By Ray Fabik, CEO of Caring Transitions
Moving is largely considered one of the most stressful things a person can do. It is frequently listed along with divorce and the loss of a loved one as the toughest life events. While moving can always be a challenge, it’s an even bigger struggle for those who are moving out of homes where they have lived for 50 or even 60 years.
These homes are filled with decades of clothes, tools, collectibles, dishes, and memories. For seniors, just the thought of having to pack it all up to downsize can seem like a nightmare. It’s hard to know where to start and can be emotionally and physically draining.
But there are some steps you can take to make this process a little easier.
Sort First, Pack Later
The biggest hurdle to this kind of move is taking that first step. It can be very hard to look at the house and know where to begin. The best way to start is with Post-It notes. Use a different color to designate items you plan to donate, sell, or keep.
Take a few days to go around the house and place one of the three color-coded notes on each item. Once this process is complete, you will have a visual roadmap for how to tackle this enormous project. It becomes much easier to view the move as achievable.
The next step is collecting all the items you plan to give away. The items can be given to family and friends or donated to a local non-profit. Getting these things out of the house will create the space you need to continue with the next steps.
Set Deadlines and stick to them
Setting small deadlines is one of the most helpful things a family can do when planning this kind of move. These deadlines help to move the project forward while creating a sense of accomplishment along the way. As deadlines are met, the move will feel more concrete and achievable.
The key to setting deadlines is to be as specific as possible. Find a date when you plan to have all donated items out of the home. Set another date for removing items you pan to sell. Deadlines can also be used for acquiring the needed moving supplies like boxes, tape, bubble wrap and old newspapers to wrap valuable items.
Additionally, deadlines can be used as a way to structure the day-to-day. Seniors are accustomed to routines and moving shouldn’t be any different. Set a time when you plan to be completely done for the day and be sure to stick to that schedule. This will allow every member of the family to recharge for the next day of sorting and packing.
Work to Limit Emotion
The physical stress brought on by a move is compounded by the emotional stress. This is especially the case as seniors move out of homes where they raised their children and watched grandchildren play in the yard. One of the hardest parts of choosing to downsize and move away, is coming to terms with leaving a place that has been a loving home for decades.
There are a few steps you can take to help limit the emotion on a daily basis. The first is to save photo albums and family portraits for the end of the move. Nothing can derail a schedule more than flipping through an old photo album. This activity can often lead to tears and a reluctance to continue with the process of leaving the home where all of these memories were made. Saving this for the end of the move helps reduce the amount of time that could be lost.
Another step you can take is to continuously mention the benefits of moving to the new home. Talk about how you and your loved ones will no longer have to do yard work. Discuss how much easier the smaller space will be to keep clean and organized. These positive reminders can go a long way to keeping the morale and excitement high. Seniors decide to make these kinds of moves for very specific reasons, and it’s important to consistently be mindful of those reasons.
Moving is never easy, but these suggestions can help simplify the process.