Helping a Senior parent, or parents, downsize and move on to their next home can be stressful but it can also be a joy. The joy comes from spending the time with them to find out about what they have and why, where it came from and who they were with when it was acquired. There are more memories and stories in that old vase on the book shelf then you might realize.
I was recently visiting my in-laws and sat with my 80+ year-old mother-in-law for a while. She is filled with stories but the thing that got her really going at that moment was her address book. By the end of the conversation neither of us could remember why she pulled it out but we were both glad she did.
You see, every page had a story on it. There were friends from her childhood and from her first neighborhood after she married. There were family members, dead and alive written in and some scratched out and rewritten several times because they moved. She had doctors and housekeepers, car repair specialists and her hairdresser in that book. There were friends from churches she attended in both her home up north and the one in Florida.
And she told me all about these people and some events that they shared. I learned how nice most were, how comical some could be, and generous they all were. I also learned about their children, who was in college and who was married.
My mother-in-law had a wonderful time conjuring up the memories to tell me and it brought her alive and happy. She normally is quite happy, but it was great to see her even more elevated. She has had a great life so far and I’m glad to have been in that room with her at the moment she pulled out her address book.
There are things you shouldn’t get rid of … memories. And, I believe the address book is the story book of our memories. When going through your senior parent’s things, get a joyful mindset, do it with them, ask questions and make notes. We all have cellphones these days so why not take a photograph of some items with your parents holding them for your memories? Make some notes using your voice recorder or, better yet, record them telling you about special items. If you have a writer, like the Samsung Note phones (my phone of choice and so handy), write out your notes. When the entire process of going through their items to downsize and move on it complete, you have great photographs that you can us to make a photo book. Companies like Snapfish, MyPublisher, your local big-box drug store, and several apps on your phone can help you make a great memory book. Just be sure to add photos of your notes, too, so you have the whole story. Retain an SD card with the photos and downloads from the voice recorder, in case you need to make more copies at some point in the future. Then you have a great collection to pass on to your kids; a family history.
SENIORS VS. MILLENNIALS
Seniors are more likely to want to keep things than Millennials. In other words, Baby Boomers helping aging parents downsize and move, need to understand that what your parents have is not likely to be passed down. However, the memories would be great to hold, and can be stored digitally, too. The old sofa, china set, art display will most likely not be embraced by the Senior parent’s family members so help your aging relatives understand that they don’t need to save it all. Downsizing and getting rid of things can be good for the parent and a relief for the children.
I recently explained this to my 80+ year-old mom. She still has her parent’s old couch and several other items displayed in her house. She was once a contestant on The Price is Right, in the 1950s, and still has her furniture and accessories that she won. She’s hoping to pass them on to me and my brothers. She also has 3 large, plastic tubs in an extra bedroom upstairs with smaller items she wants each of us to have. Do we want them? Only time will tell.
While you are working through the “memories” items, decide what to get rid of and how. The “HOW” includes, appraising and selling, holding an estate sale, giving some things now to family members. Then, with the “what’s left” pile of items, these either go to your parents new home and stay with them, get donated or consigned, or thrown away. If you aren’t doing any of the heavy lifting or appraising/consigning immediately, make sure you schedule a time to have this done, so the process doesn’t get drawn out. There is also the chance that if you wait too long, you’ll run out of time before the big moving day and get stuck moving unnecessary things or having them go to storage … or your garage. Tackle this project head on with a sense of urgency, but enjoy your time with your parents as you work along side each other.
Need some help? I am a Seniors Real Estate Specialist and member of the Seniors Real Estate Specialists Council and can provide assistance as you go through this process with your aging parents. There are great resources for you on the SRES Council webpage and you can find local assistance if you or your parents live outside of the Oxford Mississippi area, where I am located.
If I can offer one piece of unsolicited advise to you as you help your parents: help them with joy in your heart.
Eileen Saunders, SRES REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford MS 38655 662-404-0816 / 662-234-5344 Equal Housing