DIY Books on Downsizing, Selling Belongings & Living Free of Clutter

Lillian - ClientWhether you are preparing for an upcoming move, assisting a loved one with a downsizing transition, or striving to live simply, these four books will encourage, motivate and guide you through each step.

Sell, Keep or Toss? How to Downsize a Home, Settle and Estate and Appraise Personal Property by Harry L. Rinker

Author Harry L. Rinker, a collectibles expert and professional appraiser, answers virtually every question you might have about process of de-cluttering and selling your belongings.  His practical advice will help you determine re-sale value, handle the emotional turmoil of letting go, and know when to call in the experts. “Creating memories is the key to successfully passing a family heirloom to the next generation. If you want your family treasures to be treasured by the next generation, you need to create memories with them. Use your grandparents’ dinnerware, flatware, and stemware when entertaining your children. Memories are made standing around the kitchen sink washing these items by hand and talking. Take pictures while you do all this and pass these down with the objects. Most importantly, write down and record the family stories associated with your family heirlooms.”

Re-Creating Home: Downsizing and De-Cluttering After 50 by Fran Scoville and Holley Ulbrich

With suggested “homework” at the end of each section, this is a working guide for overcoming obstacles, making a plan, and acknowledging the emotional challenges of each step. With insights on how our various personality traits impact our downsizing techniques, it speaks to everyone.  “No major change in life is without its sunny side and its shadow, and every person’s experience is at least a little bit different.”

Downsize…Start Now! A Short, Simple Guide for Boomers, Older Adults, and Anyone Who Wants to Organize Their Home and Simplify Their Life by Sarah L.O.J. Hunter

Whether you’re moving to a new home or downsizing “in place” this book offers organizing principles and advice for dealing with challenging areas like photos, junk mail, clothing, family treasures and sentimental clutter. With a helpful checklist and Appendix, this simple format is an easy start to a long process.

Scaling Down: Living Large in a Smaller Space by Judi Culbertson and Marj Decker

Written by two organizing experts, this book provides short and simple worksheets, quizzes, and step-by-step instructions.  From navigating the complex task of dividing family heirlooms among children, to freeing yourself from the obligation to keep unwanted gifts, this is a resource you can refer to throughout your transition.

Tax Season: Time to Sort Papers

Tax SeasonWhether you’re getting ready for tax season or preparing for an upcoming move, it is that time of year when many us look at all the paperwork we’ve gathered and wonder: how long do I need to keep this stuff? Well, it isn’t as long as you think!

The IRS says:
“You must keep your records as long as they may be needed for the administration of any provision of the Internal Revenue Code. Generally, this means you must keep records that support items shown on your return until the period of limitations for that return runs out.” Need more clarity?

Here are some tips from the IRS site.

Generally, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return.

Individual taxpayers should usually keep the following records supporting items on their tax returns for at least three years:

  • Bills, Credit cards and Invoices
  • Mileage log
  • Checks or any other proof of payment
  • Any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return

Remember: this is only for items that support a claim you’ve made on your tax return. If it doesn’t connect to a line item, then you don’t need to save it.

If you aren’t saving bills / statements, verify that you can request records from a service provider for at least three years after you close your account, just in case you need a statement.

You should normally keep records relating to property until at least three years after you sell or otherwise dispose of the property.

Visit the above website for specific information related to small business owners, especially for employee records.

A word of caution regarding digital storage: Some websites suggest that you store old tax returns electronically in order to cut down on paper storage in your home. Please consider the risk associated with online data storage sites. Large organizations promising security and privacy are still susceptible to hackers. Your tax return contains extremely confidential information, and if stolen could provide significant identity theft opportunities. Be wary and careful when weighing your options.

If you still aren’t sure about what documents to keep, consider hiring a professional organizer who can guide you on smart paper management techniques. Your Certified Professional Accountant might also be willing to provide some guidelines for your particular situation. One thing is true: most of us keep much more than we need to!

This article was originally posted in Gig Harbor’s Living Local Magazine.

