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.
“They” weren’t kidding when they listed moving as one of life’s top stressors.
The majority (though not all) of our clients are downsizing during more difficult times - this might mean a move into a senior community when seniors or family members realize remaining home alone might not be the best or safest option or when someone (like myself) has to move from the family home due to a divorce.
After experiencing what I would honestly describe as the easiest move I’ve ever made, it still wasn’t easy. Getting to be a Silver Linings Transitions client was eye opening and as a result, I started thinking along the lines of how can we make the transition as stress-free as possible and make the new place feel like home.
Here’s how we made adjustments to our service and some tips you can use as well:
We now use an “orange” sticker for our clients to identify when there is something in their home they want set up exactly as it is. We will photograph the item and then put it back exactly as we found it (only we will dust or clean it before putting it back.). This can be a photo collection on the wall or a curio cabinet with mementoes.
While we try our best to keep things "as is" in dressers by stuffing them with paper so things don't slide. Sometimes this isn’t possible because the dresser is too heavy for the mover or because you are leaving behind built ins. Whenever possible, we will put the items back as we’ve found them. With all the buzz about “sparking joy” though, we have had clients excited for us to use some of the tricks they see on the famous reality show on organizing and we can do this too!!
We recognize that it’s very humbling to have people going through your underwear drawer (or any other spaces) that might make you feel “exposed”. If there is an area or items you don’t want us to touch, we will leave a box for you to pack discretely and we’ll bring it to your new home, leaving it unopened (no questions asked).
We have label makers for drawers and cabinets. You can peel them off whenever you’re ready. We will also leave notes for you if we have to use creative spaces for things that get moved - like using under the bed storage when we are downsizing.
I think it's important for me to note, unlike our clients, I was spared the stress of worrying about the logistics. Although we tell our clients to trust us, they really never do until they walk in and see their new homes.
Home is our safe haven. It's the place we can hopefully go to escape the pressures of life and retreat. When we move, this safe space is shaken up. Change is not usually thought of as easy. As a reminder, here is a link to a previous article sharing some tips to help you get through your move.
A client getting ready to move from her home into independent living in a senior community recently asked us for a list of the kitchen items she should plan to take with her when she moves.
Independent living has kitchens though some are small “mini” kitchens and some are larger than the ones in many homes.
Regardless of the kitchen size, any kind of downsizing should involve a realistic view of your life. Are you still making layer cakes or homemade waffles? Most senior communities provide at least two meals a day. In fact, food is such a central part of senior living, communities poach top chefs from top rated restaurants (and from each other).
We moved a client who’d gone to culinary school and loved cooking. Now, at 80, she’s over cooking and left most of her kitchenware behind.
Not only should you consider what you enjoy but also consider how and whether you will entertain. Are you going to be hosting large dinner parties? If not, do you need a set of 12 dishes? Are there are dishes you’ve saved for special occasions? Why not use those? They are meant to be enjoyed. Even if they aren't dishwasher safe, how often will you need to run a dishwasher. Of course, be aware if you heat food in a microwave.
It might mean more to know a loved one is enjoying those dishes but if they aren’t wanted, try not to take it personally. It’s not a reflection of you but rather a reflection on the minimalist (and disposable) society we are living in today. Whether you decide to keep a partial set for yourself or decide to sell the whole collection, Replacement, Ltd. is a great place to buy or sell pieces.
When making kitchen decisions also take into account your physical health. If you have arthritis, consider stocking your kitchen with items made for arthritic hands. Attached is a good guide for arthritic appropriate gadgets.
If reaching is difficult, which is common problem for people as they age, focus on what will go into lower cabinets. If an item will be difficult to access, will you really use it or need it?
After taking your lifestyle and health into consideration, you can use this as a general guide for stocking any kitchen.
As I write this blog, I am actually away with my senior daughter for her college interviews. It occurs to me preparing for life in a senior community is much like life in a dorm. As I get closer to helping my daughter leave home and set up her own “place”, I will likely write more on this. For now, I thought it might be helpful to have this checklist for dorm living since there are many similar items and needs.
Why "Swedish Death Cleaning" is for everyone - seniors, divorcing couples, empty nesters and high school graduates
Last week I threw away my Girl Scout sash, my prom corsage, and various other things I’d held onto from my childhood. As my daughters and I prepare to move out of our family home this coming summer when my oldest daughter goes off to college, I have the opportunity to re-vsiit my childhood, identify the items that are most important and give my daughters the opportunity to claim my belongings while I am alive and healthy.
