Parents Downsizing? A Guide to A Smooth Transition

by Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group

Moving - Parents MovingWhen it is time for your parents to downsize in Austin, it's tough on the whole family. Baby boomers are the last generation of Americans that didn’t move around much—so dealing with a move from a home that keeps years of memories is tough for the whole family. But, there are some tips for the best way to navigate the transition, so take heart and keep reading.

Plan Ahead

In an ideal world, you've been kept updated on your parents’ health care and finances for several years before they scale down or move to a senior living community. If your world is not ideal and you do not have a clue, get information on these two specific items as soon as possible, and keep up to date going forward. It would be very unfortunate to have a health or financial situation and be completely unaware as to their position. Asking your parents what their financial picture looks like is hard, but being surprised when you discover your dad's “best friend” is that Nigerian prince living in the Tokyo airport and has taken all your parents’ money is more difficult.

Have the talks when there is no urgency, and your mother does not feel like you’re pressuring her to move from her house. The more you and your siblings can glean over the dinner table, the better off you'll all be when you must make decisions hurriedly. Convene with their attorneys and doctors to ensure that you can assist in managing affairs if needed and that you can access medical and health care reports if there's an emergency. These two things are incredibly important if you are more than one or two hours away, as you might need to handle things remotely. HIPAA states that even if your mom's doctor was your second-grade t-ball buddy, without the right permissions in writing, they cannot tell you anything.

What to Take?

For many families, selecting one sibling to be the main person for legal questions is nothing compared to working out who is going to decide what belongings move to the new house, what will be donated, and which sibling gets the family china. Don't let this start a family rift, your parents are moving and will most likely keep the china and silver. In any case, most downsizes come with a significant loss of space—going from a three or four-bedroom house to one or two bedrooms and one living space--so there is lots of things to go around.

Once your clan has come to the conclusion that downsizing is best for your parents, if they will be heading to a senior community, there is usually a waiting period of several months before their unit is ready for them. Most communities refurbish the units prior to when a new resident comes in. If the prior resident had lived there for several years, they might do a full update—so you'll normally get things like new kitchen counters and appliances, Wi-Fi, and updated bathroom fixtures along with fresh paint and flooring. These weeks offer your parents time to adjust to the plan of moving, especially if they are moving to a new area.

Ask for a print-out of the floor plan of their new abode or apartment. Some retirement communities will give you not only a floor plan, but some peel-off furniture stickers so you can actually place the furniture and accessories. The stickers can be moved on the paper, so you can play decorator until you find the layout that you like best. This is a enormous help emotionally, realizing prior to moving day what they can move with them and how it will take up the space. Being around themselves with familiar things and mementos can take some of the sting out of leaving home.

Downsizing - MovingLeading up to Moving Day in Austin

Moving day for your parents will probably be tough, even if you have planned everything to the last detail, and however much they are ready to move out of the house and not have to deal with the yard anymore. Here's a brief agenda leading up to the big day, giving you about eight weeks to get gear up.

Two Months Out

Select a professional moving company. Look at your budget to decide if you would like a full-service move, a la carte (select only certain services the movers do) or rent a moving truck and do it yourself.

Figure out if you will need some storage, and where you want it to be. Most moving companies have storage options, which can be very helpful. It’s not uncommon for people to wish to have a few more options before they make the final . Also, when college-age kids are around, some families prefer to hang on to old furniture and other things that will come in handy in first apartments.

Commence determining what you parents can move, which items you and your siblings want, and which items to give to charity. However you opt to divvy up, you will need to indicate what goes to whom. Assorted colored small sticky notes are a great way to keep track, so that the correct items wind up going to the right destinations.

Be flexible with your parents on what to donate--although the thought of a moving sale is inviting, if cash flow is not an issue, you'll likely do better donating most items and taking the write-off. If they have valuable belongings, ask a local antiques dealer to appraise them before you donate. Some charities, like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, can even direct a truck to collect your donated things. Call a week or so out to schedule pick up.

One Month Out

Start cleaning out cabinets, closets, the basement, garage, etc. If you've got more belongings than energy, hire a company to come clean out once you have moved everything that you want out of the residence. This is well worth the money, especially if you live out of town and your parents are having a hard time with the move. You can also arrange to have the moving company move the household goods and personal possessions before the remainder of the residence is cleared out, sparing your mom and dad from seeing their home looking empty and sad.

If you are doing your own packing, buy acceptable-quality packing supplies. The moving company will offer the best quality at the lowest cost and can offer packing guidance. Again, bring out the sticky notes for the boxes or be organized with keeping them in order. If everyone is closeby, it is easy to bring over some big boxes and pull out of the driveway an hour later with old prom dresses and t-ball trophies all packed up in the car. That's usually not the case, so as you box things up, label them accordingly and place them in the recipient's bedroom or a labeled area of the living room.

One Week Out

Double-check your dates with the moving company, both for the move to the new home and taking things to storage. If you are not sure the space of storage you will require, they can assist you in figuring it out, you will probably truly need double the space you think.

Moving Day

Be sure to have a solid plan for moving day. Have one sibling, grandchild or friend take your parents out for brunch, and then on to their new home. You or a sibling stay behind to manage the movers. Mitigate as much anxiety as you can that morning, so when the truck gets to their place your parents aren't tired and anxious. Help them get unpacked and settled, and do not be shocked if they are already invited to dinner—they are the new kids on the block and in high demand.

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