Chat @ Care-giving: The Drama of Down-sizing Week One

With Mom’s signature on a contract and deposit check written, it was time to start packing.  There’s probably some right way or wrong way to go about packing your parents for a move to their retirement center but  I didn’t research it.  Instead I used cues from my mother as my guide.

Her first hurdle was furniture.  Spatially challenged, she couldn’t imagine the rooms in her vacant apartment would ever hold her furniture.  She didn’t even think there was room for a double bed in her bedroom.  Perhaps it was my years in real estate or maybe I can just naturally judge that sort of thing better, but I knew she’d have plenty of room for what she needed.  All the contents of her 2000 square foot home were not going to fit into an 1100 square foot apartment, but I could see that she was going to have a really great place to live once her belongings were in the new space.

Enter my husband.  He had the brilliant idea of taping the outlines of the furniture on the floor.  Whiterock Court has a great website with floor plans that actually allow you to place your furniture to scale in the rooms.  That’s fine for some people, but my mom wasn’t one of them.  In fact, even after she’d seen the apartment with the masking tape outlines on the floor, she was convinced I’d mis-measured everything, but at least I was able to re-direct her to her next concern:  her clothes.

We all have obsessions, whether we admit to them or not.  Mother’s is her wardrobe.  In a house with six closets, Mother had her clothes in five and also on two rolling racks in the bedroom.  And that was just the clothes for the current season.  She also had a double-decked closet built in her garage to hold the off-season wardrobe.  When I quit responding to her concerns about the furniture, she turned to her wardrobe.

She feared she wasn’t going to have enough room, so she’d have to throw everything away and then she wouldn’t have anything to wear.  I agreed that we wouldn’t have enough room to keep absolutely everything, but I had a three pronged approach.

To begin with, I knew she wasn’t wearing a lot of her clothes.  Some no longer fit.  She’d shrunk from wearing a size 10 to trying on sixes and eights -sometimes even fours.  Also, some of the clothes were just way too out-of-style.  The eighties were alive and well in Mom’s closets.  And finally, her life has changed.  It’s been a long time since she went to work every day.

Part one of my plan was to get her to try on all of the clothes.  Anything that didn’t fit, anything she hadn’t worn in, say, this century or anything that had yellowed, been moth-eaten or otherwise compromised had to go.  That cleared out a goodly number of items and made a significant impact on a local charity.

On to phase two.  Mom was hung up on the number of closets she had at home, but those closets were designed in 1969.  Do you remember 1969?  Eyeballing the closets, I knew that there were actually more linear feet of closet in the apartment than they had in their house.  I couldn’t replicate the closet in the garage or make room for her rolling racks, but I knew she was getting a lot of closet space.

My last ditch plan was self-storage.  If I couldn’t winnow down her wardrobe enough to fit into the spacious closets of the apartment, I was willing to rent storage space.  Thankfully, that did not become necessary.  My sister had some extra space at her house (she obviously did not get the fashionista gene which clutters my closets) and was willing to store a rolling rack of out-of-season outfits.

So, among the first supplies I bought for the move were a stack of wardrobe boxes.  I filled  a hall closet with the items my little sister would store at her house, left enough clothes in my parents’ home closets to make out with for the balance of the month and then stuffed eight wardrobe boxes full of clothes.  But, having the clothes packed only worsened my Mom’s fears.  She also could not imagine that we’d have storage for all the items she needed beyond furniture and clothes.

See Mom is a bargain hunter.  Even if she has five bottles of Lysol toilet cleaner, if she finds a coupon for it at the same time it’s on sale at one of her grocery stores, she’s buying Lysol toilet cleaner.  Same thing applies to all cleaning supplies, paper goods and foodstuffs.  Had the worst disaster happened, Mom would not have had to leave her home for at least six months, as long as she had a source for water and electricity – and she would have have plenty to share with the neighbors.

Mom’s custom home had all kinds of built-in storage.  In addition, she’d installed a shed in the backyard and her garage had been a constant work in progress as her wardrobe and other inventories continued to grow.   As she whined about wasting her valuable store of paper towels and Armstrong Floor Cleaner, I finally had to admit that the apartment might not be equipped to support her “bargain hunting.”   As we unloaded her shelves, we had a dozen boxes of Kleenex, ten jars of Vasoline, four over-sized cans of hairspray, at least twenty various containers of lotions, ten bars of soap – and that was just in the house.  I hadn’t even unloaded the shelves in the garage, yet.  However, I did introduce her to storage solutions at IKEA and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

So, at the end of week one, I’d planned out the placement of her furniture, gone through all my parents’ closets and dressers and sorted out the supplies in Mom’s dressing table and the cabinets in their bathrooms.  In my spare time, I’d unloaded treasures from a large curio cabinet, the fireplace mantle, the living room coffee table and an etagere.  I was ready for some help.


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