Hi everyone,
Thought you might enjoy this post from the blog, Note to Self (published July 21, 2014). The blog’s author is Sarah D. Tolzmann. Since we are in the business of dealing with people’s things in later life, we thought you might find this piece as “charming” as we did ~

swirls-smallCharmed, I’m Sure

Blogging is, like, hard these days. Obviously I don’t do it that often anymore, but you know by now that when I do—I mean it. Case in point…

The one-year anniversary of my beautiful grandmother’s death came and went last week. I still can’t figure out what to do with that—the one year, or any anniversary of the loss of a loved one. It’s hard. There’s guilt for not paying enough respect (what is “enough?”) There’s also regret for dwelling on the past. There really is no right way, no matter what people say. Of course, I find it easier to dwell on the positive. I found many photos on my phone from her last months spent sick in bed, but immediately decided against re-hashing those private and painful moments. (They’re not mine to share anyway.) Despite being surrounded by loved ones, those visuals do not exemplify the person she was.

So, I’ve just been thinking about our first year without a grandmother. Since her passing, as an extended family, we celebrated the birth of my cousin’s adorable daughter and two weddings. We also celebrated “her boys” (the University of Virginia baseball team) going to the College World Series for the second time (it was a big deal to us). I think I speak for everyone when I say these reunions are much more pleasant than the all-black events of last summer. But as the matriarch and defacto party planner for every family get-together, she is ingrained in our family experience. I can’t see them without thinking of her.

Never mind that my mom stands and laughs like her, and my Aunt Molly has her voice. I just associate the boisterous laughter of our giant family members with something she created. So we hug and crack jokes and make dinner and keep going. And she’s there in the kitchen with us. And she’s on the porch, in the driver’s seat, and at the ballgame. I smiled to revisit her name on the Hall of Fame door at the baseball stadium this season when heading in for a playoff game. Her memory is literally everywhere, whether in formal honor or passing thought. Special people have this effect.

Charmed Im SureNow, about the above image. It goes without saying that emotionally, I keep many pieces of her with me. Physically, I have this: her charm bracelet. I thought it would be a nice little memorial, especially for the family members who may not have seen it. Somewhere in the hubbub of cleaning out her closet and giving away her things last Spring (her orders, mind you), I found a faded Liberty of London zip pouch in the back of a dresser drawer. It smelled heavily of Estée Lauder perfume (as does everything of hers). I pulled the stiff zipper open and this charm bracelet cascaded into my hand with a few decisive clinks. When I took it to her, she clutched it to her chest, and exclaimed: “Oh, I’ve had this since I was a teenager!” Without missing a beat, she thumbed each charm and took me through their origins one-by-one. Grandad’s high school service medal. Her college class ring. His Beta pin. His honors society lavaliere. It is truly a fantastic keepsake.

Since she gifted it to me, it’s been sitting in the same pouch on shelf in my bedroom. I thought about framing it, or getting some kind of glass box for display. But it’s kind of nice to see and remember it all over again every so often. Today, I took it out and went back through our conversation in my head. With a little light Googling and a magnifying glass, I could decipher the details once more. From what I can remember, there are 3 charms that are truly hers. The rest are tokens of my grandfather’s accomplishments and physical proof that she was part of his journey the entire way. As if we ever doubted that for a second…

Though not a photograph, this actually exemplifies her quite perfectly. It represents her unspoken mantra of treasuring each moment wholeheartedly. (All us Instagrammers can relate.) In retrospect, I see this in my memories of her. She threw so much effort into personal events and celebrations, which on the surface may have seemed frivolous. But as a result, we wear the experiences like charms—little happy capsules of memory. There could be one for each giant Christmas dinner, each summer by the sea, every grandchild’s graduation, college acceptance, honors society and degree. Lord help her, she would have run out of room on the chain. But this is where it all started—with her and grandad and their step-by-step journey together. I think that’s pretty special.

One year later, I love that I can learn from her legacy even though she’s no longer around to tell me in person. As they say, actions speak louder than words. Hers were quite charming. (Wink.)

swirls-smallNote from Mary Kay: Thanks to my sister, Ellen, for sharing this piece… 

Happy Mother’s Day 2014

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
                                    ~ Abraham Lincoln

photoAnd don’t forget ~ today, appropriately enough, is the start of National Senior Move Managers Week!


