Tips for helping older parents move

Overwhelmed with the thought of moving after many years in the family home?

Last year, I wrote a magazine column for Mother’s Day, about a dynamic mother-daughter duo from Dartmouth, Massachusetts; about getting help for a mother who was moving out of her home of many years. While we maintain the strictest confidence about our clients, this mother and daughter wanted us to tell their story so that we could help others.

In September 2015, I was contacted by Claudette to help her mother, Flora, move from her large family home of 30 years to a two-bedroom condo. Flora lived at home with her husband, George, who was suffering from medical complications that prevented him from helping Flora with the move. (George sadly passed away in March 2016). Flora and George, married for 65 years, had been talking about downsizing for 10 years but life had intervened, as it so often does, with illnesses and various family challenges. In the fall of 2015, Flora knew she had reached the critical point of needing to sell their house and downsize. Sadly, she was now facing the move without the emotional and physical support of her life partner.

Flora, at 86, was vibrant and sharp – but with less energy than in previous years. Trying to organize, pack and move – all while caring for her ailing husband — was more than she could manage on her own. While her oldest daughter, Claudette, enthusiastically tried to help her parents organize for the move, she faced the time constraints of a demanding professional career. Claudette decided it was time to seek our professional help.

At Simplified Lives, we are often contacted by adult children who are working full-time jobs and taking care of their own children and pets while trying to maintain their own homes. It is difficult to squeeze into a busy life the enormous task of downsizing, packing and moving one’s parents!

Claudette said her best advice for other adult children facing this situation is to strive to strike a balance. Parents will have less room in a new living arrangement, but they may find it very difficult emotionally to let go of extra clothes, dish sets, pictures and decorations. Flora offered two key words: “Have patience.” Even now, as they are preparing to make a permanent move to Florida, she is working to be patient with Flora when they talk about something that was not moved from her old home, as Flora still adjusts to smaller closet space.

Flora offered this advice to anyone her age thinking about downsizing and moving:

  1. Do not wait too long. Downsizing is difficult and emotionally draining, but it does not get easier with time.
  2. When things pile up in closets, basements and garages, get professional help with downsizing.

Over two months, while Claudette went to work, the team from Simplified Lives spent many mornings helping Flora sort, organize and pack. Flora said we were “firm but compassionate” in our assessment of what would fit in her new condo.

In spring 2017, Simplified Lives was fortunate to be asked to work at the “new condo” in Dartmouth, to help pack for Claudette and Flora, as they plan a move to Florida, where their family will permanently reside.

If you are looking for help with older parents moving, we know where to begin; Simplified Lives offers a no cost, no obligation consultation; just click on our website or give us a call. And for all of those amazing adult children out there who are already trying to help their parents, or who would like to help but face “completely booked” schedules, give us a call at Simplified Lives. This work is our profession. We are experts in the art of moving. We are knowledgeable, helpful — and, yes, patient!

By Valerie Achorn

Valerie Achorn, M.P.A., President of Simplified Lives has many years of experience managing moves for clients around the country. Holding a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (M.P.A.) from Harvard University, Valerie brings a broad management background and savvy networking skills to Simplified Lives.