I started Silver Linings Transitions, as a senior move management company but added divorcing clients to our business model 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 with, I am having to sort through a lifetime of belongings and determine which items I'll keep and which I'll need to discard. Going through my belongings brings up a mix of emotions but certainly is part of giving up on the life I expected to have.
With both personal and professional experience, I wanted to share some key things I’ve 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 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 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 shipping them across country, my girls didn’t want any of 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
Now you can save time, your sanity and the environment
Silver Linings Transitions just made our moves even easier!! We completed our first move using plastic bins provided by A Smart Move and the results were great. We were able to save time - building and tearing down boxes and being able to pack them without concern of collapse which also helps reduce paper. Another huge advantage - these boxes reduce the impact on our environment. Silver Linings Transitions plans to use the bins for all our local moves making our moves easier for our clients AND our environment.
I received a call today from an adult daughter who lives across country and is trying to convince her mother of why a move into a senior community is the right decision. Her mother lives in a two story home with stairs that meet a marble floor. The home, as is often the case, has fallen into disrepair because it becomes too difficult to maintain.
Parents, who might be embarrassed, proud and not wanting to cause worry, don’t let family know what’s happening. It’s often a visit around the holidays that illuminates the situation.
There’s a great book called “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant” written by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. It’s a book I read when I began my career in senior move management. Roz describes and illustrates her personal journey with her aging parents in a very real way. The gist of the book is that she wasn't prepared for her parent's aging and inevitable death. You believe they will live independently, get sick, go to the hospital and that will be it. The story for most is very different.
Aging in our culture is “the elephant in the room”. Our society is one to largely cast aside seniors where other cultures give them a place of honor, compounding the issue.
In American society, it seems it’s not okay to not be okay. The reality is, if we live long enough, we are going to face physical limitations. (At the very least.) While I’ve had 20/20 vision my entire life, at 48 I can barely read pill bottles with reading glasses and have to keep a magnifier in my kitchen.
So how do we bring up a subject that everyone seems to want to bury their heads in the sand about?
First of all, you have to let go of the guilt. Most of us are barely holding it together ourselves.
The way we talk to ourselves and the opinions we've formed about senior living have to be the first thing to change. Seeing all the benefits of senior living will help reframe your own perception, alleviate much of your guilt and make it easier to discuss senior living with your family. (A benefit of working with seniors and being in and out of senior communities is that I get to see communities I'd move into tomorrow if it were an option (and I didn't have three kids at home).)
If you haven’t visited a community, do. Communities are no longer our great grandparents’ convalescent homes. The food is amazing and the social calendar would wear me out.
Also, there have been many studies done on the benefits of socialization. Socialization reduces depression and anxiety and contributes to the overall lifespan.
Once you are clear about the benefits of senior living, focus on the "silver lining" when discussing it with your loved ones. For example, most communities offer most, if not all, meals. “Mom, you aren’t going to HAVE to cook.”
It's also important to be aware of your language. Would YOU rather live in a "facility" or a "community"?
In Florida, they've just opened a Jimmy Buffet inspired community "Latitude Margaritaville". There are professionals called Placement Agents who guide clients on the best places for a person's interests and budget. In most cases, these services are FREE because they are compensated by the community from the first month's rent.
After letting go of the guilt and reframing perception, we have to get to a place where we can talk about the inevitable. Acknowledge your own feelings as well as your parents feelings around what the move represents. Often times, adult children are facing their own fear and sadness around the loss of their parents, their childhood home and the shifting roles we take on as we become the next generation. Once you acknowledge these feelings, you open the door to authentic and vulnerable conversation
Lastly, sharing your personal concern for your parents makes a big difference. It is not easy to juggle your own responsibilities with the worry about your parents falling or being injured. Make sure you honor your parents. Let them know they have a say and don’t make the mistake of trying to “control” them. One of the hardest things about aging is the loss of independence. Help your parents be YOUR parent by explaining how their health and safety affects YOUR health and well being. (After all, we are conditioned to care for the health and safety of our children.)
A great way to introduce the concept of senior living is sharing the Senior Savers show. It was inspired by our experience seeing the difference between seniors who made a proactive move into senior living versus those who waited too long to reap the benefits. The show demonstrates how easy the actual move can be. Moves are always hard, even under the best of circumstances. Making the move on your own terms makes it easier.
