How to Handle Sibling Rivalry During the Downsize of a Parents Home

“Hide the Painting!  Here comes my brother!”

Oftentimes, siblings bring differing points of view to a downsizing and moving transition made by the parent.   The occasional clash in point of view can present those of us in the industry with some potentially awkward situations, which we always do our best to handle with care.

Once, while packing for a client, two sisters were supervising the activities – one coordinating with our team and the other supervising the furniture removal by an auction house.  All of a sudden, one sister yells, “Hide the painting in the elevator!  Here comes my brother!”  So, that’s what we did.  This was a particularly large and luxurious residence, with an elevator.  One of the movers took a massive oil painting into the elevator, pushed the button for the basement and there it stayed til the coast was clear.

This example is a rare hyperbole for the differences of opinion between family members when moving time comes.  The lesson is equally valuable for the senior moving and for the younger generation who is not moving, but will also be dealing with the emotional stress of the process.

In my practice, advising seniors and their families, we encourage family members to work through the decisions in advance of packing day, if at all possible.  We offer to inventory or photograph furniture, art or special collections and correspond via e-mail, if it helps with long-distance relatives.  Our checklists and planning guide offer suggestions for time frames and encourage communication.

The more planning and conversation that your family undertakes now, the easier it will be to make difficult choices when the time comes.  Take a few minutes and a good look around your own home and see if, when and how the decisions would be made in your own family.