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Downsizing Decisions and Assistance

Are thoughts of downsizing and moving paralyzing? The transitions which accompany moving were brought to mind recently when our firm moved to a new office. Although we voluntarily moved to the building next to our original office, and into a larger space, a significant amount of time and energy was spent planning, sorting, packing and then unpacking and organizing. For older adults who are considering a move to downsize for convenience, and for others who are forced by circumstances to do so, the stress and emotion of the downsizing process can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, help is available for families who are facing this prospect. I spoke with the owners of two local companies who focus on handling the before and after details of downsizing and moving:  Caring Transitions of Mechanicsburg (, phone: 717-609-1079) and New Leaf Transition (, phone: 717-214-4258). Some of their services are similar, but each one also offers distinctive benefits.  Understanding the options which may or may not be available with different companies can help families choose the best option to fit their particular needs.  Be aware that some companies who advertise that they assist with downsizing will only help manage the move itself, leaving the remainder of the details to the individual or family (such as how to dispose of leftover belongings).  Other companies, such as these two, offer a broader range of services.

Both of these companies will provide assistance with determining how much of an individual’s (or couple’s) belongings will fit into the new home. A sample arrangement can be set up in the new home before the move using tape to mark the furniture measurements.  This will allow the family to envision what the rooms will look like.  Allowances for additional space between pieces of furniture should be part of the plan, in case the older adult will need a walker or wheelchair in the future.  Staging the home to be sold is another available service, which would be managed in conjunction with a realtor.  While neither company will handle the physical move, both work closely with other trusted companies to complete this aspect of the transition.  However, they will take care of sorting and packing in preparation for the move as well as unpacking and organizing after the move.  If desired, general cleaning of the vacated home is also provided.

One of the differences between these two companies is how unwanted belongings are managed. New Leaf transition will pack and transport these items to an auction house and/or donation center; or arrange for trash pick-up as appropriate.  The owner will even assist the family with a yard sale.  Caring Transitions also handles donations, and arranges for estate sales and trash removal; however they take care of items to be sold through their franchise’s online auction site ( An online auction allows items to reach a larger audience compared to a traditional auction house, and also provides greater control over the sale prices through the use of higher starting prices and reserve bids.  Caring Transitions also has access to private buyers for certain specialty items.  Most of the items which are listed in an online auction are sold to local buyers who then schedule appointments to pick up their purchases.  Some items may be shipped, and each individual Caring Transitions franchise decides what types of items it is willing to handle this way.  A set-up fee is charged for online auctions, and the company receives a certain percentage of the profits as a commission.  Carolyn Doerr, the owner of Caring Transitions, emphasizes to clients who wish to sell items that the house is their main asset, not their “stuff.”   She has found that clients sometimes feel better about downsizing when they realize that someone else will be able to use their “extra” belongings.

When people are considering downsizing, Pam Shultz-Kovalewski, the owner of New Leaf Transition, recommends that the earlier they can start purging unwanted or unneeded items, the better. Emotionally, it is easier to face this task over a longer period of time, and the costs associated with purging and disposing of items can be spread out, which is easier on a budget.  With proper planning, a costly mistake of attempting to move too much “stuff” to the new home can be avoided.

Next week’s article will continue the discussion of the various options offered by downsizing companies and other considerations related to the transition of downsizing.

Karen Kaslow, RN