opens new doors
Smooth Transitions helps families: household downsizing or details
after a death
When an elderly
family friend died in the mid-1990s, Barbara Morris cleaned
and packed up his Southern Indiana home.
boxes and boxes of stuff to sort through, some of it overdue
for the trash and other things salvageable. Inside the home,
there was barely enough room to walk.
a year later, Morris helped her mother-in-law downsize from
her home to a retirement community.
two experiences, a business was born.
there were a lot of folks who either don't have family, or
their family members live out-of-town,'' Morris said. ''For
what it would take for them to come into town and orchestrate
everything . . . I could do it for them.''
Transitions, Morris' 6-year-old ''household downsizing and
estate dispersal'' business, recently hit a turning point
when she licensed her company's name to similar services in
Cincinnati and Indianapolis. She hopes to license Smooth Transitions
to other regional cities.
basically a facilitator,'' Morris said. ''I don't do yard
sales, but I arrange for things to be donated or sold through
an auction house or for a trash pickup. In many cases I work
with the families and they'll want things shipped to different
elderly family member dies or needs to move to an assisted-living
setting, Morris also will arrange for the move and the movers,
switch the phone service, cancel the cable, pack, unpack and
''dispose of the things in the home.''
$40 an hour, a price that she says family members willingly
the items that are sold pay my fee,'' Morris said. ''By the
time they come to Louisville, take time off from work, even
if they are living here, to orchestrate what I do it would
cost them far more.''
said moving a one-bedroom condo takes an average of 13 hours,
costing $520, while a four-bedroom house can take about 50
hours, or $2,000.
Transitions is an example of the sort of business that can
be run from home -- as Morris' does -- with little or no start-up
is wonderful because I can correspond with all the siblings
at one time,'' she said.
launching her business, Morris spent 15 years as public relations
director at the old Methodist Evangelical Hospital, which
later became part of Norton Healthcare. She said that as she
goes through houses, she uncovers a lot of family treasures
that ''less personalized services'' might just throw away.
was a beautiful opal necklace in a chest of drawers that the
auction people might have just taken and sold,'' she said.
''It had a nice note in it -- it was a special note for a
that and other potentially valuable items in one spot for
family members to sort through.
the way, she's found other oddities reflecting the eccentric
nature of the residents -- including a collection of fishing
lures that lined the walls of a living room and kitchen.
markets her business largely through word-of-mouth and speaking
engagements at retirement homes and to such organizations
to audiences of both forward-looking seniors and anxious relatives.
is very comfortable to hear because of her relaxed presentation
style, peppered with her wonderful combination of humor, experience
and practicality,'' said Anita Kuvin, director of marketing
at Louisville's Wesley Manor Retirement Community. ''It's
clear that she understands the pain of transitioning and downsizing
for seniors, but she adds a special twist that makes it seem
has also developed a workbook for do-it-yourself parent movers,
''Moving for Seniors -- A Stepby-Step Workbook.''
people just need to be told what to do and they can do it
themselves,'' Morris said. ''It's not brain surgery.''
of aging baby boomers approaching retirement, services like
Smooth Transitions seem destined for rapid growth. Others
also are spotting the business potential of such services.
a year ago, Morris went to Cincinnati to give presentations
to a retirement community.
bought a bunch of my workbooks to give away. While I was there,
I met a woman who wanted to do Smooth Transitions,'' she said.
''She had helped her parents and thought this would be a nice
system. So she became a licensee. I have one in Cin-cinnati
and one in Indianapolis.''
Forbush, Morris' Indianapolis licensee, said that she also
became interested in the transition business after moving
my own parents from California to Indianapolis about a year-and-a-half
ago,'' Forbush said. ''I had found out about a company called
Gentle Transitions out there. They helped me move and I could
not have done it without them. I was pretty intrigued with
being downsized from a company, Forbush pursued the idea,
turning down a franchise from a Nashville, Tenn., company
after finding it too expensive and too consumed in red tape.
to go out on her own, she incorporated with the name Senior
Transitions when she got a lead on Smooth Transitions and
received a copy of Morris' workbook.
called her (Morris) thinking she would sell me some consulting
time,'' Forbush said. ''Two days later, I was down in Louisville
spending the day with her and decided to do the license agreement
with her. She was providing for me what I needed, and that
said licensing not only helps her concept expand but also
makes it easier for licensees to get their operations running.
them and that got them going a lot quicker than if they started
from scratch,'' she said.
challenge: ''Getting people to realize that they can't keep
everything. I had one lady that just cried and cried and cried
because she just couldn't keep everything,'' Morris said.
Much of her job involves hand-holding while persuading already
stressed elderly homeowners to suppress their inner pack rat
and let go.
concedes that would be dif-ficult for her as well. ''What
I try to do is find good homes for things.''
also there as a friend, problem solver and, when needed, a
shoulder to cry on.
not a social worker, per se, but I do work with geriatric
social workers,'' Morris said. ''I work with elder attorneys.
I work with trust officers.''
for the business are modest. She'd like to sell more of the
workbooks and do a little more speaking in the region.
is not something you're going to get rich quick on,'' Morris
said. ''I really feel like I'm providing more of a service.
I could probably do more with it, but I'm 53 and I've had
a career, so I'm not trying to make a million dollars.''