Downsizing and Preparing for a Move

With a thousand miles betweGig Harbor Resale Optionsen them, Carol could hear the
anxious voice
of her mother over the phone.  Newly diagnosed Parkinson’s was quickly stealing her independence as she struggled to maintain confidence in her ability to live alone.  Carol evaluated options as she promised her mom that she’d find a way to help her move into the safety and care of a senior living community.

Fortunately, Carol was quickly introduced to a Senior Move Manager®, who offered to guide her through the many steps of making a significant move. Understandably, her most pressing question was “What can my mom do with the furniture and belongings she doesn’t want to move with her?”

Luckily, there are a few options to consider in the local area.

Friends, Family and Social Circles
First off, ask family and close friends if they would like any items that you no longer want, or if they know of someone who is in need.

A limited number of items may be consigned if their re-sale value is sufficient. You’ll have to coordinate to get the item to the consignment house, and agree to take a commission on what sells. Space is limited and store owners must be particular about what thin
gs they can accept. Start by taking a photo and visiting the store to see if there’s any interest.

Off-site auction houses can be a great solution if you have many items to sell. For a fee, they will come to your home and remove those items you’ve decided to sell. They will either sell it at one of their auctions or post it for an online auction. You’ll receive a commission on the items that sell. This has proven to be a very fruitful endeavor for some, and is a great way to remove a large number of items from your home all at once.

Estate Sales
If you are willing to have your home opened up to the public (either before or after you move out) then a professionally managed estate sale is a viable option if you have a high volume of items. Customers come to you, experts price the items, manage and clean up the sale for a commission.

There are a number of reputable organizations that will pick up items from your home; a local favorite is NW Furniture Bank, who also has a mattress recycling program. Although you might be disappointed that you’ve been unable to sell your furniture, it can be rewarding to know that it will continue to benefit someone else’s family.

Seniors who need to make a move in a very short time frame, or who are unable to manage this process all on their own when family members  are far away, can greatly benefit from Senior Move Managers who are experts at preparing for a move. Often partnering with the movers to ensure that moving day goes smoothly, their ultimate reward is in the joy and satisfaction of settling someone into a new home by the end of the day.

This article was originally published in Gig Harbor’s Living Local.

Amy Jones, GHHM Transition Coordinator

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 9.37.50 PMAmy joined GHHM in 2015, probably thinking she’d just help us with a little project here and there. And lo and behold – we can’t imagine our team without her! Before joining GHHM, Amy began working as a Home Care Aid after seeing how challenging it was for her mother to care for her own out-of-state parents. Senior Move Management was a natural fit for her, and after helping us with the large move of the entire Memory Care unit at The Lodge, she was hooked.
As Transition Coordinator, Amy connects with our clients, manages our schedules and keeps us all on track. She spends hours assisting our senior clients with sorting, organizing and preparing for a move to a new home and finds it incredibly rewarding to help others through their often challenging transition. She admits to getting quite attached to our clients, and sure enjoys getting to know each of them on personal level.
When she isn’t managing someone’s move, this soon to be empty-nester loves to spend time boating and camping with her family, cooking, reading, serving at her church and watching football (of course!).

Question and Answers from NASMM’s Senior Move Managers

questions and answersThis year, many adult children of aging parents will make the long-distance trek back home for a visit with their parents. As they plan for their reunion, they can’t help but wonder if this will be the turning point in their parent’s living arrangements for the new year. Here are some answers to common questions asked at this time of year of NASMM’s Senior Move Managers.

How do I approach this awkward topic with my elderly parents?

If you are increasingly concerned that critical things are slipping at your parents’ home (the food is spoiling, or the unpaid bills are piling up), then it is important to bring up the issue with them. Use a light-hearted tone, show respect and most of all remember that most of us don’t feel our age – can’t you relate? Emphasize the goal of asking for extra help: less stress, fewer burdens and easier chores (point out they get to define the parameters to protect their privacy and dignity).

Consider taking them out for dinner or for a walk so that you can have the conversation in neutral territory. Be patient – it often takes time to process.

How do I talk about my loved one’s loss of autonomy?

Imagine being in their position: what are they feeling? Fear? Uncertainty? Loss? Understanding those emotions will better prepare you for the patience required. If their safety is at risk, you’ll have to take action to protect their well-being. But giving them power over even the smallest of decisions (and as many as possible) is important.

