You’re thinking about moving, your kids have been talking to you about it.  You don’t want to move, but maybe you should.  You’re looking for that clear sign. Please don’t let it be a broken hip.

Here are some things to think about.

 

What is important if you stay put?

Does the location of your home work?

How close are your neighbors?

How close are emergency services?

Will the size and layout of your current home meet your future needs and capabilities?

Do you have to climb stairs?

Are your bathrooms, kitchen and bedroom easily accessible?  Are they all on the ground floor?

Do you have plenty of lower cabinetry?

How wide are your hallways and door jams?  Can they accommodate a wheelchair?

Do you need a riding mower to mow your lawn?

Will care such as personal assistance, private duty, home health and housekeeping come to you?  Can you afford it?

Can family get to you easily?

Are you close to shopping, medical care, your hairdresser?

Do you have the financial resources to maintain your home?

 

What is important if you move?

Is it being close to family?

Or is it being close to the old neighborhood, friends and that which is familiar?

Are you looking for a smaller home with a smaller yard and less upkeep?

Are you considering some type of Senior Community with virtually no upkeep?

Are you looking for services such as prepared meals, housekeeping, transportation, social activities?

Do you need help with medication management?

What will your financial resources allow?

 

You have decided to move – what to do with your things?

You will likely move to a smaller space.  What of your furniture and belongings will fit in your new home?

What will you take?  What will you give away?

To whom will you give it?

How will you get it to them?  Will they want it?

What can you sell?  That beautiful piece of art may not command the same price you paid twenty years ago.

What will you donate?

What will you discard?  Will you need a dumpster-type-container or professional hauling service?

Who will pack, how long will that take?

Who will unpack and organize the kitchen, bathrooms and closets?  Who will make the beds and hang your art work?

Your kids?  How long will that take?  Do they have time?

 

These questions offer points to consider.  They cover the nuts and bolts and I hope they help in your decision-making process.  What they don’t cover is the emotions involved in this situation.  That will be the topic for June’s piece.

 

 

Happy New Year – Part 4! Wait! What? Where did the time go!

In January, I started writing a blog each week about organizing and decluttering the house.  We started with the master closet, getting rid of what we don’t, won’t or can’t wear.  Next, we attacked the pantry, getting rid of food that had expired, bottles that had just tiny bits remaining, stale chips and crackers.  The third week, we moved to the desk in the home office, getting papers filed, shredding old records, establishing systems to maintain order.  The fourth installment was to be tying it all together and why we should get our house in order.

Here it is April.  No fourth installment.  So much for New Year’s Resolutions.

I was telling a friend about my January blogs and knowing what we do, she asked, “what does that have to do with older adults, aging and its issues, or moving?”  Actually, quite a lot.

Jon and I work with individuals and families who are moving through some type of home transition.  Our focus is older adults, seniors, if you will.  That transition very often involves a move, which usually involves decluttering and downsizing, which involves parting with clothes that don’t fit, food that doesn’t get eaten and papers that need to be filed or shredded.

Of course, there is more to it than just clothes, food and papers.  There is art work, furniture, tools, photographs, kitchen utensils, china, crystal, books, linens, flatware, thing-a-ma-jigs and what-you-may-call-its collected over a lifetime that make a home.

Through working with our clients, I have found that while there is no magic time to thin out, there are times that the task is easier.  It is easier when it is your call rather than life demanding it.  It is easier to do a little at a time and often – rather than a lot all at once.

I’ve also found that decluttering, downsizing and getting organized is a terrific gift you give your heirs.  It makes their ultimate task easier.  Most of us are sure to have our legal directives in order.  Let’s make sure our home is as well.

Happy New Year – Part 3! Last week, you did an amazing job organizing your pantry. Now it’s time to dive into your desk. There is nothing better than a clear desk!

This is the third installment of a four-part mini series.

My desk is a long table that originally was going to serve as mine and my husband’s.  There are two computers, the one I no longer use and the one I do.  It has photographs, nick-nacks, two lamps, things I use daily and things I don’t.  It also holds the dreaded piles of papers, bills paid and to be paid, business cards, receipts, things to read and or review, things to be filed, things to be thrown out, things to come back to.

