Michael Beatch often helps clients regularly going through the downsizing process, but when it happened unexpectedly with his own mother, he experienced it first hand. Here are a few valuable lessons you can take and help prepare your own aging loved ones.
Downsizing Often Happens When You Least Expect It.
My mother broke her foot and was unable to be mobile in her own home. What was supposed to be a routine cast turned into a week-long stay in hospital and a frantic search for new accommodations for
I would like to point out that we now know that most of the facilities in Regina do have a respite care room. Harbour Village was great in letting mom stay there, free of charge, while we waited for her room to be ready.
How Long It Took.
- The whole process was rather cumbersome. I am an only child and at the time my wife was busy taking care of a three-month-old infant and our eight-year-old daughters. Almost all of the decluttering, packing, and cleaning fell to me. With mom not being mobile, I had to have phone calls with her while I was looking for clothes, toiletries, and personal effects. At the same time, I had to make sure that we did not take too much, as her new place is about half the size of her old home. This meant going through the storage room, the cabinets, antiques, etc. A person can accumulate a lot of “stuff” over the years. At the end of the day, not all of it can be moved with you. Deciding what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away took roughly five months. The last three weeks required getting contractors in the house to make it show ready for putting it on the market.
What Unforseen Costs Arose?
- The costs kept adding up even though I tried to do most of it myself. We had to rent garbage bins, take things to the dump, renovate, and hire professional cleaners. There are the costs that you do not even think of, too: the commission paid to help sell the antiques, the cost of boarding her dog while she was immobile, the gas for driving to and from her place, her new place and back home to sleep at night; the time taken off of work, and the time my family took off to contribute.
- The largest unforeseen expense was the payout penalty on the mortgage. Due to this being quite high we decided to rent out her house for the last year on the term of her mortgage. This is came with another set of expenses. We renovated to make the house more attractive to potential tenants. The insurance on a home goes up significantly when it is not being occupied by the homeowner. Little things like lawn care and snow removal will still be an ongoing expense until we sell.
How Emotional It Was.
- The experience was the most stressful event I have gone through since our twin girls were born eight years ago. There were so many different compounding factors going on at the same time that all needed my attention. Being the only child, there was no one to help tackle a large chunk of the process. The stress and frustration mom was going through with not being able to help, and when she was able to get a ride there, being in so much pain that there was only a little that she could accomplish. To be really honest, it was more stressful on my relationship with my wife than planning our wedding. I needed to be at work to provide for the family, be home to help with the baby boy and be with our older girls, and at the same time, I needed to get all of this done for mom so she could be comfortable in her new space.
- My wife and I routinely go through our belongings and donate what we do not need. After we had our girls, we moved to four different homes within five years. We found that only having what we needed and cherished made it easier to move. Our daughters birthday is roughly 6 months from Christmas, so we have taught them to go through their toys and games every six months. Whatever they do not play with or enjoy we donate to local charities that can use them. Most of the baby boomer population that I have dealt with over my career is the opposite. They have the family china set, the silver set, special items that belonged to their parents…the list goes on. Starting to downsize earlier on will make the task much easier for everyone involved. Nobody likes to think that they will have to move to a care facility or to a smaller home to accommodate their abilities. However, no one wants to go through the decades of “stuff” that accumulates in the basement or the storage unit. Have the discussion with your family on what items you want them to have, and which items you want to keep, donate, or dispose of.