Letting go of personal possessions can be an emotional process, and I find that it’s a bit more painful for seniors. Even the simple need to donate old clothes when preparing for a move can be overwhelming for them, and introduce an extra layer of tension into an already fraught family situation (sometimes).
One of the most useful tools to facilitate this part of the transition is the creation of a floor plan or the use of one prepared by the new residential community. With many of our clients preparing to make such a move, we use floor plans to map-out the placement of personal possessions in the new space. As a result, my clients have a greater sense of control over the whole move; the family members have a clear understanding of the choices that the seniors have made; and our team for the pack and move has to ask fewer questions on the big day.
Floor plans are an extremely useful tool for facilitating communication and diffusing some potentially awkward situations. The check-lists that we use are also helpful, but opportunity to visualize the new space and make tangible decisions that will help the new space feel more like home makes the floor plan a more reassuring method of working with our clients. As an added bonus, they are also useful as a tool for diffusing some of the family drama that occasionally comes with the territory. Some families just have more complex dynamics than others.
Today, we moved a woman, Mrs. Murphy, a widow in her early-90’s from her family home of 50+ years to a one bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility. Her daughter (one of three adult children) was on-site for the pack, helping to facilitate some of the more difficult choices. In addition to knowing that the furniture pieces of her choosing would fit comfortably into her new residence, the change in storage space meant that we would need to address the amount of Mrs. Murphy’s clothing, and to de-clutter her wardrobe. In plain-speak, we needed to clean-out her closets.
To help her understand just how much needed to go, we used the floor plan closet dimensions to resolve just how much she could take. Frankly, she had 8 feet of personal closet space and even with double rods, there was just a smaller closet. It became an opportunity to donate some extra clothing items. In spite of the daughter’s encouragement, Mrs. Murphy found it difficult to donate some of her clothing. So when we made the change a more rational as opposed to emotional issue by utilizing the floor plan, she was better able to cope with the process as a whole and the pressure on everyone involved was alleviated.
It is important, in this kind of work, to keep in mind that the simple act of down-sizing for a move is a very different experience for our clients. They’re facing a different set of realities and having to accept a range of changes that signal a final change in lifestyle, and often in their capabilities as well. Simple techniques such as the use of floor plans as tools to work through the process are practically useful and go a long way to preserving the dignity of the seniors we are here to help.