I snapped this picture while I was out visiting senior communities yesterday. They were the cutest couple walking hand in hand past me in the lobby, their faces lit up by their smiles. They were both dressed up for lunch. He had on a bow tie and she had nice make up and a twinkle in her eye like one you’d see on a giddy high school girl. They were heading to the dining room and while they were seated, I caught a glimpse of their ringer fingers. No rings on this couple. For sure they were giving off the boyfriend/girlfriend new relationship vibe.
Last month, I saw the first client we ever moved, a single woman, enjoying breakfast with her boyfriend. (I confirmed this by re-introducing myself and getting the scoop from the clients I was dining with.)
I can say in all sincerity, I would not be in the senior move business if I didn't believe there was so much value in senior community living way beyond what money can buy. If I had to take bets, I would wager these two couples would never have connected if they remained in their respective homes with part-time caregivers coming in to visit while filling their days in front of the television.
As a hopeful romantic, it gave me great pleasure to see love could put a twinkle in your eyes any age.
When making the decision about senior living and whether it’s the right decision, of course you’ll consider the usual factors like the cost of living, more nutritious food, less uncertainty with unforeseen home expenses, another set of eyes protecting you from elder fraud. You also need to account for intangibles like holding hands and falling in love.
I got a call Thursday from Wes Lavender, Executive Director at Atria La Jolla* that one of my favorite clients passed away. By all accounts of what our society might consider what would be necessary for a happy life, Marianne Maynard would not have qualified.
She died alone in her apartment. There were no family pictures in her home as she’d never married and had no children. But working with her through her move, she became a favorite of our team. Her positive attitude was infectious and her warmth and wisdom drew you in.
As senior move managers, we are privileged to be part of people’s deliberations as they go through a lifetime of belongings representing their lives. Whether it is a treasured collection, souvenirs from trips or family heirlooms or old photographs, going through a lifetime of belongings with someone offers so many opportunities to learn all about someone and soak in the wisdom that comes with the experience of living a long life. Some clients are not attached and move through decisions easily recognizing it’s only stuff. Others agonize and waiver. Some are moving into the next phase at peace while others are conflicted. Some people have children who want nothing to do with them while others, like Marianne, have special nieces and friends who become family because being around them just feels good. How lucky to work with seniors and benefit from someone else’s 20/20 hindsight.
I asked Marianne why she never married. This isn’t a question I would normally feel comfortable asking but Marianne was content with her life and it was clear she would have had plenty of opportunity. She told me she didn't feel she would be able to accomplish what she was here to do if she had diverted her time with marriage and family.
Marianne was the first woman to earn a phD from her college, she was a published author of more than 50 books, a professor and a speaker.
One Sunday, I attended Eckenkar, Marianne’s place of worship with her. We discussed spirituality and souls on more than one occasion. Like me, she believed we live multiple lives and our souls grow by our attendance at “Earth School”.
Living multiple lives in a range of bodies (as a man, woman, many cultures, classes and religions) allows us to have a full human experience.
Having studied gerontology as a younger woman, I asked if her experience of aging was what she’d expected. She told me aging was harder than she anticipated and it was frustrating to not feel good in her body. All the while, she kept a smile on her face.
Marianne lived very simply with older, dated furniture.
It was not stuff or grandchildren that made Marianne happy. It was her warmth, positive energy connection to others and her fulfillment of purpose that drew people to her. I believe when we pass we have the opportunity to reflect on our life and figure out where we got it right and where we could have done better. I also believe “heaven and hell” is learning what others thought of us. Marianne, I hope you’re smiling right now.
*We have moved several residents into Atria La Jolla and when we check in, everyone is extremely happy with the decision to move there. I have been personally impressed with Wes and his involvement with the residents and our staff. I have heard from clients he's even been the one to drive a resident to the hospital.
Dr. Marianne Maynard has contributed more than fifty publications in professional journals. Now retired, she spends her time writing and presenting seminars on aging, wellness, and spirituality. She holds a bachelor of arts and master of education degree in art education as well as a PhD in behavioral disabilities, counseling psychology, and gerontology. She has served as a professor at several major universities. Her career path included many years in teaching as well as working as a mental health/staff development consultant and occupational therapist. Now living in San Diego, California, Dr. Maynard remains active in pursuing her interests in writing and conducting seminars on aging well, self-empowerment, and spirituality.
A description of one of her many books: "Our life on earth is a short, grand adventure with many challenges and lessons for personal and spiritual growth. With knowledge and intuitive insight, we can have a rewarding, harmonious journey.However, it takes a clear understanding of your ideal, focus intent, and thought to manifest your goals and dreams. The “how to do this” is spelled out in simple, concise steps that enables you to live your ideal and express your magnificence."
