Bryce McFall has lived in many places, from apartments to houses all over the country — countless moves during more than six decades of marriage and a long career as an insurance executive.
But the octogenarian saved his easiest and best move for last.
What could have been an overwhelming, uncomfortable and even emotionally painful ordeal of downsizing a lifetime of acquisitions into a 500-square-foot, assisted-living apartment was, according to McFall's accounts, not only smooth, but downright pleasurable.
For the first time, McFall brought in a full-service professional mover, not just to schlepp boxes, but to help him decide what to take and what to toss and where to put everything, right down to the last spoon and tube of toothpaste.
Betsy Grodin of the relocation business Moving Matters managed the whole process, from disposing of McFall's unwanted stuff to hanging the pictures and arranging the furniture in his new apartment at Vintage Brush Creek in Santa Rosa.
"She had a difficult task. ... She had to deal with my inadequacies when it comes to this kind of thing. Always before I didn't have to do anything," said McFall, who conceded that his wife had always managed such details in the past.
Grodin is a senior relocation and transition specialist, one of a growing number of trained movers who help people — particularly the elderly — downsize with dignity and a minimum of stress.
"It's hard work but it's heart work," said Grodin, who lives in Forestville. "I've been moved to tears on a few occasions when they come home at the end of the day and see what I've done. They're relieved. It's stressful, very emotional and a very hard time."
Grodin makes sure the entire apartment is furnished, organized and decorated and the bed is made before her clients come home. She tries to do the entire move itself in a day for cost efficiency and to minimize the stress of upheaval.
The prospect of winnowing down their possessions and then moving everything to a much smaller place can leave many elders, and frequently the adult children helping them, feeling almost paralyzed. This is not just any move. It may be the last move they'll make.
"Seniors are attached to everything," Grodin said. "Not all, but most, want to just take it all. It's up to me to make some decisions."
Helping them get through the process is a series of baby steps, according to Mary Jago of Managed Moves, another local senior relocation service in the North Bay. "They do change their minds, they are emotional and they need to do things at a slower place."
Whether you use a professional service or try to do it for yourself or your elder parent, there are some good tips from the experts to help the process go more smoothly.
One of the first things experts like Jago and Grodin do is measure the new living quarters. You'll want to know the dimensions of the room or rooms, including available wallspace and where outlets, windows and doors are, so you can decide well ahead of time what furniture to take and where to place it.
Determine which pieces are favorites and the most functional. Jago says she manages in many if not most cases to find a place for truly beloved pieces. If there is room for only one easy chair, which one is the most comfortable? In McFall's case, there were two sets of living room furniture, one in the front room and one in the den. The leather sofa and chair from his den wound up fitting better in his tiny new apartment's living room area. Maybe a loveseat will fit better than a full-size couch.