Moving Aging Parents, Mother’s Move, Part IV: Possessions

A March 12, 2010  New York Times article, Deciding on Care for Elderly Parents in Declining Health, made me think about the process my husband and I experienced with his mother following a stroke. This is the fourth of several postings describing our journey. Read Part I of Moving Mother – Part II – Part III

Gently Dismantling 66 Years of Living — Suggestions

For six weeks we traveled back and forth between our home and Hilton Head. We had no idea, but soon realized, how many possessions — furniture, clothes, dishes, and other items — mother had in her condo and storage space. We knew that she and her husband had sold and given away many things when they first moved to the retirement community in Hilton Head, but there were still many possessions. Although a decision had to be made on every single item, we tried to keep Mother in the loop so she could make as many choices as possible. When possible our long lunches in the dining room and visits with friends, which we encouraged, helped to ease the stress.

Here are nine suggestions for simplifying the parent moving process:

  1. We measured the spaces in her new living quarters. We then measured the major pieces of furniture in Mother’s condo. Right away we knew what rugs and pieces of furniture would fit and what would not.
  2. These measurements also helped the movers make a rudimentary estimate of the size of the load to be moved. We also asked the mover for used boxes.
  3. With information about the furniture pieces we would be bringing with Mother, we started a corresponding list of what would not be moved. Once this list had a few items on it we called a church resale shop to confirm what pieces they would take and whether they would pick up furniture. About half of mother’s furniture would eventually go to this resale shop.
  4. Even with lots of good furniture, an estate sale was unrealistic because of time and our energy.
  5. Most delicate possessions — mirrors, special pictures, dishes, silver, etc.  — were packed up in advance and transported in our car during the multiple trips. We had hoped that Mother might be willing to give away some of these things, but she wasn’t, so we postponed decisions.
  6. If mother was concerned or agitated about any decision, we delayed the it. It did not cost that much to rent a storage locker for a few months in our area. With the locker we were able to make decisions several months after she occupied her new apartment, when she was more relaxed and settled in her new home. Some things she forgot about.
  7. Using post-its we developed a coding system for furniture and small possessions. Red, green, and yellow post-its, were attached to each piece of furniture. Red was for items to give away, green was for things that would go to the new apartment, and the yellow labels were attached to possessions that going to our house or the storage locker (for later decision-making). Attaching a label seemed to simplify and facilitate the decision process, removing Mother just a bit from quite so much remembering and reminiscing about the history or each object.
  8. We tackled the condo storage spaces at the start of the packing process. Possessions in these spaces had already been out of sight for some time so there were fewer emotional connections.
  9. Packing, even a suitcase, was really hard for Mother.  We realized early on that the she had forgotten how to develop a list about what to put where — an after-effect of the stroke we were told.

Read Part I of Moving Mother – Part II – Part III

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