How To Prepare for a Move for Grandparents

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For many people, making the decision to move is the hardest part. Once you’ve decided that it’s time to empty the house and move on, there are a number of steps you can take to get started. Rolling up your sleeves and getting down to work, especially if you’ve agonized over making the decision, can actually come as a welcome relief.

The first step is to figure out where you are going, since what you will be able to take with you depends, a lot, on that decision. Moving from a large family home to a townhouse means one level of downsizing, and moving from a townhouse to a small apartment means another.

If you know where you’re going, you’ll have a much easier time figuring out what is sensible to keep, and what you will need to get rid of. Having a floor plan of the place you’re moving to, and important measurements, will help a lot in figuring out which large items you will be able to bring with you.

The timetable is important as well. Professional organizers will tell you that it’s best to have at least six months for such a move, but whatever your timetable is, you should get a calendar for this use only, and then plan your strategy. You might mark off “D-Day” (for decision made), and “M-Day” (for moving), then mark (in pencil!) the day the necessary steps will be made, moving both backward and forward.

Assign various members of the family to whatever tasks they can be responsible for. Decide on tentative dates for any sales you might have, and make deadlines for the other tasks you will need to accomplish. If you have no experience estimating the time needed for big jobs, take a general tip from freelancers and independent contractors: figure out the time you realistically think you will need, and then multiply it by at least two!

If possible, the move to another location should be completed with plenty of time to spare before the belongings that remain behind in the house are divided among others and removed from the premises. As anyone who has ever moved knows, moving is an exhausting, confusing, and emotionally upsetting ordeal. For a person who is moving out of a beloved home they’ve lived in for many years, it is all the more so.

Ideally, the person making the move should be given the time to settle into their new surroundings, and make sure that they have taken with them all they want, before the contents of their previous home are taken away. You don’t want to regret having given away too much too soon, or to have important things lost in the shuffle.

Creating a Visual Record

Insurance companies recommend that homeowners keep an inventory of household goods, with photos of the items. Such a list can be helpful when it comes to dispersing the items in a home as well. Make a page for each room in the house, with numbered columns, listing the item (“bureau”), a description (“4-drawer oak chest, 30 inches long”), its history or provenance (“wedding gift” or “purchased when Susie was born” or “belonged to Great-aunt Madeleine”), and any additional comments (“For my granddaughter Isabel” or “Please have this appraised and sold, with the profits divided equally among my children” or “Ask cousin Josh if he would like this; his mother gave it to us.”). You may leave the spaces in the last column blank if you want your children and grandchildren to decide which pieces interest them the most.

Take photographs of the items, and number the photographs to correspond with the list. If you are using a digital camera, you will be able to create an electronic record with photos and descriptions, and then send it to members of your family via e-mail.

The visual record can be used to help sort through and assign belongings to various members of the family in advance. Each child and/or grandchild in the family can be given a copy and asked to mark those items they would like to have.

The record will also come in handy when siblings are actually dividing up the estate. Each person can record which items they are taking, helping to ensure the items are being divided up fairly. It may seem that one person is getting more than the others because she’s been more vocal, but a look at the list will help assure each person that he or she is getting a fair share.

First Things First
The best way to begin the process of moving on, before any items are removed or even spoken for, is to talk with everyone in the family about what is happening. Here are some questions to ask:

–Has everyone in the family been informed that we are about to start emptying the house?

–Have we made a family plan for how to go about this process? Has everyone agreed to it?

–Have we set a date when the process will begin? Is it clear to everyone who will be involved?

–Have we talked about how to handle any disagreements or disputes that may arise in the process?

–Have we dealt with any disagreements about any of the above as well as we can? If we are not all in agreement, do we at least have a consensus that the process should begin?

Additional Resources:

American Moving and Storage Association
Association offers helpful consumer tips and information.

Appraisers Association of America, Inc. (AAA)
The oldest professional association of appraisers of personal property and the recognized authority for setting appraisal standards.

American Society of Appraisers (ASA)
Organization founded the Appraisal Foundation, which issued the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).

National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM)
Non-profit, professional association of organizations dedicated to helping older adults and their families with the physical and emotional aspects of the moving process.

Excerpted from Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home by Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand (Stewart, Tabori & Chang). To learn more about the book, visit their website:

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