Let’s pick an easy pile first.  Business Cards.  We meet people, we collect business cards and we make a pile of them.  Business cards are easy to organize and give us a quick win.  If you keep a rolodex – don’t laugh, some of us still do – simply incorporate your business cards into your rolodex.  If you don’t or have too many cards for it to hold, get a binder and business card sleeves.  Group your cards into categories, then alphabetize them within that category.  You now have a resource binder.

Another easy win to a clear desk? Papers that need to be filed and papers that need to be thrown out.  Do that, file what needs to be filed, throw out what can be thrown out.  If they need to be shredded first, shred them. Too much to shred at home? Use a service.  This is about creating a nice workspace for you.

For the piles you have left, I suggest this organizing system. Create Pendaflex folders with the following categories:

To Do Now

Pending

Proposals

Expenses

Resources

To be Paid

To be Reviewed

Shred

Every piece of paper that comes into your office goes directly into one of these file folders.  Schedule time every week, every day if necessary to work your system.  Once you’ve completed the task, move the paper to trash or a permanent file.  You will love having a clean, clear desk.  A desk where you enjoy your photos, nick-nacks and your work.

 

Happy New Year – Part 2! Take your decluttering party to your pantry.

This is the second installment of a four-part mini series.

This should be easy, yet I’m always amazed at how many times I have moved a can of tomatoes, bag of pasta, quarter box of cereal, or old olive oil to the pantry of a new home.

Check your canned goods. If they have expired, toss them.  Oils will spoil, especially nut oils, so if you have walnut oil in your pantry from that special recipe two years ago, chances are it’s rancid.  If so, toss it.  Fancy vinegar breaks down, taste it and if it’s off, toss it.  That bag of chips you got for nachos two months ago is probably stale.  That box of crackers you never ate has expired, toss them.  If you got a special flour or grain for a recipe you meant to make and never did and it’s two years old (I’m guilty of this), toss it.

If your pantry serves as a catch all for where to put things you don’t have another place for (pots, pans, kitchen equipment, etc.), take an honest look at what you really use.  Keep that and part with the rest.  Start with your top shelf and work your way down.  Chances are what you have there are things you don’t use: the 10-year-old bread maker, the extra stock pots, the wine cooler someone gave you that is still in the box.  Cull through your cook books and cooking magazines. Keep your favorites and what you use, gift or donate what you don’t.

Group like things together: canned goods, paper goods, baking goods, oils, vinegars, crackers, cereals, pastas.  Organize items so you can see them.  Put the things you use most where you see them and can reach them easily.

Creating order and getting organized is fun.  You may find yourself more excited about your kitchen. Or at least your pantry.

 

Happy New Year! Your resolutions should be in full swing and we will start with some easy wins: Decluttering and Getting Organized.

This is the first installment of a four-part mini series.

I know that getting organized can sound like a huge and vast undertaking, so we will break it down into small and manageable tasks that produce immediate results.  You will enjoy the extra space you create as well as the accomplishment of getting it done. Best of all, you start the year with a win and winning begets winning.  Here’s to you!

Start in your closet.  If it doesn’t fit, take it out of your closet.  If you haven’t worn it in a while, take it out of your closet.  If you haven’t worn it in a while and think you may, take it out of your closet.  This goes for shoes, handbags, scarves, wraps and accessories also.

Notice how many empty hangers you have now, and how much space you have in your closet and isn’t that nice.  Basque in that.

Take the stuff you have removed from your closet and sort it into piles.  What doesn’t fit and what you haven’t worn in a while goes in the “part with” pile.  What you haven’t worn but may wear again goes into a separate pile.  Now take a close, honest look.  Are you really likely to wear it again?  If you are, put it back in your closet, if not, put it in the part with pile.

Next, go to your dresser and repeat the process.

Sort your part with pile into what you can consign, give to friends, give to family and donate.  I promise you that what you no longer use will be much appreciated by someone who really wants it or needs it. Decluttering is good for you and for repurposing your belongings with others.

