Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Appointment with Downsizing Specialist


Don’t lick the egg off my face! Would you believe it’s a beauty mask? If you said ‘no’ you’ve known me longer than a day. I’ve been a bundle of nerves for nearly two weeks, worrying about downsizing in time for what I falsely believed was a pushed up move-in date for the Continuum Care Complex that’s being built that I’ve put a hefty deposit down on. Originally we were told it would be the fall of 2020 which was perfect for me, given all I have to do. Then I was informed that the timing had changed and it would be February or March, but silly me I panicked and thought they meant 2020. I just found out they meant the spring of 2021, not 2020. I’m both relieved and disappointed. Disappointed because it means two more winters here instead of one. But all it really changes is now I can go back to plan A which is a more relaxed and doable time frame to get the most money out of what I need to downsize. Trust me, this CCC will be worth the extra wait even if I wish the wait wasn’t so long and I could be dead by then.

Another interesting thing developed before my appointment with the downsizing specialist. When I called the son-I-wish-I-had (Tim) to propose the barter I wrote about on the 19th involving an air meter he said, “Why don’t you let me help you downsize like I did when you moved after Don’s stroke?” Duh, why didn’t I think of that? Actually, I did and even though I pay him when he works for me, I don't like taking his time away from his family if I can find another solution. Anyway, he has a company that rents dumpsters and when he picks them up if there is anything useful or antique he takes that stuff to an auction house. But lately, he said, he’s been wanting to change his business model to helping people downsize. After he helped me empty two houses to get listed plus a pole building full of stuff and sell three front end loaders, a street sweeper and 10 pickup trucks with snowplows he’s helped other widowed friends downsize and he loves doing it. We decided that he should come over when I have my free hour conciliation with the D.S. so he could see/learn how that end of the business looks. 

The D.S. came out and we asked questions and listened to her spiel. They charge $70 an hour per person to stand over clients with a whip to make them let go of stuff—my words, not hers. After you decide what you want to move to your new place or to donate or give away to family her company (a nation-wide senior downsizing chain) packs up everything else (for $70 an hour per person again) and takes it to their resale shop or their warehouse. The warehouse has sales every two weeks. If something you own sells within the first 60 days, they get half and you get half. If it doesn’t sell by then it becomes their property. The average cost for their services to downsize a house and pack you up is $3,000, mine would be more like $5,000, she said, presumably because between the garage, basement, main floor and porch I have 4,268 square feet to downsize into 1,057 square feet that I'll be keeping. She kept repeating, “Your house is so clean!” Like what was she expecting, what has she seen while specializing in “senior moves?” 

After she left Tim was aghast! “They are ripping off old people!” he said. He’s been hearing rumors about that warehouse, not even knowing where their stuff came from until this meeting and none of it is good. Obviously, I’m not going to contract them. Tim is going to use me for a training ground to learn how to sell stuff like art work that he’s never dealt with, but all the other aspects of downsizing he knows how to do. And starting early in July he’s coming over one day a week and we’ll start by clearing out the garage and basement down to a bare minimum needed to live here, then we’ll move inside. He’ll charge me $35 an hour for the same things the D.S. wanted $70 an hour for doing. He’ll also haul the lesser quality sellables to the auction house where the auctioneer keeps 18% and I get the balance, and Tim will market the better quality stuff through other channels where he’ll take an 18% seller’s fee. This is what we did the last time we downsized together and we both made good money. 

In the meantime I’ll keep plugging away on e-Bay where I’ll be able to sell things like an Iroquois Indian made, beaded picture frame from the late 1800s for $200+ and I’m actually having fun researching things that I’ve loved for decades and have all but forgot their histories. To me, our downsizing “battle plan” feels like planning a wedding. We’re x number of months away from “Moving-Day” and we have x number of things to do at certain trigger points. I’m excited. I serviced over 5,000 weddings back when I was in the floral industry. I’m organized to a fault and Tim has his own set of skills. We can do this! Assuming we both stay healthy and wise enough to know when and if we need to go to Plan B or C or even Plan Z---the nationally franchised senior downsizing specialist with dollar signs glowing in her eyes. ©

35 comments:

  1. Good for you. If the senior cannnot do it themselves or afford a cleaner, things get caught through the cracks. So, the below is too much info, but and is probably more Tim than you but:

    I used to clean out houses (in this case most of the people were dead or in homes). My procedure was.....have the family come in and take what they obviously want, first, Second, go room by room and make a donate pile, a sell at garage sale pile (splitting the money), a dumpster pile and a metal pile which we usually let the guys who were working take. We also had a section of "maybe the owner s will want this or it might have sentimental value so lets check with them. The owner rented a dumpster, we called and scheduled pickups, and had a yard sale or estate sale and then called for a pickup for stuff left (had I had the space I would have tried to refinish and upcycle all that stuff but I didnt have the space to do so. We also occasionally hired a cleaning crew who cleaned the house afterwards. Oh, and we scheduled a pickup for paint and stuff....My business was primarily and errand and cocierge business and my son and I and a friend of his did this on the side. But there is a market for it, you could certainly recommend him if he did a good job, and my sister in law is an office manager for a senior (as in catering to seniors, not senior lawyers) law practice and they end up doing this for people all the time-hiring them I mean.

    the only thing I would add is this: you can make money or you can get stuff out of your house. Sometimes those two will mesh, equally often they will not. Then you have to decide which is more important.