Consider hiring a professional Geriatric Care Manager to act as a neutral party in evaluating options and offering support.

What can I do if my parents refuse to talk?

While honoring their perspective, it is also helpful to share how you feel. “When I see you struggling to do your own laundry, it makes me feel sad that you are carrying this responsibility all on your own. I would really love to help so that you can have more time to relax and do the hobbies that you love.” Speak with empathy, emphasize the positive outcomes and practice active listening. If one parent is clearly playing a caregiving role, privately ask how well he or she is coping with that, as they are likely hiding their struggle.

Geriatric Care Managers advise families when the next step isn’t clear. In-Home Caregivers assess and provide feedback. Referral Agencies make recommendations for senior living communities. Senior Move Managers like us, trained by NASMM, provide organizational support and oversee a transition to a new home when the time comes.

Remember you are not alone in wanting what is best for your parents. Ask lots of questions, evaluate options and ask for support. Take care of yourself, so that you’ll have the physical, mental and emotional energy to support them.

Make Your House a Home for a Lifetime with an Aging-in-Place Specialist

CAPSAging-in-place means remaining in one’s home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level. It means the pleasure of living in a familiar environment throughout one’s maturing years, without changing health conditions requiring a move to a new home.

There are three main categories of Aging-in-Place:


  • Without urgent needs: This group includes individuals who want to age in place and although they are not experiencing immediate or significant health issues, they have a preference for Universal Design.
  • Progressive, condition based needs: This group is made up of those with chronic or progressive conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, cataracts, macular degeneration or hearing loss that will require special modifications for aging in place. These individuals are usually aware of their needs but meeting them isn’t necessarily urgent.
  • Traumatic change needs: This group includes those who experienced an abrupt or traumatic change such as a stroke, a fall resulting in a broken bone or recovery from surgery that necessitates modifications to allow them to stay in their home.

Certified Aging-In-Place Specialists (CAPS) are remodelers, general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants who have received formal training through the National Association of Home Builders.

“Through the training program, I was taught specific strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically enriching, barrier-free living environment,” says Margit Glenn, co-owner Visionarch, LLC in Port Orchard. “Barrier-free homes have features such as plentiful lighting, thresholds that are flush with the floor, no-step entries, wide doorways and hallways and floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces.”

CAPS Professionals like Margit can partner with a Senior Move Manager to ensure that every aspect of a home has been organized to suit your needs. Trained through the National Association of Senior Move Managers, At-Home Specialists can assist with:

  • re-purposing existing spaces
  • clearing clutter
  • increasing safety in main walkways
  • simplifying kitchen cabinets
  • organizing closets
  • donating or selling items no longer needed.

Senior Move Managers apply the same coordinated, compassionate organizing techniques to help you STAY in your home as they do to help you move. They can also recommend local experts when further assistance is needed from occupational therapists or caregivers.

To live safely and comfortably at every stage in your life, talk to a CAPS Professional about modifications to your current home, or building a new home, in order to make your home a home for all times.

You Can Do it All – A strategy for juggling life’s responsibilities

Juggling lifeNo more goofing off into the late summer nights: back to business, new schedules and school routines. The responsibilities you threw out the window in August are back on the to-do list in October.

Many women struggle to find balance and sanity while trying to accomplish the work of Superwoman.

With the catchy title “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” Anne Marie Slaughter’s 2012 article in The Atlantic created much controversy as women across the nation debated on whether “having it all” was just a myth.

According to Patricia Falotico, an IBM executive, women need to dispel the myth that work and life have to be equal parts all of the time. She shared a personal story of when she was caring for her sick father. “There were days when I had to be daughter first and executive second,” she said.

“I’m really concerned about people feeling like they have to define balance based on anyone else’s definition. It’s got to be what works for you,” says Marilyn Midyette, CEO of Girls Scouts of Greater Atlanda, Inc. She tackles “having it all” in seasons. “In one quarter, I may hunker down because I have major initiatives I need to get accomplished. In another quarter, it may be my kids are getting ready to go off to college and I want to be present for that.”

