Parents Downsizing? A Guide to A Smooth Transition

by Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group

Moving - Parents MovingIf it is time for your parents to downsize in Wichita Falls, it's difficult for the whole family. Baby boomers are the last generation of Americans that didn’t move around much—so dealing with a move from a house that holds over a quarter century of memories is rough for the whole family. But, there are some strategies for the best way to navigate the transition, so take a deep breath and read on.

Plan Ahead

In a flawless 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 ideal and you do not have any idea about your parents’ finances or medical status, get information on these two crucial items as soon as possible, and stay up to date moving forward. You definitely don’t want to have a health or financial crisis and be completely in the dark as to their condition. Questioning your parents about their finances is difficult, but being blindsided when you find out your dad's “long-lost cousin” is that Nigerian prince living in the Tokyo airport and has taken all your parents’ money is tougher.

Have the dialogues when there isn’t rush, and your mom does not feel like you are pressuring her to sell her house. The more you and your siblings discover over breakfast, the better off you will all be when you must make rulings quickly. Meet with their attorneys and doctors to make sure that you can help manage affairs if necessary and that you can obtain medical and health care information if there's an emergency. These two items are incredibly important if you are more than a few hours away, as you might need to handle things remotely. HIPAA states that even if your mom's doctor was your second-grade t-ball buddy, without that paper trail, they can't disclose any information to you.

What to Take?

For a lot of families, selecting one sibling to be the point person for legal issues is a small concern compared to figuring out who gets to discern what moves to the new residence, what will be donated, and which sibling gets the family silver. Don't let this commence a family argument, your parents are moving and are likely going to hand onto the china and silver. In any case, most downsizes mean a substantial loss of space—going from a three or four-bedroom house to one or two bedrooms and one living space--so there is lots of items to go around.

Once your family has come to the conclusion that downsizing is right for your parents, if they will be going to a retirement community, there is typically a waiting period of a couple months before they actually make the move. Most communities refurbish the units before a new resident moves in. If the prior resident had lived there for many years, they could do a whole update—so you will commonly get items like new countertops and kitchen appliances, Wi-Fi, and updated bathroom components along with fresh paint and carpet. The time offers your parents time to acclimate to the plan of moving, especially if they are going to a new city.

Ask for 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 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, understanding prior to moving day what they can move with them and how it will take up the space. Surrounding themselves with familiar furniture and mementos can take a little of the sting out of leaving home.

Downsizing - MovingLeading up to Moving Day in Wichita Falls

Moving day for your parents will probably be tough, no matter how prepared you are, and if they're willing to move out of the house and not have to deal with the yard anymore. Here's a timeline leading up to the big day, giving you about eight weeks to get prep.

Two Months Out

Employ a professional moving company. Think about your budget to determine if you would like a full-service move, a la carte (pick and choose what services the movers do) or obtain a moving truck and do it yourself.

Decide if you'll require short term storage, and where it should be located. The majority of moving companies have 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 conclusion. Also, when college-age grandchildren are in the mix, some families opt to hang on to old furniture and stuff that will come in handy in first apartments.

Start thinking about what they can take, which items you and your siblings will divvy up, and which items to donate. However you decide to split up, you'll want to note what goes to whom. Various colored small sticky notes are a wonderful way to keep track, so that the right items end up going to the correct destinations.

Be flexible with your parents on what to give to charity--although the concept of a yard sale is attractive, if money is not a concern, you'll likely 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 direct a truck to collect your donated things. Call a week or so out to schedule pick up.

One Month Out

Begin clearing out cabinets, closets, the basement, garage, etc. If you've got more belongings than energy, hire a company to come clean out once you've gotten everything that you want out of the residence. This is well worth the charge, especially if you live out of town and your parents are having a tough time with the move. You can also arrange to have the moving company load up the household goods and personal belongings before the balance of the house is cleared out, sparing your mom and dad from seeing their residence looking empty and sad.

If you are doing your own packing, get good-quality moving supplies. The moving company will have the best quality at the lowest cost and can offer packing suggestions. Again, bring out the sticky notes for the boxes or have a plan for keeping them in order. If everyone is local, it is easy to bring over some big bins and pull out of the driveway an hour later with old yearbooks and t-ball trophies all packed up in the car. That's usually not the case, so as you pack up the boxes, label them accordingly and place them in the recipient's bedroom or a designated corner of the living room.

One Week Out

Double-check your plans with the moving company, both for the move to the new home and moving to storage. If you are not sure the amount of storage you will 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 accompany your parents out for breakfast, and then on to their new abode. You or a sibling stay behind to oversee the movers. Ease as much worry as you can that morning, so when the moving truck arrives your parents are not tired and anxious. Help them get unpacked and settled, and don't be shocked if they are already invited to dinner—they are the new kids on the block and everyone will want to meet them.

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