We spend our lives filling a home with memories and things that bring us joy, but as we move along life’s journey, things change. Kids grow up and move on and we retire and are ready to downsize. For many, this can be a very overwhelming and scary thing because it is more than just packing up and moving, it’s about saying goodbye to precious memories and in many cases, independence too. While the emotional transition is a difficult one, the physical transition itself doesn’t have to be. A Senior Move Manager (SMM) can help with this task.
What is a Senior Move Manager?
An SMM assists older adults and their families with the emotional and physical aspects of relocation and/or aging in place. At the family’s direction, they prepare and execute a move and/or sale of the home allowing the family time and space to process such a big life change. From purging and organizing to estate/home sale, they can do it all.
Downsizing? Where Do I begin?
Nicole quotes Mark Twain: “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” She says, “it feels overwhelming because you’re looking at this monster-sized project…breaking that monster project into smaller tasks is essential to limiting the stress that naturally occurs at a time like this.” Though an SMM can handle the entire task from start to finish, families often want to be involved, so Nicole suggests dividing up necessary tasks among family members and the senior move management team, leaving the “hard stuff” for the professionals to handle.
About Nicole Ramer
Nicole, a Professional Organizer and Certified Senior Move Manager® is the owner of Organized Haven, serving the Central Florida area since 2013. They assist with the emotional and physical challenges of decluttering, downsizing, moving, or aging in place. A member of Better Living for Seniors Polk since 2015, Nicole is currently President of the Board. She is also a member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and the National Association of Senior Move Managers® (NASMM). She and her team utilize continuing education with both NAPO and NASMM to advance their knowledge in working with older adults as it relates to moving, aging-in-place, helping those with hoarding tendencies, dementia, and cognitive decline, memory and forgetfulness, and communication matters.
National Association of Senior Move Managers – NASMM.org
Transcript – Downsizing Without the Stress
Sage Aging Episode 4
Liz Craven 0:00
Support for this episode of sage aging comes from Polk ElderCare guide designed with families in mind. Polk ElderCare Guide gives you the tools and education necessary to make quality choices about senior care and living options in Polk County, Florida. available in both English and Spanish. You can view the guides and much more online at polkeldercare.com.
Welcome to Episode Four of Sage Aging. My guest today is Nicole Ramer. Nicole is a professional organizer and Certified Move Manager. Her business, Organized Haven has been serving seniors and their families since 2013. Nicole is a member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and the National Association of Senior Move Managers, Nicole and other senior move managers just like her can be the key to limiting the stress involved in downsizing and moving. Let’s get started.
Nicole, thank you so much for joining us today. I really enjoy starting off each episode with a little bit of a lightning round to help folks get to know you a little better. So are you ready.
Nicole Ramer 1:52
Yes, I’m ready. Great. Thank you so much for having me.
Liz Craven 1:55
Of course. Okay, first question sweet or salty.
Nicole Ramer 2:00
salty for sure.
Liz Craven 2:02
I’m kind of the sweet mixed with salty person. I enjoy that a lot.
Nicole Ramer 2:07
A lot of women love sweets and so they are surprised when they hear that I am not much of a chocolate or sweet person, but I love honey roasted cashews or anything really salty is my favorite.
Liz Craven 2:22
Very good. Okay, favorite movie.
Nicole Ramer 2:25
The first thing that came to mind was Fools Rush In. I love movies. I get that from my dad. He loves to watch movies, too. And so I really could spend hours every day on TV watching movies if I had the time.
Liz Craven 2:41
Thank goodness for Netflix.
Nicole Ramer 2:43
Liz Craven 2:44
Okay, last book, you read.
Nicole Ramer 2:47
One that I’m reading right now that I’m almost done. Let It Go by Peter waltz.
Liz Craven 2:53
Oh, that’s a good one.
Nicole Ramer 2:54
Yes, downsizing your way to a richer, happier life. So it’s really very fitting for what I love to do.
Liz Craven 3:02
It is and for our topic today too. Our topic today is the transition of downsizing and moving an aging parent or yourself. We spend our lives building a home and filling it with memories and things that bring us joy. And then as we move along life’s journey, we start to see changes. The kids grow up, they move on, we retire and start to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Maybe we travel a little bit, we enjoy some new hobbies, then what sometimes seems like a sudden change occurs. Maybe it’s the death of a spouse or a physical change that necessitates assistance with caring for the home or for yourself. Maybe a spouse who’s a primary caregiver is no longer able to manage it all anymore. So it’s time to downsize. And for many, that can be a very overwhelming and scary thing. It’s more than just packing up and moving. It’s about saying goodbye to precious memories and in many cases independence to. So while the emotional transition is a difficult one, the physical transition itself really doesn’t have to be because a senior move manager is a professional who specializes in helping families with that task. And that’s where you come in Nicole. You have built an incredible business helping people through this transition as they downsize and move to a different style of living. How did you get into senior move management and what really is it?
