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Senior Transitions: How To Downsize

The Boy and Girl Scouts got it right—be prepared!

By Adrian Walter-Ginzburg

Moving from one living arrangement to another is one of the hardest changes to deal with both emotionally and financially. Sometimes families, in particular senior citizens, need to make necessary transitions. Most commonly there comes a time when aging seniors must move to more appropriate housing such as assisted living or a nursing home to accommodate disabilities. There may also come a time when you may not be moving, but need to de-clutter to increase home safety. These senior transitions involve many steps, but if planned in advance and done properly, can leave both the seniors and their families in a better situation than before, including improved home safety.

There are many senior transition companies like Caring Transitions that assist seniors and their families who are in the process of downsizing, transitioning or simply creating a safe home environment.  The most important thing is to take it step-by-step, so that the process is a smooth flow rather than emergency catch-up when other options have disappeared.

Getting prepared. When senior moving is done with lots of time for planning and organizing, the individual will find him or herself in a more suitable, de-cluttered, and safe home environment at the end of the process. Having a plan in place may prevent impulsive decisions and financial losses that can result when a move is undertaken too quickly. With a moving plan written “just in case,” no time will be lost in trying to figure out what to do, and there will be no financial or emotional surprises. Even in the face of an emergency, the transition can be carried out in an orderly way to maximize the value of the household goods in an estate sale that may even result in a profit for the family.

Without pre-planning or giving thought to disposal of precious items, items can end up as trash, sold at rock-bottom prices or, in the worst case, the family will be forced to pay for disposal of items that could actually have been sold. While planning, consider if appraisals are needed as part of the process and if there are any family members who can actively participate.

Making the move and handling the heirlooms. Many senior transitions are the result of an unexpected emergency such as a stroke, a fracture, a divorce or even the uncertain economy. A plan will help families keep precious heirlooms that mean so much and are full of a lifetime of memories, but at the same time, the individual will no longer be burdened by meaningless “stuff” that accumulates over the years. When downsizing or making a transition, it is important to figure out what to do with items that simply take up space or have no value. Questions to answer include: Do you need to send personal items to family and friends in distant cities? Do you know how to operate online auctions? Do you want to maximize your return by offering items for sale locally, nationally and through specialty venues?

What you can do. The most important thing is to be prepared, whether you are transitioning yourself or transitioning a loved one. This means that you should know what you want to give to loved ones, what you want to take to a new place, what should be donated to a favorite charity or what should be sold. If this process is undertaken in an orderly way, the emotional and financial value of your household goods will be maximized, and your living situation will be improved.