• Laurie Bell

Oh, Dad Will Want That . . .


It’s interesting to hear the reactions that I get when I tell people what I do at Moving Seniors with a Smile Inc.:  “Oh that must be so hard - older people just don’t want to give up anything… or:  “How do you manage to get the older folks to part with all their stuff when they are moving into a retirement residence or a condo?”

Not that I don’t sometimes encounter this kind of resistance from the older adults who I work with.  I do.  But much more often than you might expect, the push-back to the change comes from one or more of the client’s adult children.

Recently I worked with a client who, on his own, made really good decisions. We worked systematically through his large family home, deciding what to take, what to sell, what to give away and what to do with what was left over.  I made some suggestions, connected him with a respected appraiser for an opinion on a few unique art objects, and discussed options for furniture placement in his new home.

My client though, like many of the people who I work with, had caring and involved family members who unquestionably wanted the best for their Dad.  They would visit him on the weekends, help him with some of the sorting when they could, but it quickly became apparent that the goal posts were shifting after each visit.  Rose thinks that we should keep that – it might be worth some money someday…” or:  “Brian said that my wife had really liked that vase and that I should hang on to it.” This wouldn’t be a problem if there wasn’t already an abundance of these types of items currently sitting on the market and there weren’t already seven similar vases that were also his Mom’s favourites.

Surprisingly it is usually not the furniture that causes the most anxiety in these family situations.  It is the sheer volume of “stuff”.  I worked with a client recently whose late husband had a number of commemorative plaques and framed tributes that came from colleagues, associates and many years of active political participation.  Some of them were clearly special and made my client smile.  There was an obvious reason to keep those.  Not so obvious a reason to keep all thirty- eight of them.  . .

My recommendation to my clients is usually: “Keep the Best of the Best and Let Go of the Rest”. Letting go may mean distributing some of the favoured memorabilia items to family members now rather than later.  Christmas and birthdays can be a perfect time to gift these sentimental family treasures, if indeed you know that the younger members of your family will actually appreciate them I will share an expression that I often hear from family members though:  “You keep them for now Dad – I don’t really have room for them… “

OK, fair enough, but your Dad is moving from a large four bedroom home with a finished basement into a two bedroom condo with a storage unit.  Do you believe that he has the room?

The good news is that there are many ways to preserve your treasured memories without taking up a lot of space.  There are also opportunities to re-purpose items so that they can be used or featured in different ways.

Sometimes in a family there are those who are very sentimental, those who are less so and others who, frankly if left to their own devices, would call for a dumpster.  Knowing your family members, asking questions and having mechanisms in place can ensure that there is adequate and fair distribution of items with sentimental, as well as monetary, value.   

I also recommend starting your downsizing process early so that decisions do not have to be made in a time of crisis. 

If you would appreciate someone who can offer you an objective perspective and who can help to navigate your particular family terrain, we offer free consultations in the Greater Toronto Area.  Call Laurie to book yours now at 416-697-8106.

Family disputes often have nothing to do with money and preventing disputes is so much better than trying to deal with them after the fact.



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