Moving expert offers advice on downsizing households

Advocate staff writer
Published: Mar 29, 2010

Barbara Morris freely admits that moving can be one of the most traumatic events in a person’s life no matter what age.

To that end, she founded Smooth Transitions, a company that specializes in household downsizing and estate dispersal.

“Once upon a time, we counted on our family to do all this stuff for us,” Morris said. “Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier working with a neutral.”

Morris gave an often humorous presentation Tuesday at St. James Place on deciding to move, making it easy and surviving the process.

First, Morris encouraged older adults to make a move while they were still in good form - both physically and mentally.

She started her business when her mother-in-law moved from her longtime home.

“My mother-in-law wanted to move while she was in charge, while she could decide where she was going to go, what she was going to take,” Morris said.

“Do you want to leave it to your kids to decide where you’re going to go?” Morris asked.

After deciding it’s time to move, Morris said, start considering what you want to take, give to others, sell or donate.

Use sticky notes on big pieces of furniture and other large items, writing down what you’ve decided.

Morris said it’s important to keep a list of who gets what. Consider giving furniture to adult children.

“The best thing is you can visit it and you don’t have to dust it,” Morris said.

But, she added, don’t be surprised if children aren’t interested.

“Don’t be disappointed if your children don’t embrace your treasures,” Morris said.

They may have smaller homes or different tastes.

Morris also noted some of the common household items that can lead to clutter.

Magazine collections can quickly get out of control. Since April issues have already arrived, toss everything from before January, she said.

Consider giving older issues to family or friends or donate to a business waiting area.

Morris held up an empty plastic butter tub and empty Cool Whip container and asked for a show of hands of people who had 20 of each.

Getting rid of all but three or four would be a significant first step in downsizing, she said.

She also encouraged people to get rid of old radios, TVs and telephones currently sitting in garages. Many groups will take appliances and rehab them, she said.

One of her clients owned 12 eyelash curlers.

Another had two grocery bags full of empty pill bottles. Morris said she asked the woman whether she was planning to start her own pharmacy or become a drug runner.

When you bring something new into the house, get rid of one or preferably two items, Morris said.

“Remember what our new mantra is - keep it moving,” Morris said.

Another big area where clutter collects is our closets, Morris said.

“This time of year, we’re going to start changing wardrobes,” Morris said.

Take a good look at each item and ask yourself whether it fits, if you wore it recently and if you will wear it again.

Don’t just shift clothes to the other closet, she said.

If you think you’re going to lose five pounds, forget it, she said.

If you no longer wear high heels, get rid of them. If you wore a pair of shoes once and found them too uncomfortable, don’t just store them in the closet, Morris said.

“Get that clothes in the hands of somebody who is really going to use them,” she said.

Stop saving the new nightgown you bought for if you have to go to the hospital. If you’re at the hospital, you have to wear their gowns, Morris said.

“Go ahead and start wearing the good stuff,” she said. “Use the good towels. Use the crystal, the silver. You deserve it.”

Morris said she didn’t want anybody to leave her workshop and “start tearing into a closet.”

Start with a single drawer instead.

“Start small, but stay at it,” Morris said.