How can I help my parents?

esgaJune 21, 2006

My parents are downsizing into a place half the size of their current home. They have had a good offer and will probably have a contract signed by tomorrow. This is great news, especially in their slow market, but it's come much sooner than any of us expected (in fact, their market is nearly dead).

They've been there 10 years, were in their previous house 10 years, and while they aren't clutterers like me, they have all the issues people will have when downsizing at 80. Now they will have to move in 6 weeks. Their 3 daughters, including me, all want to help, but they can't think of anything for us to do. My mother was working hard even before they got the offer, and got rid of shoes and clothes to charities. The buyers want some of their furniture. They have already identified a person to do the moving sale - the woman who did my grandmother's estate sale. They will pay movers to pack the stuff they will move.

They have lots of family papers and old clothes, I guess, and old dishes and small kitchen appliances. It's true my parents will have to make the decisions - but can you all think of ways we can help? There's a lot of stuff, but not an outrageous amount; still, I hate to think of them spending the last 6 weeks in this home they love so much sorting and getting rid of things, and not taking favorite walks and my mother going to artists' groups and my father to baseball games and the senior center and so on (they are moving from Cape Cod to Chicago).

Any ideas welcome!

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You are so empathetic to "get" that the last six weeks should not just be chores. Just off the top of my head without knowing family dynamics I would think they would want to deaccession stuff to their children -- papers and old dishes, if nothing else. I don't see how this can happen without a sibling -- all siblings there to do that work face-to-face. Is that a possibility? Make it a parting party.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 9:37PM
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They have carefully asked all of us what we want. We are trying to schedule a get-together around the schedule of my sister with 4 kids' summer schedules to juggle and my sister who travels a lot for work. Fortunately, I can structure my work pretty much to suit myself. We were all (including my brother) to have gone up this year in the 2nd week of August for our annual get-together; that's exactly when they should be moving. I don't think it's a good plan for the 3 of us to go just before they move, though maybe one of us should - and in any case, one of us will drive them to Chicago. But at the last minute, who knows what furniture they will have left? - and I don't want that to be a worry to them. It can be very difficult to get alternative housing on Cape Cod in late June for early August, too, and they would fuss about us having to spend money, blah blah. So we are looking at going up about 3 weeks before they move.

Thanks for the kind words, Elizabeth. Were you thinking about hiring an organizer? DId you do it and how did it turn out? Of course my house is a complete different story from my parents'! Next time I move I think there will be a dumpster involved.

So they know what to save for us, and they will give our own letters, etc., back to us - I would think we could at least sort that stuff out.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 1:13PM
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Elizabeth, you and your sisters are so kind to help your parents with this. How about providing meals for the next six weeks? Use paper plates and disposables. That way, mom can spend her time relaxing as much as possible, rather than shoping, cooking,and cleaning up while sorting and packing their belongings.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 2:20PM
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elizabeth, this may really be harder on you than on your parents. The things you worry about like the walks or art groups will be easily located in their new surroundings. Active people always find a way to remain active. It may be much easier for them to remain busy with the sorting and packing, than just doing life as usual.

That's a pretty far move. Does one of your siblings live there or something? If not, there's obviously a reason for the relocation and it sounds like they are both healthy and active.

I know when my folks downsized to their townhouse, my dad was doing a major happy dance to be getting rid of the mower, rake, ladders, etc. He was totally ready to move into a phase of his life where he didn't have to take care of a house.

We have friends who are a bit younger than your parents, but they are getting ready to move from Alaska to a retirement place in TX. They are so excited. I was at their home and suprised at some of the furniture they were selling. It was really good quality stuff. The wife said she was so tired of looking at it after 35 years and she couldn't wait to pick something in a different style. Sometimes we assume people love something just because it's always been there.

I would keep offering to doing any of the heavier, lifing work and dropping stuff at charities for them. It sounds like they are ready to move on to the next adventure in their lives.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 9:38PM
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They are moving to the Chicago area to be near their grandchildren. They now live on Cape Cod; I live in Atlanta, my other sister in Maryland. My dad has been ready for this move for several years; it's really hardest on my mom. Even though she no longer wants to have to cook, she loves the house. She's a serious artist, and has connections with a couple art galleries there and a fanstastic studio in the house. Unfortunately, they can't get something with studio space in an affordable community. Yes, they all have arts & crafts rooms, but that's not a place to store the kinds of materials she uses, and they only have 2 BR apartments.

There are really special walks and places on the Cape, with family meaning, and leaving them behind will be really hard, even though they will make new connections in Illinois. In fact, we are glad they chose the retirement community they did for that reason - not the biggest space, but the people who are most like them - well-traveled, well-read, keep up on current events, etc.

You may be right, Gloria, that this is hard on me and my sisters because we are far away and feeling kind of helpless.

My sisters and I will only be there together for a long weekend. I wanted to drive, but it's 2 full days each way which means a lot of time off from work. I will be going back in August to drive them to Chicago, too. I expect we can pack stuff up that we want to keep and mail it to ourselves, since they are both flying (that was one reason I wanted to drive, but we will just rent a car while we're there, I guess).

    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 11:51AM
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