Go easy on yourself or your loved ones. Going through a lifetime of belongings is a very emotional process. Our belongings are mementoes of our lives.
10. FLOOR PLAN
Determine which items are both your favorites but also which are the most practical. Keeping furniture that’s broken or not easy to get in and out of is not your best option. Also, once you know how much furniture you can realistically and safely fit, you can have a good sense of the actual space and surfaces you’ll have. Whenever possible, pick items that are multi purpose and have shelves or drawers.
9. BREAK DOWN THE PROJECTS INTO SMALLER PIECES
Go through your home and look at the areas that are most troublesome. Write them down from easiest to hardest and begin tackling one every day.
8. MEASURE THE SPACE
If you have a good idea of where you are going, measuring the spaces and giving yourself a visual to work from is helpful. Use blue tape in your closet to see exactly how much space you have.
7. USE A SYSTEM
Purchase stickers or labels to visually mark items in your home. Go room by room and determine what will stay, will will be given away, what can be sold and what can be donated. If you mark items for donation, plan ahead to make a trip at the end of the day to deliver them (or have them picked up).
6. USE IT UP... DON’T MOVE IT
Plan to throw out expired food on garbage days. Medications, batteries, paints all have special places they should go.
5 . MAKE ARRANGEMENTS TO SCAN OLD PHOTOS AND ALBUMS
Photos only have about 125 years of life. Additionally, photos take up lots of room. If you have them scanned in and put onto a flash drive, a hard drive or in the cloud, you stop the disintegration and make it easy for loved ones to access and share them.
4. GIVE AWAY YOUR ITEMS AS GIFTS
Rather than taking a small gift (like a bottle of wine or food), consider bringing a loved item to give to your host.
3. MAKE SURE YOUR WISHES ARE CLEAR
It’s not enough to tell someone you are going to give them something. If at all possible, make your wishes very clear. This can include creating a list and if possible photographing items.
2. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
Just because someone doesn’t want your belonging doesn’t mean you aren’t important or won’t be remembered. Try to remember there is a generational shift and younger generations have an easier time buying new and tossing out. They also tend to spend money on experiences versus things.
1. BE REALISTIC
Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Just because it cost $200 when you bought it, don’t expect to sell it for that much. To get a true picture, look the item up on eBay.
Also, take a good and honest assessment of your lifestyle. Is the item something you will really use again? If you are unable to keep something, consider photographing it and creating a digital book.
Click here for more tips on sorting, organizing and “rightsizing”, or call 760 522-1624 to schedule your FREE consultation.
Advice for your transition
When working with new clients I give them two pieces of information. In almost every instance though, the stress associated with the move takes over and these two important things are forgotten.
The first is that it doesn’t matter what you paid for something. It is only worth what someone is willing to spend. You can read more by clicking on this link.
The second is, this move is going to be stressful. We are going to tell you not to worry and assure you repeatedly that we can do it but you won’t believe us. BELIEVE US!! This is what we do and why the senior move industry exists.
So since we know you won’t believe us, let’s talk about things you can do to minimize the stress rather than worrying.
A note to my daughters on the occasion of my 48th birthday.
On January 29, 2015, I celebrated my 45th birthday, my 10 year "cancerversary" and “officially” launching Silver Linings Transitions. - Though I’d truly worked on the business the year before, I wanted a good date for the press release. A week after this trifecta celebration, your father and I separated.
I never expected to be starting a business and simultaneously going through a divorce but John Lennon said “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
Mark Twain said the two most important days in a person’s life are they day they are born and the day they find out why.
I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Having three daughters - beautiful, strong, talented and kind and most importantly watching me as an example for what you can and can not accept out of life was my first purpose. In these last three years, there were countless times I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide away from the world and my troubles. At one point on an airplane I remember thinking, “well, if it goes down, I won’t have to deal with all of this”.
I have learned and grown more over the last three years than at any other point in my lifetime. I am glad you saw it. Others told me I was making a mistake showing my emotions but I’m about as good at hiding my emotions as I am at singing. Had you not been watching, you may never have believed when me if I merely told you even when life knocks you down, you stand back up and at the very least take one tiny step forward.
The only way to get through the pain is to be “in” the pain. A wise friend (OK Bryan) told me, you can’t go around the pain, you can’t go over the pain, you have to go through it. If you don’t allow yourself to truly wallow and sit in it, it will find it’s way to make sure you pay attention. Thirteen years ago I was doing work I didn’t believe in. Earning money I didn’t feel I deserved. Jealous of what my friends had (or didn’t have). And I was so resentful.