Nicole Ramer 4:42
I started my organizing business seven years ago, actually this month. This was after struggling in my own transition, but becoming a mother for the first time. Naturally, when you have children, you accumulate a lot of things From toys to clothing that that baby outgrows quickly, and clutter overwhelmed my very small home even though I was a naturally organized person, so I discovered the need for decluttering really in multiple stages of life, but my business naturally developed into Senior Move Management because local Senior Living communities had a great need to be able to help their incoming residents through that overwhelming downsizing process. And my team has grown. My husband, who was my first team member, and actual employee is now and really has always been my partner. And he and I manage large downsizing projects, alongside a team of organizers and managers. We help others through all stages like their organizing needs. But this is where we focus 95% of our time with the seniors and their families who are facing this daunting task. It’s what we love to do.
Liz Craven 6:13
I know that for families, it’s very comforting to have somebody who specializes because, as I mentioned before, it’s more than just moving things. It really is a very emotional time and a time of change for the entire family. How do you begin the process of the move management?
Nicole Ramer 6:35
Well, where do you begin, right? When organizing anything, a home and office or move, you’ve got to start somewhere. I like the way Mark Twain says it. The secret to getting ahead is getting started. And it’s so true. Typically, it feels overwhelming because you’re looking at this monster sized project. As a whole, breaking that monster project into smaller tasks is essential to limiting the stress that naturally occurs at a time like this. And oftentimes the senior move manager is working alongside not only the senior, but maybe and hopefully their family too. So this list of tasks, they may be split up between family members and the move management team, ideally, leaving what I call the hard stuff to the experts, that may be all that is needed to remove the overwhelm from the family. So this could be the space planning, communicating with the movers, the estate, clearing, the packing and unpacking, really any physical tasks, whatever it is, that is going to make this transition a pleasant one. That’s always the goal of the senior move manager and frankly, the senior in their family too.
Liz Craven 8:00
So you can handle the process from start to finish where essentially somebody could walk out of one home and into the next and have a seamless transition from living to living.
Nicole Ramer 8:14
Yes, that’s ideal. In fact, we love it when the families are involved. And when the senior is a part of the process, we need them to be. They are the decision makers at the end of the day, but when they leave the physical part of packing everything up, moving it and unpacking it and settling them in before they even walk through that door. It’s the best case scenario for everyone involved, because they’re not stressed after the move. The stress should stop before the move takes place. There shouldn’t be one more box to open or decision to make. They should be able to move into their new home and love the space that they’re in and not be exhausted or depressed and anxious. They already have changed their entire life and it’s time for them to start living again.
Liz Craven 9:19
Absolutely. So how long does the typical move take when you get engaged in the process?
Nicole Ramer 9:27
The million dollar question! It depends. It depends on the size of the house, and the contents within the speed and stamina of the decision makers. This is not only a physical process, but it is absolutely an emotional one. sorting through a lifetime of things, memories, pictures, books, collections from all over the world. And then normal household goods. These things need to be discussed. It took us Long time to collect them, so honestly, it can take some time to downsize them. The best method of accomplishing this daunting task is to focus on the items that you use right now, and that you will continue to use after you’ve moved. Identifying those key pieces is number one.
Liz Craven 10:20
Well, that’s a good thought. Everybody’s into the Marie Kondo and purging the closets. I love her process of touching each item and deciding whether or not it sparks joy in your life and deciding to thank it for its service and let it go if it’s not providing you that joy in the moment anymore.
Nicole Ramer 10:41
Absolutely. I love her too and her process.
Liz Craven 10:45
So what then do you do with all of the things that we’ve decided we can let go of now?
