Simplify your life, starting with your home

It’s never too soon to start thinking about downsizing. Gentle Transitions can help.

Most people don’t think of moving as fun. The thought of it can be overwhelming.
But Gentle Transitions will put anyone’s mind at ease. Gentle Transitions is a move management company headquartered in Edina that has been making moves easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable for older adults in Minnesota since 1990.
Lee Syndergaard, the regional director of sales and marketing at Gentle Transitions, has some tips for how people can simplify their lives, starting with their homes. 
“It’s never too soon to start thinking about downsizing before a move,” said Syndergaard during a Let’s Connect event in May at The Eloise, a 100-unit community tucked into the all-new Wirth on the Woods development located between the quaint Bryn Mawr neighborhood in Minneapolis and the 759-acre Theodore Wirth Regional Park.
Syndergaard advises taking things in steps. Consider beginning with the linen closet where you can throw away expired medications.
“Most of the things in there aren’t too sentimental,” he explained. “It’s not hard to get rid of expired Tylenol, extra bottles of shampoo, extra towels, more than you’re going to need now that you have an empty nest. That’s a lot better way to build up momentum and get some emotional wins and victories.
Syndergaard said, “Don’t ever start with family photos. You won’t get anywhere. That’s one thing we say. Let’s save that till last or even after the move. So take it off in small bites and be strategic about where you start and when you start.”
The key is to go through your home, room by room, piece by piece, and decide what you really need. 
“We say let’s do this in two phases,” says Syndergaard. “Phase one, let’s get you moved into your new home, set up, and comfortable because then this home is going to be a lot less cluttered and then it’s going to be a lot less overwhelming. Phase one is the move. Then we can go back. That gives us the opportunity to really hammer home this less is more approach.”
Take the kitchen.
“Kitchens can bring a move to a screeching halt if they’re not planned for well,” says Syndergaard. “So we say, I know you want to bring everything in this kitchen, however, it’s just not all going to fit. There are two of you, so let’s bring eight plates, eight of your favorite coffee mugs.”
You don’t need as much stuff as you think.
“Let’s bring a lot less than you think you’re going to need,” explains Syndergaard. “And then if we get everything unpacked in that kitchen and realize there’s room for more dishes and coffee mugs, china, then it’s easy enough to go throw some stuff in your trunk. 
“So keeping the home or keeping the home until after you move is oftentimes a best-case scenario. There might be reasons why that doesn’t work, but boy does it make it a lot less stressful.”
Taking photos to make moving in easier
Gentle Transitions has a long history of success, and business is booming.
“We’re doing 1,500 moves a year, and there’s no signs of slowing because the demand and the need for our services is there,” adds Syndergaard. “We’re doing things basically the same way over the last 34 years, which is care and compassion for our client. Care and compassion for the client, walking them through the process. It’s not just packing and unpacking. Anybody can do that.”
The whole process starts with a complimentary consultation and a personal move manager. They help people every step of the way, from planning the move, mapping out the floor plan of a new residence, hiring a professional moving company, and ensuring all possessions reach their new home safely. They regularly work with Ecumen communities like Wirth on the Woods, as well as other senior living communities, and are available to do presentations on how to downsize and move.
Once every belonging is off the moving truck, Gentle Transitions staff unpack everything, hang all the pictures, make all the beds, plug in all the lamps, and get the new home ready by the afternoon of the move.
“Our clients don’t have to lift a finger,” said Syndergaard. “And by the time we’re done, in just a matter of hours, it looks like the client has lived there for a month because the boxes are all out, everything is just done. So instead of spending weeks or months or longer unpacking, they can immerse themselves in the community.”
He added, “We work with the family, and there’s a lot of emotional support in there and planning and making recommendations based on our experience we think you should do x, y, and z.” Before anything is packed, they take pictures – of how a china hutch is arranged, the way bookshelves are arranged, and how magnets are on the refrigerator – so that when they putting it back, it’s as familiar and comfortable as possible.
The key for any senior move is to start planning early.
“A lot of people just don’t realize how much is involved with moving,” says Syndergaard. “One common example is they’ll say, we’ll get a call saying we need to move mom into memory care. I’m only available next Friday, so we need to move her next Friday. And we say, have you cleared that with the community? A lot of senior communities do not allow memory care moves on Fridays. And they say, ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.’ 
“They say, I want to move in on a weekend. Some communities don’t allow that because there’s less staff that can help if the people might not be there if the cable doesn’t work, that kind of thing. 
“So we really steer them toward make sure you sign the paperwork as the nurse’s assessment occurred. There are a lot of ducks to get in a row that they just don’t realize, and that’s why we’re more than just packers and unpackers. We’re guiding them through the process. After many decades, we’ve learned a lot of questions to answer or to ask and get the answers to. 
“If they want to have an estate sale make sure you call a couple, get them into your house because you may or may not have enough things to justify an estate sale. Even if you do, a lot of these estate sale companies book out months in advance because of their schedule. Same with moving companies. 
“So just guiding them through all of these these things to think about and ask and prepare for. There’s more to moving than you ever realize or remember, which is why it’s important to start now.”
Moving does not have to be a painful process. 
“The people we are working with aren’t necessarily thrilled at the thought of moving,” sums up Syndergaard. “It’s different than when you’re younger, and it’s exciting to move to a bigger house. And so we want to make it comfortable and in a very gentle transition.”


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