For a visual picture, local therapist Teresa Renner suggests that you imagine a pile of balloons at your feet. Write one responsibility on each balloon: work, son, daughter, partner, grandparent, family time, self-care. Now throw them up in the air. How hard is it to keep them all afloat? But what happens to the ones that do fall to the ground? They’re resilient…bouncy…patient. Could this be true of our real “balloons”? Could we take turns with responsibilities as our seasons change, and let some fall gently to the ground – if just for an hour, a day or week?

Last month I watched with admiration as my employees practiced the art of choosing which “balloon” to keep in the air as they strived to be present during changing life seasons. Some had kids starting middle school, high school and even going off to college. Husbands traveled for work, grandkids visited, self-care took a turn and a couple weekends were devoted purely to business initiatives. Because of their efforts to make conscious choices for their time and devotion, they entered their new beginnings with peacefulness, fewer regrets and energy for what comes next.

As you settle in to the changes the Fall has brought, challenge yourself to find the deep satisfaction of balance and peacefulness that can only come from within, when you are just exactly where you need to be in the moment that life hands to you.

*Above Quotes taken from

Snowbirds Prepare to Safeguard Their Homes – Home Watch Services Gaining in Popularity

Always Superior Quality

“During a season that brought ants into our kitchen and rainwater into our basement, we’re so glad we hired our Home Manager to check on our home and oversee calls from service providers in our absence.” -Sandy, happy Gig Harbor homeowner

secure houseEvery fall, snowbirds prepare to pack up and head south for the winter. Many of them discover just how much can go wrong inside their home where no one can see what’s happening.

“I’ll just turn off the water heater…”
Did you know that turning off your water heater has the potential to void its warranty?

“I’ll just turn the temp down…”
Did you know that a cold water heater can interfere with water softener systems, and lead to speedy corrosion and spring a leak overnight?

“It’s clean enough for while we’re gone…”
Did you know that sugar ants can literally explode in a feeding frenzy when unchecked, and are one of the hardest infestations to eliminate?

“The Security Guards will walk around the exterior every day…”
Did you know that a running toilet can waste up to 4,000 gallons per day and cost thousands if no one is inside to hear it?

A growing number of local residents are seeing the value in hiring a home watch manager to check the inside of their home for a variety of hidden risks:

  • UTILITIES – water heaters, thermostat settings, leaks under sinks
  • CLEANLINESS – food management, clean surfaces and visiting pests
  • APPLIANCES – Refrigerator settings, washing machine odors, car battery chargers
  • OUTSIDE – 
Patio furniture during windstorms, outdoor faucets and freezing temperatures, flooding at foundations

DISCOURAGING BURGLARIES – light timers, changing curtains & blinds, watering plants on the front porch, snow removal, packages left on porch

Gain peace of mind for the safekeeping of your home by hiring a professional, licensed and bonded home management company that will check potential problem areas. A home watch manager will meet with you personally, create a customized checklist and inspection plan, and schedule regular visits that accommodate your concerns and wishes.

The cost of hiring someone to look after your home is far less than the cost of a major emergency going undiscovered for weeks or months. Don’t count on the friendly neighbor who keeps on eye on it from down the street; the worst disasters aren’t seen from the outside! A trustworthy and dependable home watch manager will give you an added layer of protection, and bring you peace of mind while you’re gone.

Why Don’t My Kids Want My Stuff? Making peace and letting go.

“A seismic shift of stuff is underway in homes all over America. Members of the generation that once embraced sex, drugs and rock-and-roll are trying to offload their place settings for 12, family photo albums and leather sectionals. Their offspring don’t want them.” The Washington Post, 3/27/15

empty nestWhether you’re a baby boomer becoming an empty nester (finally!) or a parent of a baby boomer downsizing into a senior community, the dilemma is the same: you’ve spent your life collecting meaningful treasures…and now your children don’t want them. In my work as a Senior Move Manager, I’m often in the position of comforting clients whose children no longer have any sentimental attachment to family heirlooms or a desire to take furniture hand-me-downs.

