This is the thirty-first in a series of articles intended to demystify retirement living options.

Here's a quick quiz.  Which of these would you prefer to do:

  • Listen to fingernails on a chalkboard for hours and hours every day?
  • Figure out how to downsize to move from your four-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment in a retirement community?

While many people might be tempted to choose the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard alternative, it doesn’t have to be that way. Last week’s column described a service provided by experts called Senior Move Managers, who help people move from their homes of many years to more manageable apartments -- and who can help make the move a positive experience.

Barbara Kult, the owner of In Your Space Consulting, is a Senior Move Manager certified through the National Association of Senior Move Managers. She can help with moves to, from, and within north and central Arizona, including Prescott.

Once she understands what matters most to her clients and the space they will be moving into, she explained, “I work with them on developing their ‘Wish List’ -- if they could take whatever they want, what would it be?” She creates a floor plan with them showing where their belongings will go. Clients see that “they CAN take many treasured items. This plan becomes the blueprint for success.”

Next, she said, “After looking at what will fit, we look at everything that’s left. We [may] do estate sales. . . to help offset some of their moving costs.” If family members want any items that the elderly person is not planning to keep, “We encourage them to gift them.” However, when family members realize that they will need to pay for shipping, which can be expensive, “They may decide, ‘Oh, I don’t really want that anyway.’”

Sometimes people have been hanging on to belongings because it seems a waste to throw them away, or because they feel obligated to keep them. In these cases, the Senior Move Manager helps work through the emotional issues.

In some cases, a Senior Move Manager may recommend or arrange for old pictures and other documents to be digitized – scanned, for example; old home movies might be turned into CDs. “A lot of my clients are computer-savvy,” Kult noted, and they can scan and organize electronic files themselves. Sensitive documents no longer needed may be shredded.

Kult explained, “The ideal client says, ‘I am going to move in a year,’ and then at six months gets really serious. The biggest drawback that I find is that people wait too long in life to make that move, and it just gets harder and harder. Then it becomes a crisis move – everything in one week’s time.”

She noted, “The typical mistake is that people think that they can do it themselves. They get started, they’ve committed to a move date, but they’re not ready – they aren’t asking for help soon enough. They may feel overwhelmed. A lot of people say, ‘My family will help me,’ but then there are conflicts. We step in as needed. Senior Move Managers are trained to understand the emotional component of a move – it’s at least 50% of the picture.”

Sometimes, Kult noted, planned tasks need to be set aside for the moment in order to address the emotional issues.

Kult described a couple who gradually -- over nine months -- implemented the plan that she worked with them to create. As she worked with them at each visit to sort and donate belongings, they said, “Oh, my gosh, we feel so much lighter!” At the end of the project, they said that they had enjoyed that nine months in their decluttered house more than all the previous years.

Kult finds that most clients describe similar feelings. They may have felt weighed down for years by belongings that were no longer of much use to them but which they had trouble letting go of. She is typically able to help them make decisions they are happy with about which belongings are enriching their lives and which ones no longer fill a need. They often feel that a great burden has been lifted when the less important belongings are gone.

-- Next -- 112. Declutter Your Home to Safely Age in Place