A Mother’s Day Gift

Hi everyone,
Below is a reprint of a Mother’s Day 2013 column in the New York Times New Old Age blog, written by NASMM’s friend and lead researcher on downsizing and relocating in later life, Dr. David Ekerdt, from the University of Kansas. Dr. Ekerdt will return to the NASMM Annual Conference in 2015 to update us regarding his ongoing research.
{Due to the NYT paywall, many people do not have the opportunity to access the insigthful & engaging New Old Age blog. Here you go! And hat tip to Margit Novack of Moving Solutions for reminding us of this terrific piece as we approach Mother’s Day 2014.}


Adults with older parents or even grandparents will soon be searching for suitable Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts. If these presents are not consumables — a box of chocolates or a bottle of spirits — then they will only enlarge the material convoy that accompanies Mom and Dad through their later years.

Older people want our love and affection, but they probably don’t need more stuff. A 2010 survey of Americans 60 and older found that 60 percent agreed they had “more things than you need.” Fully 75 percent said that the thought of dealing with their things made them somewhat or very reluctant to think about moving.

IV27VG-vintage-green-vaseSo why pile on more? Instead, I suggest that you help whittle things down by making yourself available to receive some belongings your elders would like to offload.

It’s a myth that older people cling to their possessions. Of course they cherish certain things, but most homes hold uncounted thousands of objects, only some of them special. My studies of household downsizing in Kansas City and Detroit reveal that seniors feel almost universal relief at having lightened the load.

Transfers of possessions from older to younger family members normally require some occasion, such as a wedding or graduation, lest the gesture, coming out of the blue, be viewed with alarm. (“You’re giving me the antique table? You’re not planning on dying, are you?”) And the younger generation’s readiness to embrace what’s on offer — the crystal, the matched floor lamps, the baseball card collection — cannot be assumed.

But Mother’s Day and Father’s Day afford the perfect occasions for the unqualified reception of stuff. You can approach this a few different ways. For example, write this in a Mother’s Day card:

Mom, you have said so often that you don’t want me to give you one more thing because you already have too many things. So this year I am taking you at your word. I will make a contribution to your favorite charity and then, when you are ready, I will happy to take any of your things that you would like to unload.

Or you can suggest belongings she might give you. Lest anyone accuse you of stripping the shelves, propose things that live deep in the recesses of the home: vacation videos, excess flowerpots, sporting goods or long-ignored books. Stuff in the basement, the attic, the closets, the shed, the garage.

Ask for photo albums now, while elders can still tell you who all those people are. Suggest nothing that, like the tufted family rocking chair, will set off World War III among your siblings. In fact, siblings can organize themselves to receive things as a group, thereby forestalling the charge of having taken unfair advantage.

Another technique: Wrap an empty box as a present, with a note inside that says, “Fill me, please.” The gift will initially seem puzzling, but this becomes your chance to explain your intentions. And if the box is eventually filled and passed back to you, empty it and begin the cycle again. The transfers might become a habit.

If you try this for Mother’s Day, your father will almost certainly ask whether you are going to pull the same thing next month. “For you, especially,” would be a good reply.

When the jewelry, random houseplants, random hand tools and back issues of National Geographic come, you can archive, curate, sell, donate or regift them. All you need at the moment of exchange is a smile and the promise that you know “just the right place” for these things. Leave it at that.

The looking-glass nature of human connection means that receiving is giving, that taking things is a gesture of generosity. Honor your mother and father by welcoming their things no matter what, and then welcoming yet more.

David J. Ekerdt is director of the gerontology center at the University of Kansas.

2 IL NASMM Members in the News!

Full text of 04/20/2014 article in the Daily Herald,
which serves metro Chicago:

Move managers help seniors downsize into new homes

Martha Little of Des Plaines ask a question to senior move manager Sharon Moffat with Gero Solutions, far right corner, while the company packs items in her apartment in Des Plaines for a move to a retirement community.
Martha Little of Des Plaines ask a question to senior move manager Sharon Moffat with Gero Solutions, far right corner, while the company packs items in her apartment in Des Plaines for a move to a retirement community.
Gloria Bersani, director of Gero Solutions looks over the items of Martha Little (in white) along with Kevin Coleman of Moore Moving, as she moves into The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Gloria Bersani, director of Gero Solutions looks over the items of Martha Little (in white) along with Kevin Coleman of Moore Moving, as she moves into The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Gloria Bersani, director of Gero Solutions, talks with Martha Little as movers from Moore Moving get her settled into her new apartment at The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Gloria Bersani, director of Gero Solutions, talks with Martha Little as movers from Moore Moving get her settled into her new apartment at The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Martha Little watches as movers from Moore Movers position her couch into her new apartment at The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
Martha Little watches as movers from Moore Movers position her couch into her new apartment at The Moorings in Arlington Heights.
George LeClaire/gleclaire@dailyherald.comMartha Little of Des Plaines relaxes while senior move managers with Gero Solutions packs items in her apartment in Des Plaines for a move to a retirement community.
Martha Little of DesPlaines relaxes while senior move managers with Gero Solutions packs items in her apartment in DesPlaines for a move to a retirement community.