Nicole Ramer 10:52
Yes, well, you’ve got to start the sorting process first. To determine even what is there. That’s hard to do. If you haven’t first chosen the keepers, I like to call them. But in a typical family home, there are closets, drawers, cabinets, and furniture loaded with stuff. And you’ve probably heard the phrase, you don’t know what you have until you have to move it. So senior move managers, after the sorting has been completed, can create an inventory of what is in the home. And this inventory can be super helpful because it gives you a method of sharing with the family who sometimes is scattered all over the US what is there because a senior who is downsizing and moving, they’re typically, on average, downsizing 70% of their home, and maybe keeping 30 if that depending on the size of their home they’re moving to, so having that inventory allows family members all over online to be able to see what is left and so they can make decisions on what they might want. So, the challenge afterwards is, what if no one wants this stuff? That is what can be really sad for the senior. You know, they’ve cherished these things for so long, and nobody wants any of it. The baby carriage in the attic, they purposely saved this, and things like it for when the kids had kids of their own. The expensive dining room set used by the family for elaborate holiday event. You know that big brown furniture that barely brings $100 in an auction or an estate sale, the family pictures and which dozens may be blurry or have duplicate. There are articles galore online that you can find with a title similar to nobody wants our stuff. It’s just the way that it is. So senior move managers faced that challenge every day, where will all of this stuff go? The charities are overflowing with this stuff. And they’ve had to grow to be a little picky with what they are willing to accept. So we try to find a good home for the bulk of what the family doesn’t want. And then the really hard pill to swallow is seeing the rest go to the dump.
Liz Craven 13:38
Oh, wow. I’m sure that must be a very emotional time for everyone involved. Nicole, I want to keep this conversation going. But first, let’s take a quick break for our Sage Ager segment and we’ll be right back
This week’s featured Sage Ager is Chuck Warren. He also happens to be my guest for next week’s episode of Sage Aging. Chuck spent most of his work life in social work for about 20 years now, Chuck has led a Sage-ing program in his community. You’ll learn more about Sage-ing next week, but simply put saging is a positive approach to growing older. Here’s Chuck with a little bit of sage advice.
Unknown Speaker 14:39
Find something that is meaningful to you. And I would say for me, a lot of times it’s doing things for other people. That gives me purpose and it gives me meaning in my life. So how can I use my experience to help someone else? What are things in my life to me that are valuable? Sometimes it’s just making a friend. Sometimes it’s just learning someone down the street from you is lonely, and maybe stopping by and saying hello to them and having a conversation with them.
Liz Craven 15:19
I hope you’ll join me next week to hear more from Chuck, but right now let’s get back to our conversation with Nicole. Is senior move management something that is new? Or is that something that has been around for a while and how did it start?
Nicole Ramer 15:38
Well, this industry really wasn’t needed 20 years ago, we aren’t having as many children as we once did. And those children may have moved out of the home and even out of the state. So there aren’t as many helpers within the family and for the first time in history, two generations are ageing simultaneously. So you’re seeing a time in which a young senior in his or her 60s maybe is aging with their parent who’s in their 90s. These families often need professional help now, where they didn’t really need to 20 years ago.
Liz Craven 16:21
So that really is making a great case for why families should not embark on this process on their own.
Nicole Ramer 16:29
Right? Absolutely. Families need Senior Move Managers, although they’re doing these things every day. It may be because they don’t know there are professionals who serve this need. Or maybe they just decide to handle it on their own, but unless they are experienced in some way, they’re usually the ones who just moved their parents and then get a dumpster. But that is obviously not the way that it should be done at such an emotional time. A time in which you need to go through this process thoughtfully, compassionately, and families who have moved prior relative this way, but found us and use us for the next transition. They told us how regretful they were when they didn’t have help and didn’t exactly know what should be done and how they should approach the situation. These things they weren’t collected overnight, and they shouldn’t be hastily downsized in a short period of time.
Liz Craven 17:35
So do you all have some specialized training to cope with the emotional part of this?
Nicole Ramer 17:42
Yes, Senior Move Manager is a registered trademark of the National Association of Senior Move Managers. I joined NASMM after already having managed I believe it was four moves in 2016 for senior moves I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a senior move manager or the National Association of Senior Move Managers. So this is where becoming a member has been essential in ensuring that we are providing a true service that is helpful that provides us with resources and training so that we are able to really help these families in their time of need. Without NASMM, I would have attended the last four conferences that are a collection of 400 or more senior move managers who are able to collaborate with each other all throughout the year, and are provided with specific training opportunities on downsizing on helping those who may have hoarding tendencies or dementia and really being able to see These things through in a professional manner.
Liz Craven 19:03
That’s really great. I want to say that I’ve seen you in action. And I have watched the process that can be difficult, especially with someone who maybe isn’t ready to make the decision on their own to downsize, but physical limitations and other circumstances necessitate that decision. And I think that somebody who has the expertise to help a family through that transition can make that burden just a little bit lighter. I think that what you do is just amazing.
Nicole Ramer 19:37
Thank you so much.
Liz Craven 19:40
And I’ll bet you develop some pretty close relationships with the families that you serve.