Another wise friend who’d been diagnosed with cancer in his freshman year of college and since had two children and became one of the most successful business owners/entrepreneurs I know, told me cancer was like getting a "front row seat" to life.
It was certainly my wake up call and what drove me to my other purpose and the reason I used the name Silver Linings Transitions.
Though we may not always have choices when life is hard, we do have choices about the way we react. When something bad happens, look for the lesson or the “silver lining”. What can you learn from the experience? And remember, this too shall pass.
Remember when my computer was stolen from my trunk? I learned a lot of lessons. I have also learned to pause and ask myself if whatever just happened is going to really matter in five years. If it doesn’t, I have learned to let it go. It’s not worth the stress and aggravation.
Persistence in life will get you farther than anything else.
In the book the Alchemist, there is a line that says if you are clear about what you want, the universe will conspire to give it to you. The pictures above represent this. The first one, taken in September 2014, was the very first senior community I visited when I began door knocking. Today, I stood close to that very same spot heading in to host the Silver Linings Transitions third anniversary party in that same community.
Yesterday while getting things for the party, I had an epiphany. I was putting stuff in the car and a wrapper was on the ground. Since the car door was opened, I examined the wrapper since two of you three (I'll give you a hint, it's not Ali) just sort of toss things at will. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t “our” wrapper. It wasn’t a candy I recognized and I went on loading the car until I realized, it WAS our wrapper. Not in real life, but metaphorically. We are each responsible for one another. We are all connected. My neighbor’s behavior impacts me just as mine impacts theirs.
Today I had two more epiphanies (one of my favorite words - I think the other is synchronicity).. It really is true the way people treat you is a reflection of how they feel about themselves. If a person is happy, they have no reason to mess with you. If they are happy they likely want to “be love” ;) and spread kindness. Which leads me to the second one (epiphany). I spent years trying to get other people to like me. I was constantly in trouble and never felt “good”. My ADHD kept me in perpetual trouble and so my “way of being” was about winning people over. You know what I realized? It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. I am the person I am intrinsically because this is the way God made me.
Gillian has never been good about schedules or cleanliness. As a child, she refused schedules. She could sleep anywhere. Once she was tired, she slept…period. Ali, on the other hand, HAD to be in her crib at a certain time. For someone who was never good at schedules, I think it may have been the only time in my life I stuck to somewhat of a schedule because Ali demanded it of me. I remember traveling to see Safta in Miami. She’d gone out of her way to get a crib for us. I don’t remember how old Ali was but she would not sleep. She screamed and screamed until we were forced to load up the car and head five hours back home in the middle of the night.
As an infant, Adyson would scream bloody murder in the car. This was pretty inconvenient and gut wrenching since older girls were enrolled in a school thirty minutes away. To this day, she complains in the car about her neck hurting or feeling nauseous.
I know you all vary on the way you feel about spirituality. I can tell you that my God now is not the God of my childhood or adolescence. My God is the voice that directs me to do the right thing. It’s opening my eyes and paying attention to the messages that come. It’s figuring out the lessons I’m meant to learn even when they aren’t convenient or fun. It’s doing something inconvenient or uncomfortable because I know it’s the right thing to do. It’s the decision to live from love and trust and not from fear and worry. It is freeing.
Lastly, life will deliver exactly what you expect of it. In the book “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero, she shares an exercise where you look for one minute and count everything that is red. After the exercise, she asks you to recall what was yellow. Only you won’t be able to, because you were too busy looking for red.
Another story I love from Jen Sincero’s book is the story of a bird who is in her home and keeps flying into her window. The bird is so fixed on getting out it never stops to notice she’s opened another window. As you know there have been several things in my life that weren’t going the way I planned or weren’t meeting my expectations. So, I beat my head against a wall or kept flying into the window just like the bird. This has possibly been the biggest lesson for me. If you are frustrated, pause and assess the situation. An if the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door. Another one will open, though, it might not be on your timeline or the one you expected.
I wish my 48 years of experience would be enough to shelter you from the rough parts of life and that you could skip over them softly landing to the place I’ve discovered. It only took 48 years but I have learned to “Let go and let God”. I know the reality is, at your age, I would have ignored these words and learned these lessons the hard way and on my own.. Still, I’m going to share them. Maybe for you, maybe for your children. Maybe as a reminder for me when I am not feeling as certain.