Scaling Down Almost Painlessly

Phyllis Staff, Ph.D.

Moving to a smaller house or apartment in a retirement community almost always involves a certain degree of trauma, both for the elder whos moving and for family members. However, by planning ahead you can reduce the discomfort involved and turn what might well become a nightmare into a pleasant event.

Begin by Planning for the Move

Where is the elder moving Go to the actual house or apartment with tape measure, pad and pencil and write down measurements. Floor space is important, but dont forget about ceilings. Many elders own large pieces of furniture that may not fit into rooms with low ceilings. Your work here will determine which pieces can move with your elder.

And while youre at the actual location, talk to several other elders who already live there. What is their life style Do they go outside the property on frequent trips How do they dress Casual lifestyles will require an entirely different style of dress than more formal ones.

Gather Supplies and Contact Helpers

Having all the supplies you will need in one place will speed your task. Youll want a number of storage bins; five or six should be sufficient to hold sorted items. Plastic bags can be used for discarded belongings and as a container for articles to be donated to charities. Packing boxes and supplies such as padding materials and wide sealing tape are must-haves. Labels and dark marking pens are essential to ensure that boxes go to their intended location.

While youre in the gathering stage, begin to contact helpers youll need. Among these may be:

  • estate sale professionals
  • certified appraisers
  • moving companies
  • house cleaners
  • repair specialists electricians, plumbers, carpenters, painters

Ask friends, relatives, and senior real estate specialists for recommendations. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau to ascertain whether problems have been reported about particular companies or individuals.

Approach Your Task One Room at a Time

Who should help The elder and one family member should assume responsibility for sorting all items and some packing. Do not include everyone in the family if you want to make the job quick and easy because distractions increase in geometric proportion to the number of persons doing the sorting.

Sort all the items in one single room at once, beginning and ending in the kitchen. Why start there Because kitchens in small houses and apartments typically are short on storage space, and the elder needs time and experience to determine which items are true necessities, and which may never be used. If you reduce kitchen items to a bare minimum at the beginning, your elder can determine whats needed and whats not by living with them ahead of time. After living with fewer items, your elder may find that items once thought essential may not be needed. Complete work in the kitchen at the very end of your tasks.

Even though you intend to stay in only one room, distractions will

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