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Jon and I got new dishes a couple of years ago. We’d had our old stuff for 15 years and it was showing its age. Many of the plates and bowls had faded or chipped. Same with the serving pieces. I went through a period where I couldn’t have enough serving platters so I’m a little embarrassed to share how many I have. The dishes that are in good shape I kept. They are in my attic. I kept the platters also, the ones in good shape and the ones that are chipped. I don’t use any of them, but I could and I might some day.

Last Christmas my mom gave us new wine glasses. I wanted something that looked a little vintage, these do and I really love them. I still have the ones those replaced. I love those also. They are on the top shelf in my kitchen, I can get to them if I want or need to. I haven’t. I have a set of wine glasses that were my parents, they are tucked away and I’d forgotten about them until writing this.

I have two micro planes for zesting. I use one all the time and never take the other one out of the drawer. I also have two zesters that makes a twist to garnish a drink. I never use that either. I have five pastry brushes, I use maybe two of them.

I have eight casseroles. Eight! I do use those though. I have two muffin tins, haven’t made cupcakes or muffins in years. I have eleven cutting boards! Various shapes and sizes, I use about four. Probably wouldn’t miss the other seven.

We have crystal and china that belonged to my grandparents that would set a beautiful table if only I would pull them out of the cabinet.
Before I started this piece, I’d tell you that my kitchen along with the rest of my house is nicely edited. I fear I’d be fibbing.

Now, I don’t believe I’m the only one sitting in this circumstance. We all have A LOT of stuff. Stuff we love and use, stuff we don’t. There is no magic timeline on how long we should keep our stuff. That being said, it is never too early to start sorting, gifting and donating or at least thinking about it.

And I will. Soon. For some things.

Some things I’ll keep a little longer.

When I reflect on my life, there are moments that make me really happy and proud, and there are some that make me cringe.  There is time I wasted and there is time well spent.  There are things I wish I had done and things I regret doing.  I’m going to share some of the moments with you that had profound impact on me.

 

First, I didn’t complete college.  From the vantage point of my early 20’s, I didn’t appreciate the opportunity it would afford me in my later 20’s, 30’s, 40’s.  It never occurred to me that I would be the first cut from a job opportunity because I didn’t have a degree, that my resume would get “filed” and I’d never get the interview.  While, I’ve been able to obtain employment, and I’ve had some fabulous jobs, it may have been easier if I had completed my degree.

 

Second, I smoked.  Please don’t ever, ever do that.  I know it’s not fashionable now like it once was.  But still, please don’t ever do it.  It is an expensive habit that threatens your health and the health of those you love.  It’s stinky.  It creates wealth for people you’ll never meet, who don’t love you and won’t care if you get sick.

 

Third, I carried credit card debt.  If you can’t pay for it in full, you can’t afford it.  Rather than buy now and pay it off in two or three months, save for two or three months then buy.  You get what you want without driving debt.  The credit card companies would love for you to carry debt; that creates wealth for them.  And they are unforgiving if you are ever in a bind.

 

Fourth, I didn’t take advantage of the time I had at an early age to move my life forward.  I didn’t start really working until my mid 30’s.  If I had started in earnest in my 20’s as you have now, some of the storms life threw at me would have been easier to navigate.

 

I share this with you because I want so much for you.  I love seeing the woman you are becoming.  I’m so proud of you!  You’ve completed college, you have a great job making great money and you don’t smoke!  You are privileged to have a strong start to create and stake the future you want for yourself.

 

I know that the future seems far off in the distance, but I promise you that in the blink of an eye, you’ll be walking down the aisle, buying your first home, celebrating your first child.

 

Living with financial discipline now, saving and investing, will only make your future brighter.

 

Much love,

Leah

As many of you know, my family was blindsided by my dad’s needs, specifically their scope and cost.  His decline had been slow, over ten years.  It was so gradual that we got used to it as if that’s how life were and would be, never imagining it would worsen, or how much so.  Once we moved, his failing condition accelerated to the point it demanded significant attention.  I was a deer in the headlights.

Daddy ended up needing help with everything.  He needed assistance getting in and out of bed, getting in and out of a chair, his personal grooming.  As my dad’s decline progressed, he could not go from lying to sitting without support.  This man, who used to jog around Rice University, ride horses, perform puppet shows, magic acts and walk on stilts, could no longer walk, even with help.  He required aid for the most intimate of activities.