Here’s a few tips for making peace with your own downsizing and de-cluttering process:
Give your kids permission to throw out their own trophies, yearbooks and t-shits they’ve saved in your basement for decades. Gen Xers and Millennials live life digitally; perhaps taking a picture of the memorabilia is better suited to their lifestyle. Treasure the memory, laugh at the good times it brought you, and say goodbye.

If you’re the parent of a baby boomer, recognize that your adult child already has a home of her own, and may not have space for your favorite items. And your grandchildren, Gen Xers and Millennials, are living in smaller homes, simplifying or still transient as they settle into careers. Although you may desperately want to save them money with your hand-me-downs, understand that this generation simply operates differently (whether you agree with it or not). There are often hurt feelings in this process. Remember that it isn’t that your kids don’t love you – they just don’t love your furniture.

Auction houses and thrift shops are flooded with furniture pieces – often selling for bargain prices. Consignments stores have either closed due to a declining market or they’re so selective on which items they’ll consign that many clients are turned away. So if your kids don’t want your items, and there isn’t a local option for selling, find a reputable organization like the NW Furniture Bank. Knowing that your furniture is going to a good cause can help ease the pain of giving it away. Take a look at

Peacefully accept that your children or grandchildren may not be as nostalgic as your generation. It’s difficult, but important for your family relationships. Senior Move Managers can assist you in recording your family history in ways that conserve space and make it easier to share with others – such as digitizing the stacks of photo albums or taking pictures of family heirlooms and then writing the relevant family history behind it.

Remind yourself that there is great freedom in letting go, even when the process is difficult. Be easy on yourself and find a way to say goodbye to the item while treasuring the memory that it gives you. Be grateful for the journey it took with you. And let it go.

Backyard Games

With the early arrival of summer heat, families across Gig Harbor are gearing up for neighborhood parties. Back by popular demand, here’s a listing of outside for kids and adults alike – just make sure to get out the camera. We’ll be watching for you on Facebook!

A unique game involving strategy and skill and can be enjoyed by both young and old. Toss the throwing dowel underhand and knock over the skittles. Topple one skittle and get the amount of points branded on that skittle, topple multiple skittles and get the amount of points equaling the amount of skittles toppled. First one to 50 wins! Mölkky is a great way for children to learn math skills and have fun at the same time.

Lawn Twister
Make Twister on your grass! Simply use spray paint for the colored circles. (Seymour Paint makes a quick drying marking paint that washes away after a few heavy rains or with a garden hose.) The soft grass cushions any falls, and doesn’t everyone like laying around in the yard in the summer?

Be the first team to knock down all your kubbs and then the king, or be on the opposite team of the player that knocks down the king before knocking down all of their kubbs. Watch out: Knocking down the king without knocking down the kubbs is like sinking the eight ball out of turn.

Think beanbag toss… but with rules, scoring, teams and way more fun. This can be played with 2 or 4 players. Each team has a platform with a hole in it, and 4 corn bags. You take the beanbag, toss it at a rectangular plywood board about 30 feet away, and hope to either stick it somewhere on the platform or sink it through the single hole cut into the surface.

Egg & Spoon Relays
A classic for all ages. You can go the old fashioned route and use real eggs and spoons; use plastic Easter eggs; or purchase a wooden version online. Divide players into teams, line them up, and run a classic relay race. If a player drops the egg along the way, he or she must return to the line and begin again. Make the game more challenging by setting up an obstacle course. Or, add another twist: The kids must hop like a bunny, waddle like a duck, crawl like a turtle…. The possibilities are endless!

Scavenger Hunts
Don’t forget the reliable, always entertaining scavenger hunts. Hide goodies around the neighborhood for the young kids to keep it simple. Or step it up for the older ones by making it a photo scavenger hunt: provide them with a list of required photos (in certain locations with certain objects) that they have to submit via text. First group to submit all of them wins the tournament!

This list is just a start. Hop online and you’ll be surprised to discover all the options for backyard fun.

While the summer brings out the best in most of us, it can also be overwhelming if you’re the one hosting the backyard BBQ or patio party. Plan ahead, make a list, and ask for help!

Our home organizer can help you get ready for the big parties and guests this summer. Call us today for more information 253.225.4864.


This article was first published in Gig Harbor’s Latitude 45 Magazine.