Nicole Ramer 19:47
Our projects are never one size fits all. It’s a very emotional experience from the very first phone call to that final move day. really moved a is not usually the end of the road for us and our relationship with that senior in their family. There are times when there are family members local and they’ll take portions of the project for themselves, whether it’s to limit the cost or just because they want to be a part of the process, and they have the time and that’s fantastic. But then there are other times in which they don’t have it, anyone that lives nearby. And so these families truly rely on us and our support, and our eyes and our and our ears really. But it’s the sad truth about who we are as senior move managers and our clientele and this emotional journey is emotional for all of us because we work with them for sometimes it’s only three months, but other times it’s yours. We have seniors who we’ve moved multiple times, whether it’s because they decided that it really wasn’t time and they missed their home and they want to go back to it, or they’ve gone through multiple transitions from going from their home to independent living, to then assisted living, and then for their last move, maybe memory care. So we work with them for sometimes years. So we grow very close. And it’s very valuable, very rewarding this job that we have.
Liz Craven 21:35
And I think that the peace of mind that you can bring to a family especially because adult children don’t typically live very close to their parents. I think culturally, we’ve come to a place where we know that the globe is kind of small in reality, and we can get to one another pretty quickly. But that leaves a situation when parents begin to age and need assistance. And that’s where people like you come in, and the fact that you’re there and offering those valuable services, I know brings peace of mind to a lot of people.
Nicole Ramer 22:08
Oh, it does.
Liz Craven 22:10
So are these services something that most people could afford to use? Or is the cost heavy?
Nicole Ramer 22:17
You know, it’s funny people do naturally have the assumption that this is going to be a 10,000 or $20,000 project. And with the right sized home, and in the perfect storm, I suppose it could very well grown to that if it’s a large project, but senior move managers all over the world, they’re able to charge based on the services they themselves provide. Most will charge by the hour. And it’s not a question that could be answered over the phone, oftentimes, because you need a proper walkthrough of the home and it’s required By the code of ethics of nasm, that a senior move manager provide an estimate, there are so many things that go into putting that estimate together, because a lot of families will say, I will do this, my sister will do that. We can handle all of these tasks over here. Here’s what we want your help with. And that is okay, because, again, there’s no one size fits all approach. Sometimes, though, the family later decides based on the efficiency maybe that they’ve seen in the senior move manager in their completed tasks that they will just hire them to do it all. So it really depends on a lot, but it does depend on the budget. We do what we can to work with that budget and in the timeline set for the project.
Liz Craven 23:51
That’s really great. So how does someone go about finding a senior move manager
Nicole Ramer 23:58
NASMM has over 1000 Senior move managers, you can find one in your area simply by going to www.nasa.org. That’s n a s m m.org. So you simply enter your zip code and search radius to find one near you. And I highly recommend choosing a NASMM member. Again, because of the collaboration amongst us all. We are spread across the US, Canada, UK and Australia at this point. So that collaboration and the education provided by a NASMM membership is what you want in someone who’s going to provide these services to you.
Liz Craven 24:49
That’s all really great information. So before we close, do you have any suggestions of places that people can go online to read more and find more information about this type of move?
Nicole Ramer 25:01
Yes. So I’m going to keep it super simple lead you to that website. Again, www.nasmm.org because this is where there are highlights the latest articles and information collected. So you can go straight to finding a senior move manager, or you can go to articles from the New York Times to AARP. There’s a book called Downsizing the Family Home by Marnie Jamison, and NASMM has featured extensively in it. So there’s also a guide on NASMM. org to right sizing and relocation, and because of the specialty that I think will be the best resource for you,
Liz Craven 25:57
Fantastic, thank you and just so are we listeners know, I will make sure to put links to all of those things you just mentioned in the show notes for easy access.
Nicole Ramer 26:08
Liz Craven 26:09
Nicole, thank you so much for joining me today, you’ve brought a lot of perspective to the overwhelming task of making a move. I think it’s an overwhelming task for anyone, regardless of age, for sure. And we appreciate all of your input and appreciate that there are folks out there who can make this type of move who for an older adult, can be very emotional, a little bit less stressful. So thanks for joining us, Nicole.
Nicole Ramer 26:39
You’re so welcome. Thanks again for having me, Liz.
Liz Craven 26:51
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Liz Craven, along with her husband Wes, owns Pro-Ad Media, publisher of Sage Aging ElderCare Guide, serving the local community for over 29 years. Liz lives in Lakeland and is very active in the local community, specifically in the area of aging. Liz serves on a number of local boards and committees including the Lakeland Vision and Age Friendly Lakeland.