    The web has made it sooo much easier to research the history of stuff, be it the World War II ships menu I found once or anything else.....it sounds like you are having fun. And you can teach him how to research stuff. If the guys on the storage unit shows can do it, lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for all the information, Barb. The market for this kind of service is growing right now with the baby boomers aging.

      I'm am SO glad I decided to do this for myself as opposed to staying here and leaving the job for my family when I die. Having paid money down for a new place---even though it's in the distance---makes it real and will keep the pressure on me until I'm down to waiting to list list the house.

      At this point in time, making good money while getting things out of the house is the primary goal. That could shift next summer if Tim and I haven't reached our monthly targets and will only happen if one of us have a health issue or some other emergency comes up.

      Tim has a good eye for what to keep and he knows how to research---my husband and I taught him that years ago. He says his biggest problem with his business is finding help that can spot the good stuff.

      And in just a week's time we've gathered some hopefully good resources to sell the stuff we've never done before. I just know the 'downsizing specialist' is not one of them in my case.

      Delete
  2. It sounds like your organizational skills will be so helpful. I am a little disappointed for you that you will have to spend 2 more winters in your home but hopefully it will give you a better pace to downsize and it will all come together in the end.
    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am too but on the good side, now that I've admitted how scared I was of dying during the power outage and having the flu was last winter, Tim and my niece might check up on me more often or at least I might shallow my pride and reach out if something like that happens again.

      Delete
  3. I'm glad you got a little breathing room, and I'm glad that you've got some good help in Tim. This little (!) project of yours is so far outside the realm of my experience, and so utterly different from my life right now, I don't have a thing to contribute to the discussion, but I'm reading along, and will toss in any wisdom I might discover I have as you progress.

    I'm doing the downsizing thing myself, in preparation for moving to a new, smaller apartment, but I'm already relatively stripped clean, and am almost at the point where there's nothing more to get rid of. On one hand, I wish there were, because I could use the money. On the other hand, I read your posts about all this and breathe a sigh of relief that I don't have to go through all that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After I move I'm going to be come a minimalist, I joke. It will feel like it, at least and I'm okay with that. I've enjoyed the learning experience and thrill of the hunt that collecting anything can bring into your life. And now it's time to move on. Compared to downsizing after my husband's stroke when he couldn't talk and believed he was going to get better and wanted to keep EVERYTHING, this will be a joyous downsizing. Tim and I have been through so much!

      Delete
  4. Great plan to start with the basement and garage. I suspect most people do the opposite and then run out of energy as they are often the hardest. I am glad you have an auction site to send things to. When we emptied my parent's house we ended up at the end having to sell a batch of furniture to one dealer for a set price and a batch of "smalls" (lamps and so on) to another. But they lived in a rural area and we knew doing a yard sale wouldn't work. I agree with the you can make money or you can get the house empty trade off. We had little time and you have a lot so you should be able to maximize your money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What you did with your parent's house is pretty typical. I'm still shocked someone like the downsizer can come in charge $70 an hour to help sort, then take 50% of anything she sells of yours and keep what doesn't. No mention of an estate sale after the house is sold, no mention of having an art dealer come in. The real estate tag team gave me a name of one who will do that. I would donate everything to Goodwill before I'd enrich the bank account of a downsizing specialist. You could see it in her eyes that she thought she was going to make a good money off from me.

      Delete
  5. So your timeline has stretched out rather than contracted, but it has the benefit of bringing on someone you trust a great deal. And you do have another resource these next two winters, the kind friend who took you in and would likely do so again if worse came to worst.

    It's really not a weakness to ask for help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It feels like a weakness. I've always prided myself on being able to handle my own problems without asking for help. After my husband's stroke we did get some help from others but I chalked that up to them helping Don (not me) because he was the social butterfly that everyone loved and I was the worker bee in the background who benefited from his social networking.

      Delete
  6. Hi Jean, I'm so glad to hear that you have someone you trust helping you out. I didn't like what I read about the downsizing specialist - agreed, they sound like they prey on the elderly. And I'm happy you are less stressed now that you have more time than you thought (although it is disappointing to learn your move is pushed back 6 months.)

    Deb

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing of it is if I am ready to move before the CCC is ready I'm not locked in and can get my money back at any point until move in day. Conceivably I could look for something that is ready. If my health holds out, I won't though.

      Delete
  7. We all need a Tim! Does he travel? So glad you have this fabulous assistant. Pushing the move back would be a bit disappointing (once I've decided a thing, I get impatient!), but relief from time pressure is a gift. I think you are brave and strong and smart and I love that you are taking us on a journey we can learn from. Mentoring is the gift we give at our age. Rock on, Jean!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know who will be assisting who but we make a good time and have fun along the way. Tim is one of the funnest people I know.