Richard lived in a beautiful Mt. Helix home with his mother for 30+ years. When she passed away at 101, he was lonely and realized though he could take care of the home, he no longer wanted to. He made the decision to go to Paradise Village and enjoy an active, care-free lifestyle. Richard and his mother traveled the world and collected mementoes from many trips. There was no way he could bring all of them to a smaller space. Together with Bryan Devore of the Devore Realty Group, our team identified which items Richard would keep (but clear out for staging the home for sale) and which items he would release. While Bryan marketed the home conventionally, our team took care of all the logistics of the move and determined the best strategy to sell and donate what Richard no longer needed. Richard made his move into the community once the house was in escrow but before closing. He held onto his kayak and participates fully in all the activities and amenities at Paradise Village.
Sandy and Lenny were in their home for 30+ years but due to health issues, getting up and down the stairs and maintaining the home became very challenging. At the encouragement of their out of town daughters, we helped them make the move into Atria La Jolla before closing on their home. Sandy was reluctant to leave her “dream home” but knew she could no longer take care of the home and Lenny. The house had fallen into disrepair so going the conventional route wasn’t the right option. Bryan brought in multiple buyers who would take the home in “as is” condition. They are now enjoying a much easier life and when health issues arise, they have a community of friends and professionals who can be an extra set of eyes.
Shelly and Lee were also in their home for 30+ years, though still healthy, they decided to make the move in anticipation of health concerns that come with advancing age. We staged their home and put it on the market while they remained in the home for showings. After several weeks and no offers, Bryan suggested bringing in an investor who would update the home and put it back on the market. The couple moved into their new home and within one week, they received multiple offers. Shelly and Lee will make more money since the investor offered to split the profit. Pending final inspections, the home is scheduled to close in a couple of weeks.
No two people are the same and our client experiences reflect this. Each client has different financial situations and different stress tolerance. Through our work as senior move managers and then our partnership with Devore Realty Group, the creative and numerous real estate options we offer are able to meet the diverse needs of our clients.
Regardless of your financial situation, making a decision and moving forward regardless of pace is always the best decision because none of us have complete control over our health. We have had many clients say “I’m not ready” and put off a move only to have a catastrophic event take place and need to move when circumstances make it much more difficult.
This begs the question, what is it you’re not “ready” for? Studies show loneliness is a bigger health risk than smoking and having a purpose and being in community adds years to one’s life.
As in any life transition, your attitude predicts your success.
When my grandmother passed away unexpectedly, the lamp she’d promised would one day be mine was given to a favorite niece. According to my grandmother, I’d fallen in love with the lamp at four years old when we’d found it out shopping. I grew up admiring the lamp and never doubting it would one day be mine.
Whenever I commented on something I liked of hers, she’d jokingly say “I’ll put your name on the bottom of it.” I wish she had because when she died, I did not get the lamp. As a mom for the first time only three months before, this was now more significant because I wanted to create memories and pass down belongings.
After my grandmother's sudden death, family traveled for her funeral and to coordinate the logistics of clearing out her home.
During a time we should have been comforting one another and grieving, we were quibbling over her belongings and making “disposal” and logistical arrangements for a lifetime of belongings.
A couple of years later, my aunt passed away and my four cousins fought so much, police had to be called in.
While speaking to groups about the downsizing process, it’s not uncommon to hear from someone in the crowd they’ll just leave it for their kids to deal with. Here is why this is NOT a good solution and what you can do to avoid World War III in your own family.
Now the solutions:
At the very least, write down the items of value/sentiment and make sure your wishes are known and recorded. A great program you can use is www.FairSplit.com
Try a version of Swedish Death Cleaning which is really just proactive purging. To make it more meaningful, make it an event. Invite family members to visit and provide all the packing supplies they will need to take away what they’d like to have . Share stories about sentimental items and times in your life you want them to know about you. Photograph items that are not wanted. Arrange for the sale and donations of things you are no longer using and are not wanted. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want most of your “treasures”. I loved my grandmother but when I was offered her china, I didn’t want her because I wasn’t even using my own. Remember, mindsets and lifestyles have changed and younger generations are influenced by social media and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). They prefer to spend money on experiences rather than things.
For items that are private, mark a special box asking family members to “Discard Upon Death”. Recognize that some may go against your wishes. In that case, I recommend putting a bottle of tequila in there with a funny note about the laughs being on you ;).
For me not getting the lamp felt like a betrayal of what I knew my grandmother would have wanted. I was also disappointed that my grandmother may have shared her wishes with me but hadn’t thought to let others know.
I am happy to say the lamp now rests on my nightstand. I was very lucky my cousin recognized its significance and gave it to me. The story is one I now share when I speak to groups about downsizing.
Our society in general doesn't like to talk about the fact that we are all going to die one day. If we aren't talking about our deaths, we aren't talking about what we want to happen to our belongings when we pass. This denial, is doing a disservice to our loved ones.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’d like a little help downsizing/rightsizing or you are faced with what to do after a loved one’s death, Silver Linings Transitions and other senior move management companies can help.
