Patrick and Ann have lived in a large house for many years, but now they want to find a smaller place. Joan has collected three generations of stuff in her house. She wants to declutter and downsize “so I won’t have so much stress.”
On a recent spring night, nine senior citizens gathered in a classroom at Saratoga Springs High School to learn how to clean out a lifetime of possessions and prepare for a move into a smaller home, condo, apartment or senior residence.
“You want to simplify your surroundings while keeping what matters most,” Neil Bindelglass, the continuing education instructor, advises the group.
Bindelglass is a professional organizer who runs Saratoga Senior Move Managers, a business that helps older adults downsize and relocate.
“Getting rid of clutter is a huge help in staging your home for sale,” he says.
“Begin now, 15 minutes a day,” he says. “Get yourself an egg timer.”
“The stuff weighs us down,” says Janet Ostrov, owner of Concierge Saratoga, a business that assists not only seniors and caregivers but busy professionals and new parents.
“As a country, as a society, we are all pretty overwhelmed with things,” Ostrov says.
“Most older adults making a transition have been in their homes for 30, 40 or 50 years and need to downsize considerably,” says Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.
And as the baby boomers enter their senior years, the number of downsizing adults is expected to keep growing.
According to the AARP, an American turns 50 every eight seconds, which adds up to more than 10,000 people each day.
Tips to declutter
With spring cleaning and yard-sale season coming around again, Bindelglass and Ostrov offered several tips for seniors who plan to move to a smaller residence.
“Just set aside a day,” says Ostrov. “Maybe decide that once every week, on a Saturday or Sunday, you’re going to take a couple of hours and tackle the basement. Set the timer and just do it.”
Ostrov and her husband, Rich, recently became empty nesters.
After their 24-year-old twin sons left their Saratoga Springs home, she made a written checklist to remind herself of household tasks that need to be done.
“I can say that the holder for the towel is loose, that I gotta fix that. But If I write it down, then I’ve got time on Saturday to do that one thing. If you break it down into smaller parts, it becomes more manageable.”
Bindelglass suggests starting a declutter project in any room of the house, using a “zoning” plan that divides stuff in the room into five categories: throw it out, keep it, sell it, donate it or gift it.
“Don’t leave the room,” he says. “And don’t be consumed by finding homes for things you don’t want or need. Love it or let it go. You have to be brutal.”
Women who have closets stuffed with clothes can invite a trusted friend to come over and help weed through those outdated outfits, he says.
If you are moving to a senior-living residence or apartment complex, get a copy of the floor plan and decide which furniture you can take with you.
Bindelglass, a former librarian and bank-industry analyst who lives in the town of Saratoga, has worked as professional organizer for 12 years.
In addition to seniors who are downsizing, he works with adult children who are helping their older parents with a move, and with clients who have Alzheimer’s, dementia or physical disabilities.
“We sort through absolutely everything. We take care of every step of getting them moved,” he says.
Saratoga Senior Move Managers is accredited by the National Association of Senior Move Managers, an organization launched in 2002 by 22 professional organizers from around the country. Today, the group represents more than 800 companies in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The Capital Region has only a handful of NASMM members.
Ostrov started Concierge Saratoga last year after retiring from Empire State College, where she worked in student services, project management and academic technologies.
“A concierge is someone who arranges for a professional service. It started in the hotel business,” she says.
Ostrov connects her clients to professional organizers, plumbers, electricians, realtors, handymen and party planners. She also provides hands-on personal assistant services.
“The thought of having a yard sale is just enormous to people but if you bring someone in for a couple of hours to help you do that, and you make several hundred dollars, it could be worth it.”
Ostrov, who has life-coach training, says it’s important to focus on the “why” of your downsizing project and think about how you will feel when it’s done.
“To get to the joy of getting out from under that feeling of burden, to get to the excitement, a feeling of being lighter in life. It’s a way to free people up to do what matters most to them.”
For more information on Saratoga Senior Move Managers, go to www.ssmovemanagers.com or phone 290-6794. To find out about Concierge Saratoga, visit www.conciergesaratoga.com or phone 265-5643.
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or [email protected]