      Aw, you always say the nicest things. We are a regular mutual admiration society because I can't think of a better mentor when it comes to community activism and getting involved than you.

      Delete
  8. The new date would have horrified me but I'm glad you find it comforting. And Tim, what a jewel he is. That DS sounded a bit scary. Relax now and enjoy the extra time and the help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm really not that surprised. When you build something that big there are delays and anyone who can't wait doesn't lose a dime. I am proceeding as if they didn't change it from the original fall of 2021. I want to be ready by then except for the stuff that goes with me and the few things the realtor said should stay for staging. The later can be donated to Goodwill when the house sells.

      Delete
  9. Best news ever! To get Tim to help ... who has done this before, WITH you, and is more reasonable with pricing and sharing profit. WIN/WIN.

    Now ... what do you get to spend that money on????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It will go into an emergency fund in case I need another car down the road. But first I am buying a smaller computer desk but not until next year when everything else is downsized.

      Delete
  10. I love how things are falling into place. It sounds like you and Tim and going to get this organized at a comfortable pace. I'm happy for you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Good for you! Tim sounds awesome and that DS lady does sound like a bit of a rip-off artist. That's a good gig if she can find people stupid enough to buy into it. Plus, I think you will feel more comfortable working with Tim and that's a big deal. A smart choice.

    Sorry about the move-in timing. Do they hold onto your deposit for that long? That's a chunk of change with interest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can get all your money back at any point between now and the place is ready for move-in. The deal was for their financing to go through the project, the bank said they had to sell 30 of the units before they release the building money---to prove there is a market for it, I guess. That's why they were giving out so many perks to the first 30 people who signed up with a deposit. Anyone else who is interested won't get the $10,000 discount on the price, the right to pick out our own colors and be able to meet every other month for guided conversations.

      That D.S. is a national chain so I'm guessing her rates and method of getting rid of your stuff is common in the business? You and I certainly have enough stuff to have an interesting estate sale but they don't do them. They haul it all to their warehouse or resale shop. Tim been to their warehouse and was shocked by what he saw. I have no doubt they wait until the time runs out so they own stuff outright, then take it to an auction.

      Delete
  12. I didn't know there was such a thing as "Downsizing Specialists," but this one did sound like a rip-off. I wonder how much per hour they are paying those packers while they're charging the client $70/hour? Your arrangement with Tim sounds perfect. He gets the experience he needs to set up his own business and you get a specialist you trust at a much more reasonable price. Great! (p.s., I'm sorry to hear that you'll have an extra winter in your existing location, but it does give you the cushion of extra time to get everything done at a more reasonable pace.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have three downsizing companies in our area and if I didn't have Tim I'd probably get the other two out to see how they handle things. I'm still shocked at the $70 an hour! They probably pay their packers $15 or $20 tops.

      Delete
  13. I'm so glad you have someone you can trust and also have fun with. That makes all the difference in the world. That is such a big job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a big job but on the good side I'm losing weight because I forget to eat.

      Delete
  14. So glad the move date got move back instead of forward. You have a huge task ahead and now you have the space to do it in. But don't get too comfortable. Time passes quickly. I began downsizing right after my mother died (December 2014) and we moved into our condo in August 2016. That time was spend downsizing and deciding what we wanted to do, preparing our townhouse for sale, selling and buying and finally moving. It took me - all of 2 years (my husband is disabled and could not help.) So glad you got a little more buffer. AND so glad you found a way to do this without spending $70 an hour. That is outrageous. If you only had 6 months to make the move .... maybe that fee would be necessary. Now it isn't. I look forward to your future posts. I have friends who are at about the same stage as you in the downsize and move process and I have recommended they checkout your blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for backing up my opinion that it will take every bit of the 2 years to downsize if I want to do it justice. I figure just those things I want to e-Bay will take a year at 10 auctions a week for 52 weeks. I've also been writing stuff for decades and much of that I want to read through again before destroying it.

      Thanks for sharing my blog address.

      Delete
  15. so glad you have Tim! Sounds like a MUCH wiser choice, plus with someone you know and trust which is invaluable, especially as we get older.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too. Having him help makes me breathe easier. Still got a long road to go but it's doable.

      Delete
  16. Tim to the rescue. Lucky you Jean. These other asses would have screwed you so much and take your money. How can they allow them to mess up older people? 2021 sounds so long. Have a wonderful Tuesday. I'm so late. Sorry about that.

    Cruisin Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You plan cruises way off in the distance. This move is going to be my cruise. But I need to get this downsizing down pat. Can you believe I already bought some potholders for my new color scheme after I move? LOL I have to nip that kind of thing in the bud.

      Delete
  17. I can't believe they charge $70/hour per person! That's so ridiculous. Maybe my bff and I can figure out a way to do this in our area. But sure wouldn't be able or want to charge so much for seniors. Outrageous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it!!! I could tell you horror stories that people in the auction business have heard about them but it's enough to say they aren't in the business help anyone but themselves.

      Delete
    2. P.S. I got a call yesterday from the girl's boss who wanted to come out and take a look. I told her I had decided to see how much I can do on my own before hiring help and she said, "Well, remember we are here for you and will check back later."

      Delete