Earlier this year, I threw away my Girl Scout sash, my prom corsage, and various other things I’d held onto from my childhood. As I prepared to move out of my marital home. I had the opportunity to re-visit my childhood, identify the most important items and give my daughters the opportunity to claim my belongings while I am alive and healthy.
I started Silver Linings Transitions, a senior move management company while I was married. I added divorcing clients to our services as a result of my own divorce when I realized divorcing people face similar emotional challenges and are also likely downsizing. Like the clients we work sorting through a lifetime of belongings brings up a mix of emotions and requires one to "let go" of the life I expected to have.
At a recent talk on downsizing a participant shared her plan to have her kids deal with it. There are so many reasons this is NOT a good solution not the least of which are the burden/guilt you will saddle your loved ones with but also the reality that something of value (sentimental or monetary) might end up someplace you wouldn't want it.
With both personal and professional experience, I wanted to share some key things I learned along the way. These tips interweave, the current trend of “Swedish Death Cleaning” (from Swedish words meaning ‘standing” and “death“) emerging as a result of adult children facing the task of going through their parents belongings (after a death or when the parents are downsizing) and realizing they don’t want to leave the daunting task to their own children.
So here are some tips to get started:
Make sure all of your passwords and usernames are written down and in one place. Remember to let somebody know how to access this information. There are sites that will store your passwords too like LastPass which offers a free version.
Go through your belongings and do a photographic inventory of anything you want to go to loved ones. As someone who had a personal experience after my grandmother’s sudden death, leaving clear direction will save your grieving loved ones from many unnecessary battles. Make sure you make notes about any items of value so they can be sold for their value and won't be accidentally discarded. There are software programs likes Fairsplit.com you can use to create these inventories and assign belongings.
Make sure and visit storage units and attics and include these items in the inventory.
Begin to “re-gift” belongings. If you are going to someone’s home and would normally take a hostess gift, thoughtfully consider bringing a token of your affection from your personal belongings rather than spending money.
When going through your belongings, consider this criteria:
Will anyone be happier because I saved it? Rather than put items in the garbage, send old letters or photos to childhood friends who will undoubtedly appreciate the trip down memory lane. I recently attended my 30th high school reunion and there was a table set up for people to share items. I also photographed old letters and sent them via email.
Would I be okay if someone found or read this? If there is something you aren't ready to get rid of but don't necessarily want someone going through it, create a box marked "Private: Please discard without opening the contents." If you have loved ones who you think will ignore your warning, put a tequila bottle inside with the message "You've been warned ;)".
If you are holding onto something because you think it’s valuable, do some research. I held onto a Guess jean jacket I’d purchased in 1985 for $85. I almost refused to allow my daughter to take it to sleep away camp until I looked it up on Ebay and discovered it was only worth $35.
Make the process an event inviting loved ones to participate. You and they will appreciate the opportunity to learn more about each other and what your life may have been like in your youth.
When I speak to groups of people who are now grandparents, I encourage them to consider the belongings they’ve been storing for adult children and determine whether or not the adult child has any intention of taking it. I went through my childhood bedroom in Florida a year ago and traveled home with many of the things I’d held onto. After carrying them across country, my girls wanted the earrings from the 80s but that was it.
If you have high school students, have them do their own version of Swedish Death Cleaning. It helps them prioritize, frees up space and is a wonderful opportunity to reminisce about their childhood.
Anything we do proactively is going to be less stressful. Taking charge of your life, your belongings and on your terms will have an impact.
Here is a link to more information and the book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson
Are you throwing money down the drain? Almost one in 10 Americans pay for off-site storage. In fact the average Californian spends $114 a month for off-site storage. We’ve found many of our clients will continue paying the monthly fee (sometimes for years) rather than step foot into their storage unit. We understand that when you've lost a loved one or been through a traumatic event, you have neither the time nor emotional energy to conquer the mounds of boxes, papers, furniture and knick knacks.
Til now, the answer to this problem has been either abandoning the storage unit all together, leaving it for auction or charity, or contacting a hauler to take all the contents to the dump...without ever really knowing what’s there.
We’ve designed a better, more gentle and cost effective way to address this problem.
Silver Linings Transitions now offers “Storage Unit Sweeps”. First, we’ll take a photographic inventory of everything that's there. If there are family members involved, we’ll host a sentimental auction to divide the possessions - avoiding conflict. After we’ve determined who gets what, we ship items to loved ones.
Next, we’ll determine which items are salable and what course of action is best in order to maximize the sale. This includes selling items through online auctions and apps, eBay and contacting third party auctioneers when appropriate.
Once we sell what can be sold, we’ll organize donations and minimize waste whenever possible as to not negatively impact our environment.
