Advice for seniors who are downsizing: don’t get paralyzed by your stuff
By Nissa LaPoint
The Bussells had moved 11 times during their marriage and they wanted their last move in January to be seamless.
“We’re capable of making our own decisions, but I thought this time we should take some of the worry away,” said Thomas Bussell, 81, of he and his wife, Maureen. “It’s just hard trying to manage packers that come in and tell them what to pack and what not to.”
The couple decided to enlist the services of moving experts who advised them on downsizing their possessions, organizing and packing and directed moving day from start to finish.
After moving day, Bussell said, “When we came in to the apartment, everything was in place. The pictures were on the wall, the beds were made, our TV was working and our computer was set up. We were completely satisfied.”
They hired Jeanine Plumhoff, 63, and her partner Betty White, 61, who offer moving services through the Lakewood-based Smooth Transitions Denver LLC.
For 15 years the women have guided senior clients—who make up some 60 percent of their business—to those with disabilities or estate officers on how to transition from a home to a smaller space or manage their possessions.
“That is a really hard thing to do,” said Plumhoff. “A certain amount is emotional for them because they’re used to the privacy of their home.”
Many seniors may move from a home to a smaller retirement community. The Bussells had moved from their Arvada condominium to an apartment at the Gardens at St. Elizabeth, an independent and assisted living center in Denver. Others may need to reorganize years of accumulated possessions.
Plumhoff offered a list of tips for all those wanting and needing to organize and perhaps prepare for a move.
Sort kitchen cupboards, the pantry and junk drawers, even while watching TV.
Many seniors spend less time in the kitchen, especially when they move to a smaller retirement community that provides meals, Plumhoff said. She recommends donating no longer needed dishes and pots and pans and discarding expired food.
Make donations bags for Catholic Charities, Goodwill, veterans associations, the Denver Rescue Mission or other charities to pick up.
Seniors may have difficulty parting with possessions they’ve worked hard for during their lifetime. “Sometimes it’s hard for seniors to think of their stuff as trash, but sometimes it’s not sellable,” Plumhoff said. Charities are the perfect solution.
Keep magazines, books and catalogs moving. Don’t let them sit around.
Downsize yard tools and garage items. Be sure to recycle hazardous waste.
Adjust collections of recreation equipment to meet current needs including fishing equipment, golf clubs, bicycles, snowshoes, etc.
Make downsizing a family affair.
The business owners recommend inviting children over to help clean out rooms and store items.
Shred old financial records. Many cities provide free shred days just for this purpose.
Clear out closets.
Plumhoff said she will keep a bag in her closet for when she discovers an article of clothing no longer fits or is not wearable. She later takes the bag to a charity. She also recommends turning the hangers on out-of-season clothes backwards in the closet. When the item is worn, the hanger is turned back. At the end of the season, the clothing that was not worn should be donated, she advises.
When it comes to downsizing or reorganizing a home, Plumhoff recommends following the words of wisdom, “don’t be paralyzed by your possessions—keep it moving.”