Parents Downsizing? A Guide to A Smooth Transition

by Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group

Moving - Parents MovingIf it’s time for your parents to downsize in Atlanta, it's tough on the total family. Baby boomers are the last generation of Americans that that weren’t transient in nature—so undertaking a move from a home that keeps years of memories is tough for the whole family. But, there are some tips for a smooth transition, so take a deep breath and read on.

Plan Ahead

In an ideal 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 flawless and you do not know much about your parents’ matters, get informed on these two specific topics quickly, and keep up to date moving forward. You definitely don’t want to have a health or financial situation and be totally unaware as to their situation. Questioning your parents about their finances is difficult, but being surprised when you find out your dad's “long-lost cousin” is that Nigerian prince stuck in the Tokyo airport and has gotten all your parents’ money is tougher.

Have the talks when there's no urgency, and your mom doesn't feel like you are pushing her to sell her house. The more you and your siblings find out over lunch, the better off you will all be when you must make rulings expeditiously. Meet with their attorneys and doctors to be sure that you can aid in managing affairs if you need to and that you can get medical and health care information if there's an emergency. These two items are vitally important if you live more than one or two hours away, as you may need to take care of things remotely. HIPAA states that even if your mom's doctor was your fourth-grade t-ball buddy, without that paper trail, they can't provide you any information.

What to Take?

For a lot of families, picking one sibling to be the point person for legal questions is a small concern compared to determining who will discern what moves to the new house, what will be donated, and which sibling gets the family silver. Don't let this create a family argument, your parents are moving and are likely going to hand onto the china and silver. In any event, most downsizes come with a notable loss of space—going from a three or four-bedroom house to one or two bedrooms and one living space--so there's lots of items to go around.

After your clan has determined that downsizing is the way to go for your parents, if they will be heading to a senior community, there is usually a waiting period of a few months before they actually make the move. Most communities refurbish the units before a new resident comes in. If the prior resident had been there for many years, they might do a whole update—so you'll normally get items like new kitchen counters and appliances, Wi-Fi, and updated bathroom fixtures along with fresh paint and flooring. The time offers your parents time to acclimate to the idea of moving, especially if they are going to a new area.

Get a print-out of the floor plan of their new house or apartment. Some retirement communities will give you not only a floor plan, but a sheet of adhesive peel-off furniture stickers so you can actually place the furniture and accessories. The pieces can be moved all about the floor plan, so you can change it up until you find the layout that you like best. This is a enormous help emotionally, understanding before you move any furniture what they can take with them and how it will take up the space. Being around themselves with familiar furniture and mementos can take a little of the sting out of leaving home.

Downsizing - MovingLeading up to Moving Day in Atlanta

Moving day for your parents is going to be tough, even if you are very organized, and if they're ready to vacate the house and not have to deal with the yard anymore. Here's a timeline to get ready for the big day, giving you a couple of months to get ready.

Two Months Out

Select a professional moving company. Work with your budget to figure out if you would like a full-service move, a la carte (pick and choose what services the movers do) or rent a moving van and do it yourself.

Decide if you'll require some storage, and where it should be located. Most moving companies furnish storage options, which can be very convenient. Some people aren't sure what will really work in the new space and wish to have a few extra options before they make the ultimate conclusion. Also, when college-age kids are around, some families elect to store old couches and other items that could be used in first apartments.

Commence determining what you parents 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 indicate what goes to whom. Assorted colored small sticky notes are a great way to sort things, so that the correct items wind up arriving at the correct residences.

Discuss with your parents on what to give to charity--although the thought of a garage sale is tempting, if money is not a concern, you'll most likely do better donating most stuff and taking the write-off. If they have valuable belongings, 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 send a truck to collect your donations. Call a few days or so out to arrange pick up.

One Month Out

Start clearing out cabinets, closets, the basement, garage, etc. If you have more house than ambition, appoint a company to come clean out once you've gotten everything that you want out of the house. This is positively worth the money, especially if you're out of town and your parents are having a tough time with the move. You can also plan to have the moving company load up the household goods and personal possessions before the remainder of the residence is cleared out, sparing your mom and dad from viewing their home looking empty and lonely.

If you are performing your own packing, buy decent-quality moving supplies. The moving company will offer the best quality at the lowest cost and can give packing guidance. Again, bring out the sticky notes for the boxes or have a system for keeping things in order. If all of the siblings are local, it's ideal to bring over some big tubs and leave a couple hours later with old yearbooks and diving trophies all packed up in your vehicle. That is many times not the case, so as you pack boxes, label them correctly and set them in the recipient's bedroom or a designated corner of the living room.

One Week Out

Verify your dates with the moving company, both for the move to the new house and taking things to storage. If you're not sure the space of storage you'll require, they can help you in calculating, you will most likely actually need double the space you think.

Moving Day

Plan a two-prong strategy for this day. Have one sibling, grandchild or friend accompany your parents out for brunch, and then on to the new abode. You or a sibling stay behind to manage the movers. Mitigate as much stress as you can that morning, so when the moving truck pulls up your parents are not tired and anxious. Help them get unpacked and settled, and don't be surprised if they're invited to dinner—they're the new kids on the block and in high demand.

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