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 downsize in Tulsa, it can be difficult for the whole family. Baby boomers are the last generation of Americans that stayed in one place—so dealing with a move from a house that maintains years of memories is rough for the entire family. But, there are some strategies for the best way to navigate the transition, so don’t give up hope and keep reading.

Plan Ahead

In an ideal world, you have been in the loop on your parents’ health care and finances for a few years before they scale down or move to a senior living community. If your world's not ideal and you do not have a clue, get information on these two crucial topics as soon as possible, and keep up to date moving forward. It would be very unfortunate to have a health or financial crisis and be totally unaware as to their situation. Asking your parents what their financial picture looks like is hard, but being blindsided when you learn your dad's “best friend” is that Nigerian prince stuck in the Tokyo airport and has taken all your parents’ money is more difficult.

Have the talks when there is no urgency, and your mother doesn't feel like you are pushing her out of her residence. The more you and your siblings discover over lunch, the better off you'll all be when you must make decisions expeditiously. Meet with their attorneys and doctors to make sure that you can aid in managing affairs if you need to and that you can obtain medical and health care reports if there is an emergency. These two items are vitally important if you're more than a few hours away, as you may need to handle things remotely. HIPAA states that even if your mom's doctor was your third-grade t-ball buddy, without the proper paperwork in place, they can't tell you anything.

What to Take?

For a lot of families, selecting one sibling to be the person in charge of legal problems pales in comparison to figuring out who is going to decide which items move to the new home, what gets donated, and which sibling keeps the family silver. Do not let this commence a family rift, your parents are moving and are likely going to hand onto the china and silver. Besides, most downsizes mean 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 plenty of items to go around.

Once your family has determined that downsizing is right for your parents, if they will be going to a senior community, there's typically a waiting period of a few months prior to being able to move in. Most communities refurbish the units ahead of when a new resident moves in. If the prior resident had been there for many years, they could do a complete update—so you'll usually get things like new kitchen counters and kitchen appliances, Wi-Fi, and updated bathroom fixtures along with fresh paint and carpet. This delay offers your parents time to adjust to the thought of moving, especially if they are moving to a new town.

Get a copy of the floor plan of their new home or apartment. Some retirement communities will hand you not only a floor plan, but some peel-off furniture stickers so you can actually place the furniture and accessories. The stickers can be moved on the floor plan, so you can play around with it until you get it just right. This is a big help emotionally, understanding before you move any furniture what they can move 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 Tulsa

Moving day for your parents will most likely be difficult, no matter how prepared you are, and however much they're willing to move out of the house and not have the yard anymore. Here's a timeline to prepare for the big day, giving you about eight weeks to get ready.

Two Months Out

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

Decide if you'll require some storage, and where you want it to be. The majority of moving companies provide storage options, which can be very convenient. Some people aren't sure what will really work in the new space and want to have a few extra choices before they make the final determination. Also, when college-age kids are in the mix, some families elect to hang on to old couches and other items that will be of use in first apartments.

Commence determining what they can take, which things you and your siblings want, and what to donate. However you opt to split up, you'll want to designate what goes to whom. Various colored small sticky notes are a great way to sort things, so that the right items wind up arriving at the right places.

Be flexible with your parents on what to give to charity--although the thought of a yard sale is inviting, if money 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 items. Call a few days or so out to arrange pick up.

One Month Out

Start clearing out cabinets, closets, the basement, garage, etc. If you have more stuff than ambition, appoint a company to come clean out once you have moved everything that you want out of the house. This is well worth the charge, especially if you live out of town and your parents are having a difficult time with the move. You can also arrange to have the moving company move the household goods and personal things before the rest of the home is cleared out, sparing your mom and dad from viewing their residence looking empty and lonely.

If you're doing your own packing, purchase decent-quality packing supplies. The moving company will carry the best quality at the lowest cost and can offer packing tips. Again, pull out the sticky notes for the boxes or have a plan for keeping everything in order. If all of the family is closeby, it's easy to bring over some big bins and leave a couple hours later with old yearbooks and t-ball trophies all packed up in the car. That is many times not the case, so as you pack up the boxes, label them correctly and place them in the recipient's bedroom or stake out corners of the living room.

One Week Out

Verify your dates with the moving company, both for the move to the new residence and moving to storage. If you're not positive how much storage you will require, they can assist you in calculating, you will most likely really 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 the new house. You or a sibling stay behind to oversee the movers. Mitigate as much anxiety as you are able to that morning, so when the truck arrives your parents are not tired and anxious. Help them get unpacked and settled, and do not be surprised if they have a dinner invitation already—they are the new kids on the block and everyone will want to meet them.

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