Do you want to relocate to a retirement community but are deterred from making the move because you are bogged down by a lifetime of household possessions?

“Generally, people who are moving into a retirement community have been in their house for a very long time and the thought of sorting through not only a houseful of stuff, but a garage and basement full of stuff, too, becomes overwhelming,” said Mary Kay Bochenek, director of marketing at The Moorings in Arlington Heights. “Things become a barrier for an awful lot of people.

“It is like losing weight or exercising. They say they will work on it later and it becomes their excuse for not moving forward. It takes energy to move and make decisions and it is easier to do nothing,” she said.

When you let “things” deter you, you may end up moving into a different lifestyle than you would have chosen if you had gone ahead and moved earlier. Sometimes health problems will change your dreams and necessitate a move, Bochenek cautions.

“In some cases, our new residents have had to deal with clearing out their parents’ things, as well as their children’s things, in addition to their own. They have had houses full of three generations of ‘stuff’ and many young people would rather go out and buy modern stuff from IKEA than take hand-me-downs. So that leaves our potential residents trying to figure what to do with everything,” she said.

That is why The Moorings provides the services of Gero Solutions of Arlington Heights to help residents de-clutter their homes, sort, donate, pack, move and unpack again.

“It is a major release to people to know that they don’t have to do their own sorting, packing and unpacking. That involves lots of physical labor, especially if you don’t have a support system nearby, and many of them don’t have the energy to do it. This service alleviates a lot of stress,” Bochenek said.

Gero Solutions is a division of Lutheran Life Communities and it has been in business since 1999 to serve anyone who is looking to downsize and move, said director Mary Jo Zeller. She is also one of 16 founding members of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, a group which now boasts 850 members.

“We handle the details of a move for people who often haven’t moved for 25 to 50 years,” Zeller said. “This is a major life transition for these people and oftentimes they are simultaneously dealing with health problems or the recent death of a partner, so we work to reduce their stress.”

In addition, many people don’t have children in the area who are available to help with the planning, prep work and then the adjustment phase on the other end. So Gero Solutions steps into the void and helps them to “move a lifetime.”

Gero Solutions personnel help the senior see how they will be living in their future home and from that standpoint helps them decide what to bring and what to leave behind.

“We bring a sensitivity to how they are feeling. But we also bring an objective view that children and grandchildren often can’t bring. We don’t have any emotional attachments to the things in the home,” Zeller said.

“Clutter didn’t start as clutter. As we grow and change, our possessions are steppingstones to who we are today. Possessions unchecked can pull you down instead of lift you up,” she counsels. She recommends only keeping things that you really use or that bring you joy and she helps with space planning for the new villa or apartment.

“Eighty percent of the things in the average home are ordinary household goods. Twenty percent are treasures. We suggest that people focus on the treasures and let us help them decide which household goods they will actually use in their new home,” Zeller said.

Zeller tells them not to pay to move stuff, only to have to throw it out when they get to their new home. Duplication and accumulation of “stuff” is what Zeller calls “just-in-case syndrome,” and she works with clients to overcome that common ailment.

“Clients pay us to give them permission to let go of things, in essence,” she explained. “So we break it down into manageable pieces. We tell them to start with the easiest task and move progressively toward the more difficult decisions. Once they have gotten into the mood to get rid of things, it makes it easier to tackle the difficult decisions. We also tell them to go through everything twice. Go through the entire house and then go back to the beginning and start through again. It will amaze you what you can get rid of on that second time through.”

Gero Solutions tells clients to put all of their energy into what they plan to surround themselves with in their new home. Don’t waste a lot of worry on what they are not taking. Just decide whether to throw away, donate, distribute to family or sell each item and then move on.

“We help set up estate sales, arrange shipping of items around the country, schedule charitable pickups, packing, unpacking, you name it.

“It is very rewarding to be involved in people’s lives like this. We give them the moral support and attention they need to adjust to their new life and get on with living. I particularly enjoy helping them to adjust to their new home — learning how set the thermostats, etc.,” Zeller said.

“If moving is a major stressor in people’s lives, why take a year to do it? Condense the process as much as possible, I tell them,” she added.

Gero Solutions,, (847) 705-2123, handles such moves for a number of area communities including Luther Village in Arlington Heights, Sedgebrook in Lincolnshire, Friendship Village in Schaumburg and Plum Creek Supportive Living in Rolling Meadows.

Gayle Kittridge took advantage of the service at The Moorings, having Gero Solutions measure her furniture to help her decide what to take, pack her things and unpack at the other end.

“They advised me to lay out whatever I thought I wanted to take with me and then cut it in half. That was excellent advice. They couldn’t have been nicer,” Kittridge said.

