My parents have always liked to have all of their affairs in order, and they keep us informed if they feel there is something we need to know about arrangements they have made “in case something happens”. They have even had their stone memorial bench placed in the cemetery where their remains will reside after they are cremated. The bench already has their names engraved on it, along with their respective birth dates. When our family goes to this particular cemetery to visit the graves of other relatives who are buried there, we occasionally take the time to clean the bench or sit on the bench and enjoy the view. When it came time to do some downsizing, my parents were eager to be organized and efficient.
Planning Ahead Leads to Downsizing
My parents’ prime purpose in planning ahead like this is to avoid causing stress and bother for the loved ones they leave behind. We appreciate their foresight, and are grateful for their consideration. This is why it was not surprising when they announced to the rest of the family that they intended to sell their house and move to a retirement community.
Needing to Move On
I had never lived in the house they intended to sell, since they purchased it after I was grown and married, but the house still held cherished memories of events celebrated and holidays observed. I realized that they would no longer be hosting large gatherings. There would be no need to decide who would get to sleep in the Africa Room or the Garden Room. No more backyard barbeques would take place.
I was nostalgic, but realistic about the need for them to take this step. My dad’s mobility was questionable, and there wasn’t a family member located close enough to help out with yard and home maintenance on a regular basis. The house needed to be sold, but then where would they go?
Where to Go Next When Downsizing
After my parents investigated local facilities and narrowed their choices down to their favorite, they invited my husband and me to visit the facility with them. We were happy to do this. That is first on my list of the things a supportive family member should do when parents are downsizing and moving, which is:
Tour the New Location With Them
We had a pleasant facility visit, took a tour, ate a meal, asked questions of the guide who had been assigned to us, and happened to meet many of my parents’ acquaintances who already lived in this location. It seemed like an ideal choice, with a variety of residential options and increased levels of care as needed by its residents. Once my parents stated their intent to become residents, they actually had to pass a test of cognitive abilities in order to be accepted. They both passed, to their relief, and chose the apartment they would like to live in. It was in a new building and not ready yet, so my parents had time to get their house on the market and reduce their possessions. This leads me to the second thing a supportive family member must do and that is this:
Be Prepared to Say “No”
Of course, before selling or giving away items, my parents kindly asked my sister and me if we would like various items. We did have a couple of sessions in which we took turns at choosing items my parents had set aside, but there were some items we just knew we would never use.
I think this was difficult for my parents, because they had held on to some of these things for so long, and in some cases the items had been wedding gifts, and had sentimental value. My parents were graciously accepting of our decisions, though. Since there were quite a few items neither my sister nor I wanted, that leads me to the third thing a supportive family member should do to help ease the transition and that is:
Help With Downsizing Events
In the case of my parents, the big downsizing event was a garage sale. Since they had so many items, we ended up just sorting things onto different tables. We gave each table a value, such as a $1 table and a $5 table. We priced large items individually. Most of the smaller items were just sorted onto tables, cleaned and ready to be sold.
I set aside two days during the summer to help with this. I even spent the night in my parents’ house. It was the last night I spent there, and there was no furniture in the room. I brought my sleeping bag and some books to read. For my reading light, I used a small lamp we had rescued from one of the sale tables. That night has become a treasured memory.
Garage Sale Stories
We also have some fun memories from the garage sale, which drew a large crowd. The customers included kind neighbors and friends who had read about the sale on social media or in the newspaper. One lady even traveled over a mile in her motorized wheelchair to attend the sale. She made quite a few purchases, which my dad and I delivered to her home later on. It was exhausting, but well worth the effort. After the sale, the unsold items were donated to a local charity.
New Can Be Good
Even with all of the downsizing, my parents still had a difficult time making all of their remaining items fit into their new dwelling. However, now they are settled and happy. I took a pie (not homemade, sorry) over the other day. We were sitting out on their terrace, enjoying the pleasant morning. I suddenly realized that my parents had made their apartment an inviting, restful destination. Their former home had been the same way.
My parents are surrounded by wonderful neighbors, just as they were in their old neighborhood. They are so glad they made the transition, even though it was a lot of work at the time. Recently, my dad remarked to me, “It’s a lot like living in a dorm.” Can you picture it? (Probably without the indoor slip n’ slide that was so popular in my eldest son’s dorm a few years ago.) I’m so pleased for them, and I’m glad I was able to support them in their transition.
How About You?
How about you? Do you have your own transition story? Do you have examples of things that worked well to make this type of transition go smoothly? I’d enjoy reading about it. Change can truly be a good thing. If you like what you’ve read today, please consider subscribing. Thanks for visiting, and good luck with any downsizing you may need to do in the future.