All money from the sale of items is given back to the client allowing them to recoup the charge for our services. In addition, they will be liberated from the continuous monthly storage unit fee. More importantly, our experience and compassion minimizes the emotional toll of clearing out a storage unit.
What's in your storage unit?
Silver Linings Transitions provides job opportunities for women transitioning back into the workforce after altering careers to stay home and care for loved ones.
Contact us for your FREE CONSULTATION.
Sometimes people "shop our rates" and compare our prices to that of traditional moving companies. But, this is simply not a fair or accurate comparison.
We offer so much more than just packing and unpacking. We offer the complete coordination of every aspect of your move, including: measuring furniture, planning room layout, packing delicate items, reducing clutter, and organizing small spaces. We handle even the smallest details, like allowing room for outlets, hanging family pictures and artwork, making of beds, and setting of clocks. Our goal is to minimize the feelings of chaos and stress associated with moving by proactively addressing all aspects of the move process and by recreating the look and feel of our current home.
If your intended move isn't causing any anxiety and you have the time and the patience to get yourself unpacked, there's no question the option of a traditional mover “unpack” is a good way for you to save money.
But it is important to consider that moving is one of the top 5 stressors along with death and divorce and that this added stress can cause depression and anxiety for months after your move. If you are overwhelmed by the idea of moving, aren't sure how you're going to decide what to take and not take and if the task paralyzes you with fear, hiring a move manager (and one affiliated with a regulating organization like NASMM) is a sure way to relieve your stress.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the difference between Silver Linings Transitions and a traditional mover is through a recent experience with a client who was moving with her mother from out of state and had been packed by the mover. While the truck was in transit, her mother passed away and she had to meet the truck at the storage unit the day after her mother died to go through her mother's belongings. She planned to have us unpack and get her mother settled into her new home but obviously the project changed due to the circumstances. Instead we were there as the truck was being unloaded into storage and again to her new home. The first difference we noticed was in the way items were packed and labeled haphazardly, without common sense. But more than that, the movers, while polite, were hurried and did not address the emotional needs of the client in her great time of sorrow.
We aren't just a moving company. We're more than filling boxes and lifting furniture. How we sort, compassionately with understanding of client’s values, how we pack, carefully with like items together, and how we unpack, organizing according to the client’s needs and wishes, as we go, is very different. Movers literally pack what they see right in front of them, which can include trash and broken items. Then they "unpack" to first available surfaces.
Companies like ours, who specialize in senior moves, work with the client to get an understanding of their lifestyle and create a floor plan for the new space. Once we identify what items can safely fit and are "must keep" we help sort through and determine a plan for the remaining belongings. Parting with a lifetime of mementos can be a very emotional and draining process, but is made easier with a compassionate third party dedicated to the individual client and experienced in doing this work. We will then arrange for donation, plan for shipment to relatives, and list items for sale any of the items not moving with you.
Our unpack involves organizing the home, putting things away in a way that makes sense and with physical needs in mind. For example, most seniors cannot reach their arms up high, so we put everyday items into lower cabinets. We also consider whether a wheelchair or walker will fit between pieces of furniture. We clean items and furniture that may have been neglected over the years - making them look new. We decorate, hang pictures and consider little details like freshly made beds and filled ice trays. We even bring refrigerated and frozen food from one home to the next so that by the end of move-in day, our clients can have dinner in their new homes. These extra details leave our clients feeling settled and ready for their new life rather than looking for or organizing their belongings.
It should be clear that the depth of our services eclipses those of a traditional moving company. As is the case for most everything, you truly get what you pay for.
And while we specialize in seniors and divorcing clients, our services can greatly benefit and reduce stress of anyone move.
Are you going crazy because your parents have too much stuff and they don't want to part with it or worse yet they want to give it to you?! Well, that's really, really normal. Senior parents aren't ready to give up their independence or their role as your parent. Here are the three tips to make the process a little bit easier and hopefully get rid of some of that stuff.
Number one: a lot of people are using online sites to sell their items, but you may not have thought about Freecycle. If there's something they don't need anymore put it on Freecycle.org. If it ends up they need it again later, you can go back to Freecycle and you can be the recipient. So it works as a free exchange.
Number two: Take one of those Hummels or Lladrós and bring them to a friend. Instead of bringing a bottle of wine or flowers as a house warming or hostess gift, wrap up a Lladró or another favorite memento.
Number three: Consider doing an online auction. There are programs out there now that will help you break your whole home down into lots and sell them. This way anyone who comes into the house to collect their items will have already had their credit card processed and you can narrow the entire pick up process down to a small window of time.
Silver Linings Transitions is happy to help administer an online auction or help you keep the peace during the downsizing process. Click on this link to learn more.
Jami Shapiro is President of Silver Linings Transitions. As a cancer survivor, she embraces aging and the challenges it presents.