December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Moving out of your house can be challenging for anyone. But when the house you are leaving has been your family home for the last few decades, it can be even more daunting.

The idea of packing up items accumulated over the years is, at first, a logistical nightmare. Then the sentimental factor sets in and it can be seen, by some, to be a nearly unbearable task. For others, letting go of all this “stuff” can be freeing and symbolizing a fresh start. Either way, it is undeniably a big undertaking.

Many seniors are facing this very situation for a variety of reasons, including simply downsizing, restricted mobility, and being unable to maintain their current home. Just as there are a variety of reasons for moving, there are a variety of services designed to help seniors and their families achieve this goal.

Kris Kircher, owner of Caring Transitions, is one of several local businesses that specialize in helping seniors and their families pack their belongings, spruce up the house, and get everything ready for the old house to sell and the new home to be move-in ready.

“We get [the house] completely cleaned out,” she says. “We [can] do it all for them.” For nearly 20 years, Kircher has been helping seniors and their families sort through all kinds of items, preparing them for an estate sale, for donation, or just to de-clutter and downsize. She can also help to get them settled in their new location.

Kircher explains that, to get the process started, she encourages her clients to focus on their goals. “Normally, it is to clean out the house so it can be sold,” she says. Often, the secondary goal is to make some money by selling unnecessary items through either an estate sale or through consignment. “I try to make sure I’m working with them to meet their goals so that they can have a say on what’s going on.”

Liz Ryan, owner of Once Upon a Time Estate Sales, has been in been the business of offering estate tag sales since 1981. Through her years of experience, she has seen that making this transition can be hard for all those involved. Just like Kircher, Ryan and her staff are determined to make the process as smooth as possible for their clients. “We try to accommodate…a person who is feeling overwhelmed about the potential move,” says Ryan.

Kircher adds that since this can be an exceptionally emotional time, she is careful to be respectful of the client’s feelings about the move. “There is a lot of loss and some mourning when you’re looking at giving up your home that you’ve lived in for 45 or 50 years,” she says. “You’re also mourning the fact that you can no longer live in your home…you can’t maintain it.”

“There’s a lot of sentiment attached to material things,” agrees Ryan. “The idea of moving and leaving the place you called home for many years is daunting, so we try to make that transition as smoothly as possible.”

Both Kircher and Ryan say that they often act as an advocate for the senior, as well as for their family, when a client has decided it’s time to move to a new residence. “When [the client] is looking for someone to work with, they’re really looking for someone to take care of all the details and someone who can do it respectfully,” says Kircher.

In being the advocate for the family, both businesses can take the entire process from start to finish, leaving the family time to focus on other, more enjoyable things.

“[My team] will work with someone in the house; or in many cases, we’re handed a key and we go through everything [in the house],” says Ryan. “We separate everything. Then we clean it, polish it, shine it, set it up on tables with velvet table clothes.” She says that they have sold everything from cars and boats to pots and pans.

The usual estate sale lasts three days. “For the final product the customer gets an entire inventory, piece by piece, of everything that has [left] the house with the item priced.” She says that Once Upon a Time Estate Sales is one of only two local estate sales services that provide the customer with the original cashier’s book. “It’s fun for people to go through because they’re incredulous at what some of [the items] will bring.”

For those who may have items better suited for a collection than a consignment shop, Holly Hackwith with Corporate Art Co. is a certified art appraiser through the International Society of Appraisers. She and her staff work with clients who want to find out the value of their artwork.

“Often, the client will want to know what it’s worth [in terms of] the fair market value because they want to gift different pieces to grandchildren or children, and they want to be fair about it,” she explains. “In other words, they want to be equitable in dollar amounts and they don’t know what [the piece is] currently worth.”

Hackwith also works with clients who are downsizing and are not sure whether to keep something, sell it, or need to have it insured. “Seniors would [also] want to have appraisal…if they want to give it as a charitable gift to an institution. I am accredited with the International Society of Appraisers to appraise anything that needs to be overseen by the IRS or for legal work.”

The idea of packing up a lifetime of possessions and moving on from where memories were made can seem monumental. But when the task is put into trusted hands of experts who respect your feelings and your belongings, it becomes a little easier to bear. And while letting go of our material items can be difficult at first, thankfully, the memories are easily carried with us wherever we go.