“For the first time in my life, I have no clutter and it is very pleasant,” the former Mount Prospect resident admitted.

“After Gero Solutions helped me decide what I was going to take, I had a company that was referred by my Realtor help me clean everything out that was left. They got dump trucks to clean out 30 years of accumulation from my attics and garage and I donated other things to Goodwill and also had a four-day estate sale. Then they staged the house to be sold and it went right away,” Kittridge said.

Angie and Wayne Krause had a similar experience when they moved into The Moorings.

“Gero Solutions was very helpful. They walked through our Park Ridge house with us and made suggestions about which pieces of furniture would fit in our new home. They took a lot of the worry out of moving. We knew what we would be able to take and then they came and packed everything up for us and on the other end, they unpacked everything for us and put it all away. They even hung up the towels in our bathroom and made up our beds,” Angie Krause said.

The Garlands in Barrington offers a similar service to their prospective residents. They have an arrangement with Paxem Inc. of Cary, a moving service that prepares the home for sale through decluttering and staging it, planning what to move to The Garlands and packing it, arranging for the move by licensed professionals, doing the final cleaning of the old house and then unpacking belongings and setting everything up in the new Garlands villa or apartment.

These are the highlights, but they can also do much more. It is up to the homeowner to decide how much or how little they want Paxem to do for them and The Garlands helps to pay for it.

“We are very proud of this program. When we tell people about it, we usually see a huge sigh of relief because moving causes lots of stress and pressure on people,” said Dawn Kempf, vice president of sales and marketing. “We try to make things as painless as possible, so the service is customized to the needs of each resident.”

Sometimes it is difficult to know who is more relieved by the service, she added, the senior who is moving or his or her children and grandchildren who would probably have been doing much of the work.

“We act as a ‘general moving contractor’ and assess what each individual needs and supply that,” Kempf said. “And since Paxem uses movers who are familiar with our buildings, the moves go much faster and that saves money.”

The Garlands also provides box lunches for the movers and the family on moving day, to make things that much easier.

Bud and Marguerite Brinker moved to The Garlands from Huntley at the end of 2013 and were very pleased with the moving services provided by Paxem.

“They completely packed up our Huntley home and then unpacked everything in our new home and arranged it pretty well, based on the layout I gave them,” Bud Brinker said.

“We got rid of some things to charities and to our family members, but we didn’t really have them help us with that part of things. But when they packed us, they were very good-spirited and accommodating. And they sure knew what they were doing. After the move, there weren’t even any boxes left behind for us to get rid of. They even unpacked hundreds of books and placed them on the large bookcase I had built,” he said.

Jennifer Prell, president of Paxem, has been helping seniors move for about 10 years.

“Organizing and packing is fun for me, so back in 2003 I decided to start doing something that I am passionate about and have been helping seniors move ever since,” Prell said. “We treat each client as an individual and work to give them a smooth transition to their new home.

“We want them to move into their new home with a clean mind — not one that is in disarray. So we try to make the move as easy for them as possible by being very organized and neutral. With us, there is none of the emotional dynamic that you would get if your family were helping you to move,” she said.

Paxem offers free referrals for anything that a homeowner might need from estate sale specialists, to movers, to a Realtor, to someone who will rip down that old wallpaper and give the walls a fresh coat of paint before it goes on the market.

Prell and her team specialize in helping people cull through years of belongings, advising them to concentrate on the personal items that really mean something to them, like photos. Then they try to duplicate the old home as closely as possible when they draw layouts of how the new home will look.

“Sometimes we find that it is less traumatic to move the person into their new home first and then go back and declutter and clean out what is left behind in the old home. But that isn’t always possible,” she said.

Prell is also a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.

Anyone can arrange such a service with Paxem Inc. by calling (847) 829-4437 or logging onto However, most people need to pay for the service themselves (unless they are moving to a community that provides moving assistance as a perk).

Source: Jean Murphy,, 04/20/2014
Photo credits: George Leclaire & Mark Welsh, Daily Herald


One Friday Morning 04.04.14


One Friday Morning 03.21.14

Love Later Life ad airing in the UK: Fantastic!
“Aging is not an illness…”

One Friday Morning 02.14.14

What Does Love Mean?
See How 4-8 Year-Old Kids Describe Love

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds: “What does love mean?” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think…

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”  Rebecca – age 8

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy – age 4

“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” Danny – age 7

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby – age 7 

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy – age 6

“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8

“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.”
Elaine – age 5

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica – age 8

And the final one…
Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.

The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.

When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, 
“NothingFeature Articles, I just helped him cry.”

Source: Ladan Lashkari,, 12/29/2010