian Company, now in the United States, sends in a team that organizes and photographs items to sell via social media. Barry worked with a family selling their parent’s dining room set and the family would not take less than $2,000. They held on to too many memories and turned down an offer of $800. Because no one had room for an extra dining room table with six chairs and a sideboard in their home, they put it in storage. Three years later at $100 per month, the family paid $3,600 to hang on to it and sold it for $500. In Gordon’s words, “Better to yank the Band-Aid off now, even if it hurts. And it will.”

Of course, the family still needs to sort and save the family treasures (not in a storage locker, please!). But his advice is to control what you can control, including the amount of time you spend in the entire process.

When you are cleaning out your parent’s home, it is better to have the outside experts handle most of the process. And remember, you are looking to get rid, not get rich. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Keep it Moving and Let it Go

I think in terms of day’s resolutions, not years”. Henry Moore

As I think about making my 2014 resolutions, I start small in terms of what I will accomplish every day, instead of trying to make action plans for the whole year.

With the holidays behind us, January is a great time to get organized. You may notice Target, Home Depot and every other retailer advertising large plastic containers on sale to help us in our quest. In the article below from Medical News for You, Barbara Morris offers many suggestions on how to “keep it moving”. She says if you tackle a little at a time, you will witness progress without sacrificing a lot of time to get it done.

So now, you are ready to de-clutter, downsize, and get organized! If all this sounds overwhelming, Smooth Transitions of St. Louis will be glad to assist you in your process. Another great source of motivation is the De-cluttering Calendar for 2014. It offers action steps and checklists to help you get your home in order (a little at a time) without becoming overwhelmed. The challenge is on-going so you did not have to start January 1st! Week one starts with organizing the kitchen counter tops and sink. Throughout the 52-week challenge you will organize every room in your home.
The calendar may be found at

January is Get Organized Month- the perfect time to get serious about organizing your home, your office and your life!


The holiday decorations are back in the box and the only reminders of the season are the extra pounds on the scale. Can you even remember what your favorite gifts were?
While these gifts are fresh in your mind, this is a good time to eliminate the “extras”. If you got a new sweater, donate at least one older one. A new shirt? Give away several older ones. Put a plastic bag in the bottom of your closet and keep adding to it. If you have something that doesn’t quite fit anymore and you kept it with the idea of losing five pounds, forget it! Put it in the donation bag.

We are blessed with so much and of course we have our favorite things. We have a lot of things that we bought on sale. But they don’t fit just right. They should be the first to go and not simply sit in your closet taking up space. Someone else may be able to use them without pain. Are you keeping a favorite outfit with the idea that it may come back in style? Even if it does, will it still fit? Keep it moving. Donate it!

If this doesn’t sound like an exciting way to spend an afternoon, then commit an hour to the project. You could do a shelf, a drawer, a rack in the closet. . . not all at once, but in small bites; the way you would eat a foot-long sandwich. By tackling it a little at a time, you will be able to see progress without sacrificing a lot of time to get it done.
It will be tax time before you know it and if your papers are in a state of chaos, don’t wait until the last minute before getting things in order. Use the time while you are watching reruns of your favorite TV programs and start sorting those papers…a stack for taxes, a stack to shred, others to file and some to pitch.  Remember anything with Social Security or account numbers needs to be shredded before putting in the trash.

Are those gift catalogues still hanging around after the holidays? Those are easy to pitch. Are you up to your ears in magazines? If you have any magazines older than November, now is the time to keep them moving. That is November 2013! If there are any special articles you want to keep, tear them out. Give current magazines to friends and family or take to a retirement community, hospital, or any place people wait—the hair salon, car repair shop, doctors’ office. Just get them out of your home.

When you are really brave, go to the attic or basement and evaluate what you have accumulated. Is it trash or treasure? If you can’t remember when, why or how you got something, it is time to let it go. Do you have appliances that once you couldn’t live without but now seldom use? Do they need minor repairs?

Those are ideal donation items as some of the organizations use them for job training exercises. Did you put an old television in the basement thinking you might need a replacement ‘tube’ some day? Well, televisions don’t have tubes anymore, so keep it moving. Have you accumulated old radios, telephones, or other electronics? Time to let them go.

Do you have enough food on hand to survive a nuclear attack? Have you looked at your canned goods lately? Do they have an expiration date? If it doesn’t say 2014, then it is time to pitch it. Another clue to outdated items is that if they don’t have a ‘bar code’ they probably aren’t safe to use either.

By purging your home of those extra items, your life will be better for it.  You’ll feel lighter! Do a little at a time and it shouldn’t be a difficult task. Remember, your new mantra is, “Keep it Moving.” If you haven’t used it recently, then let it go and let someone else make good use of use it.