As we sat together in the attractively furnished living room of their home in a suburban 55-plus neighborhood, the tone of our conversation suddenly changed. The pleasant and upbeat banter was replaced with the classic symptoms of moving reluctance — uncertainty, anxiety and sadness came to the forefront. And then came the true confession — “I don’t know how we can possibly move from here. What will we do with all our stuff?”
This question is spoken by many who are contemplating a move from their large suburban or city residence in favor of a smaller one that is more appropriate for aging individuals. Not knowing what to do with the decades of accumulated and inherited treasures often delays or deters people from placing the For Sale sign on their property.
This was certainly true of Sam and Paula, a couple in their late-70s who vacillated about the practicality of moving especially since it would mean making many painful decisions about their cherished things — souvenirs from their vacation destinations, numerous collections, a library that served them in their professional lives and handmade gifts from the children and grandchildren. The thought of having to sort through these treasures and select only those that were the most special brought them to tears. Sam volunteered that he’d rather remain in his current house than face the upsetting chore of downsizing.
Clearly a “stuff strategy” was needed — a process that would help Sam and Paula categorize their things based on level of importance.
They started by identifying the contents that were truly the most important ones to them: the furnishings, artwork, collections, clothing and household items that would fit into their new two-bedroom apartment. Careful measuring and the creation of a floor plan allowed them to see which pieces of furniture would safely, functionally and attractively fit. Once the floor plan was finalized, Sam and Paula could then determine how much room was left for their books, decorative items and artwork. With the footprint established, they turned their attention to filling the closets and cabinets with the most needed and important of contents. Many “if then” decisions were made, then reversed and agreed upon again. And yet, 75 percent of their contents remained.
Thankfully for Sam and Paula, their two sons and grandchildren expressed an interest in the remaining furniture — a kitchen table, a dining room set, a living room sofa, spare bedroom furniture and superfluous bookcases. Had the family not been interested, then the plan was to work with an estate liquidator or consign those items to an auction house or consignment shop.
The next step was to sort and pack the leftover household items, books, garden equipment and clothing and offer them for donation. Some of these items were taken by the car load to a local thrift store. Other larger items and unwanted pieces of furniture were offered to a thrift store that picked the contents up, which made it very convenient for Sam and Paula. Sam found comfort in donating much of his professional library to a resource that will circulate his books among those who will benefit from them.
Finally, anything remaining was thrown away. Papers were carefully sorted and professionally shredded. Household hazardous waste was collected and properly discarded. The local municipality removed the rest.
Now that Sam and Paula’s treasures had found new homes, they felt liberated. Anxiety gave way to relief. Contentment replaced the uncertainty and sadness they had experienced. They could finally settle into their new home and enjoy all that it could offer them.
Marlene Stocks is the owner of Senior Transition Services, a senior move management company based in Huntingdon Valley. As a certified senior move manager, Stocks provides her clients and their families “peace of mind” by managing every detail of the senior’s move to retirement communities. Senior Transition Services proudly serves the five-county area and South Jersey. Senior-Transition-Services.com; 215.947.5490.