Robyn Tellefsen, Senior Aging Reporter at Our Parents®
Choosing a senior living community is a big decision—but when families put all their energy into that one choice, they may fail to consider the mechanics of moving itself. And it’s clear that when it comes to managing a lifetime of accumulated possessions, preparing for a senior living move is no small feat.
“Too often, families focus on where older adults will be moving and not enough on how they will move—what they will take with them and what they plan to do with all that is left behind,” affirms Chris Seman, president of Caring Transitions, a professional solution for senior relocation, rightsizing, estate sale, and online auction services.
Here, Seman outlines estate sale and liquidation options, as well as rightsizing principles to help older adults make a successful transition to senior living.
Downsizing vs. Rightsizing
First, it helps to understand the terms. In recent years, the concept of “rightsizing” has gained prominence, offering a shift from the more traditional notion of “downsizing.” As Seman explains, rightsizing is about managing your possessions and living space based on behavior modifications. The goal is to set up your place and your possessions to facilitate a move toward the next stage of your life.
In essence, rightsizing represents a shift in focus from the negative — “getting rid of things I no longer have space for” to the positive — “embracing what’s coming next and setting up my space to enhance that.”
“Rightsizing helps individuals focus on what is necessary and important to their daily care, comfort, and personal identity,” explains Seman. “Less importance is placed on volume and more importance is placed on functionality, use, and personal meaning.”
Making a Space Plan
To prepare for a move, Seman recommends seniors and their families start with a space plan. In fact, he believes a space plan is such a critical component of a successful senior living transition that he warns against moving without one.
“Those who choose to move without a plan are often distraught when they realize their new apartment is cramped and uncomfortable due to too much furniture or poorly planned storage,” he says.
That’s where rightsizing comes in. Once you determine and define the new space, it’s important to reduce or modify your possessions for reasons of space, safety, preference, and comfort. Then, you must decide what to do with the items you’ve chosen to part with.
“Items that hold sentimental value are best given as legacy gifts, and those that hold material value are best awarded as inheritances or liquidated through an estate sale or online auction,” says Seman.
Considering an Estate Sale
Keep in mind that an estate sale is not the right solution for everyone— you need to make sure you have enough items of value to offset the expense of labor, says Seman.
If you decide that an estate sale makes sense for your family, he advises you only work with a company that can produce certificates of insurance, proof of bonding or worker’s compensation, industry certification, and a strong list of client testimonials.
“A truly professional estate sale company will not only help you decide what to sell or what has value, but they will also provide direction and advice for working with siblings and heirs,” says Seman. “They can offer advice on how or when to determine ‘who gets what’ before sale items are advertised.”
Asking for Help
Even though it’s meant to be a positive process, Seman recognizes that decluttering and rightsizing can be the most difficult part of a senior living move: “Many people find it daunting to sort through a lifetime of possessions in order to narrow down the selection of items they will move to a new home.”
If your family is finding the moving process overly stressful, consider hiring a professional to pave the way. “With the use of space planning technology, Caring Transitions helps clients avoid moving items that don’t fit or aren’t really useful,” says Seman. “We take time to understand what each client finds meaningful and important among their possessions.”