I share this because I believe we need a shift in our cultural conversation about aging, its needs and its costs. I want us to talk about getting older and plan for it.  My dad’s care was $5,000 per month.  We can never plan for everything; life will make sure of that. But we can and must do better.

Like it or not, life requires financial resources.  We need to plan and save.  Starting early is better than starting late.  Starting any time is better than never starting.   Saving and planning require discipline and courage.  There are so many distractions.  Some are unavoidable (accidents and illness).  Some we should just say no to (that really cute dress, the awesome seats for the game, the extra $22 a month for the leather seats).  I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself or ever indulge.  I’m saying think long term as well.  Then start preparing with long term care insurance or other insurance products and saving, saving, saving.

For most of my dad’s life, he lived for and genuinely delighted in the pleasure the moment brought.  We remodeled our home, added a swimming pool, always had dogs, eventually horses.  My father enjoyed every bit of it.  We all did. We wanted for nothing and had a gorgeous growing up.   What my dad didn’t do and what we didn’t do as a family was plan.  Hence, the deer in the headlights where this chapter begins.

How we save, prepare and spend now can have profound impact on how we live later.  And later always comes. So please, please plan now.

It’s time to have the talk – no, not that one, and you are a little embarrassed, a little unsure.  You’re not certain of the reaction you’ll get; there may be some resistance, some surprise, maybe a delaying technique.   But your love and concern override and you push forward.

Mom, Dad, have you thought about how and where you want to live when you are older?  Do you want to stay in this house?  Would you prefer a smaller home?  What if you need help?   Would you want someone to come into your home?  Would you consider some type of Senior Community?  Would you want to live near us?  With us?

Starting the conversation early, it’s forward thinking and planning ahead.  Your parents are integral to the preparation as they should be.  They have their say in what they want to be so for them.  Everyone gets a clear picture of cost and logistics.  Starting a little later can be a whole different ball game.  It can be reactive rather than proactive.  Your parents may not get to have their say.  You may have to make decisions you wish they had made.  And you may not be ready for the costs and logistics.

Cost is a factor, a big one.  Home modifications can run into the tens of thousands of dollars or more.  Home care is usually $18-$22 per hour.  Senior Communities can be several thousands of dollars per month.  Moving in with adult children has its own rewards and challenges.

Every solution is valid.  We do the best we can.  We generally do better when we plan.  Start the conversation, start looking ahead, start planning.  And while you’re talking with your parents about what they want for their future, let me ask you:  What do you want for yours?

Part of what makes my husband, Jon, so suited for our work is his uncanny ability to see what is so and size up what is needed.  He misses neither the forest nor the trees.  He hears what is being said plainly and not so plainly.  His instincts and observations are spot on.  His recommendations are thoughtful and thorough, measured and considered.

Life sometimes pulls the rug out from under us.  It can be a clean, swift jerk or a slowly encroaching wrench.  Either way, we are hit with an unthinkable event that shakes us to our core.  We need hope.  We need reassurance.  We need that calm, collected voice to assess the situation, formulate a plan and put it into action.  Jon is the embodiment of those qualities.

Time and again, Jon has seen solutions others have missed.  Some of his solutions resolved issues that were big and some issues not so big.  All resolved issues that needed tending to.

My dad had little dexterity in his fingers, an ever growing midsection and balance issues.  Fastening his pants, buckling his belt and tying shoes presented a real challenge for him. My mother and I would get him new (read larger) clothes, but he couldn’t work them.

With a few clicks of the keyboard, Jon found pants for Daddy with an elastic waist and non-skid shoes that Velcroed closed.  Jon saw what my dad needed and found it for him.  My dad was tickled to have clothes he could work.  He was absolutely buoyed.

Jon never lost sight of my dad.  He knew Daddy was not his circumstances.

When assessing a situation, Jon sees clearly, without bias or agenda.  Some solutions require heroic efforts like remodeling a home or moving to a new one or moving closer to family.  Some solutions are more simple like elastic and Velcro.  All are life changing.  Either way, Jon sees what is needed because he sees you.  He sees the whole, complete, grand human being you are.  And he serves who he sees.