Today's guest blog is the second of two on the topic of helping an older parent downsize and relocate. The author, Jennie Alwood, is the owner of Here2Home, a senior move management company in the Triangle area.
In Part 1 we looked at getting our minds around the act of downsizing (or ‘rightsizing’) In Part 2 I’ll suggest a logical order for culling and purging items no longer needed.
As a Senior Move Manager (SMM) , I always try to always begin with what the clients (your parents) want to keep. I often begin by making a floor plan of the new space and “creating home.” This gives everyone something to work toward while in the midst of the exhaustion of constantly asking “keep it or get rid of it.” It can also give people a sense of safety. Think about it. You are embarking on the process of dismantling their home of 30, 40, 50 years! Not knowing what their new home will look like, whether they will be able to keep the cherished armoire or china hutch can be a stressful process. So, I try to start with knowledge. By creating a floor planning process I am attempting to create a plan so that they will feel more secure in the knowledge of what will go to the new home with them.
Once parents know what they will be keeping in their new home, the next tier is to look to family and friends and ask what they might want from the old home. I have found that my clients are thrilled when grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. want to take sentimental family furniture or pictures or dishes. One client knew she had 6 months before her new apartment would be ready. So she set out all of the glassware, vases, china, etc. on her dining room table that she wasn’t taking with her. As family and friends visited her over the next 6 moths she said. “Take something you like off the dining room table.” They did and she was so happy to know her things went to people who would care for them and would remember her!
The next step, once friends and family have decided what they want, is to look at what you might be able to sell. The news here is unfortunately not so good. Unless your parents truly have valuable collections, the market for china, used furniture, and clothing offers little return for the amount of work you do to find the sales resources. Tag sales are my suggested first avenue. If you hire an estate sales company they will take 30-50% of the sale and they want to be able to sell at least $6,000 worth of stuff. Other avenues are auction houses, consignment stores, and buyout services. A good resource is www.estatesales.net.
People often ask me what their used furniture is worth. I suggest thinking like an accountant. Depreciate. If your parents bought their dining room furniture in 1955 for $500 think about all the dinners you have had around that table . . . Thanksgiving, birthdays, holidays. An accountant would depreciate that furniture over 10 years til it is worth $0 on the accounting sheet. So, why now do the same with the furniture we have used over and over again? Did you get your $500 worth out of it? Probably yes. Then you can sell it for very little or donate it to someone who will start their own traditions around that table and feel fulfilled.
After you have sold the things you can sell, step 4 is to donate. The smaller, local charities tend to take a wider variety of items - some take clean non-stained mattresses and unused medical supplies, cleaning supplies and toiletries that so many of us have thanks to availability of warehouse shopping. And these charity supports local needs as opposed to the larger ‘corporate’ charities where the donated goods support national needs. There are many local donation sites - Goodwill is one.
If you can’t donate it, then recycle it. My absolute favorite website is www.earth911.com. Input your zip code and what you want to get rid of on their site and they will tell you the closest place to recycle those items. Electronics, paper, fingernail polish . . .you name it, they know where you can recycle it! Most municipalities have drop off sites for recycling paper, cardboard, electronics, hazardous waste (mostly paint, gardening & automotive products in the garage)
And of course, if you cannot recycle it then it goes into the trash. Which is literally our last resort.
Jennie Alwood is president of Here to Home, Inc. and has implemented close to 500 senior moves since she began her business in 2008. She is a SMMc (Senior Move Manager, certified) and a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM).