Parents Downsizing? A Guide to A Smooth Transition

by Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group

Moving - Parents MovingWhen it is time for your parents to downsize in Houston, it can be challenging for the entire family. Baby boomers are the last generation of Americans that that weren’t transient in nature—so dealing with a move from a house that keeps over a quarter century of memories is rough for the entire family. But, there are some suggestions for a smooth transition, so take heart and keep reading.

Plan Ahead

In a perfect world, you've been kept updated on your parents’ health care and finances for several years before they downsize or move to a senior living community. If your world is not perfect and you do not have a clue, get information on these two crucial components as soon as possible, and keep up to date in the future. You definitely don’t want to have a health or financial crisis and be entirely in the dark as to their situation. Asking your parents what their financial picture looks like is hard, but being blindsided when you discover your dad's “long-lost cousin” is that Nigerian prince living in the Tokyo airport and has taken all his money is harder.

Have the dialogues when there is no urgency, and your mother doesn't feel like you are pushing her out of her home. The more you and your siblings find out over lunch, the better off you'll all be when you need to make decisions rapidly. Convene with their attorneys and doctors to make sure that you can assist in managing things if needed and that you can access medical and health care reports if there is an emergency. These two items are vitally important if you're more than one or two hours away, as you may need to take care of things remotely. HIPAA maintains that even if your mom's doctor was your third-grade cubby buddy, without the right permissions in writing, they can't provide you any information.

What to Take?

For lots of families, selecting one sibling to be the main person for legal questions pales in comparison to figuring out who will discern what moves to the new house, what will be donated, and which sibling gets the family china. Do not allow this start a family fight, your parents are moving and are likely going to hand onto the china and silver. Besides, 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's plenty of items to go around.

After your clan has come to the conclusion that downsizing is best for your parents, if they will be going to a senior community, there is typically a waiting period of several months before they actually make the move. Most communities remodel the units prior to when a new resident moves in. If the prior resident had been there for several years, they may do a whole update—so you'll commonly get items like new countertops and kitchen appliances, Wi-Fi, and updated bathroom fixtures along with fresh paint and flooring. This delay offers your parents time to acclimate to the thought of moving, especially if they are going to a new area.

Get a print-out 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 all about the paper, so you can change it up until you find the layout that you like best. This is a huge help emotionally, understanding prior to moving day what they can take 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 Houston

Moving day for your parents is going to be tough, even if you are very organized, and however much they are glad to move out of the house and not have the yard anymore. Here's a brief agenda to get ready for the big day, giving you about eight weeks to get ready.

Two Months Out

Select a professional moving company. Think about your budget to figure out if you would like a full-service move, a la carte (select only certain services the movers do) or rent a truck and do it yourself.

Decide if you'll need any storage, and where you want it to be. The majority of moving companies furnish storage options, which can be very helpful. It’s not uncommon for people to want to have a few extra alternatives before they make the ultimate decision. Also, when college-age kids are in the mix, some families prefer to hold on to old furniture and stuff that will be of use in first apartments.

Start deciding what they will move, which things you and your siblings will divide up, and which items to donate. However you prefer to divide up, you will need to indicate what goes to whom. Different colored small sticky notes are a good way to sort things, so that the correct belongings wind up going to the right residences.

Discuss with your parents on what to give to charity--although the thought of a garage sale is inviting, if cash flow is not a concern, you will likely do better donating most items and taking the write-off. If they have valuable items, ask a local antiques dealer to appraise them prior to donating. Some non-profits, like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, can even send a truck to collect your donations. Call a few days or so out to organize pick up.

One Month Out

Start clearing out cabinets, closets, the basement, garage, etc. If you've got more stuff than motivation, appoint a company to come clean out once you have moved everything that you want out of the residence. This is well worth the money, especially if you're out of town and your parents are having a tough time with the move. You can also set up to have the moving company take the household goods and personal belongings before the balance of the house is cleared out, sparing your mom and dad from seeing their house looking empty and sad.

If you're doing your own packing, get decent-quality moving supplies. The moving company will carry the best quality at the lowest prices and can give packing tips. Again, take out the sticky notes for the boxes or be organized with keeping everything in order. If all of the siblings are local, it's ideal to bring over some big tubs and be able to leave later with old yearbooks and swim team trophies all packed up in your vehicle. That is many times not the case, so as you box things up, label them correctly and place them in the recipient's bedroom or a designated corner of the living room.

One Week Out

Confirm your dates with the moving company, both for the move to the new home and moving to storage. If you are not positive the amount of storage you will require, they can help you in calculating, you will probably truly need twice the space you think.

Moving Day

Be sure to have a solid plan for moving day. Have one sibling, grandchild or friend take your parents out for breakfast, and then on to their new house. You or a sibling stay behind to handle the movers. Ease as much anxiety as you can that morning, so when the moving van arrives your parents aren't tired and anxious. Help them unpack and get settled, and do not be shocked if they are already invited to dinner—they are the new kids on the block and in high demand.

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