Following on from my anatomy of a downsizing project, here is the children’s view on why my professional organising and decluttering skills are key to the success of any downsizing project:
Charlie, son of Mr and Mrs H:
“I didn’t know people like Sarah existed, my brother found her. We’d been talking about moving for a good couple of years but it was difficult as my parents had strong emotional links to the house and the scale of moving was daunting. But it was apparent mum would not survive in the house or that dad would kill himself trying to maintain it so we knew it was time. Dad was utterly resistant to the idea of having help he was determined he could do it all alone so my brother and I negotiated that we’d get Sarah in to help mum. We thought once we could get her in the door we’d use her more and more. Mum was focusing on surviving and Dad didn’t appreciate the scale of the project but Sarah understood all that. She was very good at building relationships with my brother and I, reassuring us, “Don’t worry I’ve seen it all before. It will happen. It may be a rush at the end but we’ll get there.”
Why Sarah is a must-have for downsizing:
1. Good emotional intelligence. She worked well with mum, understanding what pace she could work at which helped dad’s resistance slowly crumble. She was also very good at building relationships with the ‘children’ keeping us up to speed with the project and how mum was.
2. Great specialist knowledge about what we could do with everything, this auction house, that recycling option. Dad had 20 suits he never wears but didn’t want to get rid of. Sarah knew a charity which gives suits to people starting out in the City which was ideal but I’d never have known about it.
3. Project management skills. She had the expertise to constantly advise us on our options while keeping everything moving. And she got the balance right between being slightly pushy and meeting mum and dad’s needs.
4. Excellent mediation skills ensuring that relations between family members didn’t break down. We all switch off when our parents are talking but she’d listen so she knew where things were when I didn’t, even when mum had told me 10 times. She tempered our behaviour so we were a bit more patient and dad was less unreasonable. As a family, you’re all a bit more helpful when a 3rd party is there.
5. Attention to detail. After the move my brother and agreed what a bad job we’d have made of doing mum’s new room while she was in hospital. Sarah made it up so nicely into an exact replica of her old room. Amazing.
6. With Sarah you get value added. She’s streets ahead of other declutterers because she combines top notch project management skills, extensive knowledge of relevant services and the ability to build relationships with clients during what is a very challenging period.
The process without her would have shortened my parents’ lives to a considerable extent. It would have been a horrendous.
Will, son of Mr and Mrs H:
“I’m on the other side of the world in Australia so the prospect of my parents moving out of the house was pretty daunting as I knew I couldn’t be hands on. I’d heard of declutterers through a friend of mine so I spoke to a few and got a few quotes but Sarah sounded by far the most impressive. She seemed to have the most comprehensive approach, almost scientific in her organisation plus a good understanding of the emotional complexities involved in a downsize. At the start, the house was full of clutter, 40 years of stuff that had never been dealt with because my parents had all this space. They never grasped the enormity of the project until right at the end. But Sarah was good at picking away at things.”
Why Sarah is a must-have for downsizing:
1. A very flexible approach. She popped in for a couple of hours at a time at first, keeping everything moving along.
2. Ability to organise countless services. She knew clearance experts, auction houses, people to remove the fridge when the council wouldn’t. She’s done it a million times. She’d give us 3 recommendations for what clients had used for bathroom modifications so we weren’t scrabbling around for this stuff. I wasn’t expecting this level of knowledge and advice.
3. Great organisation. The weekly reports she sent us were key. My parents are elderly and hadn’t moved for 40 years so moving into a place half the size to a tight timetable was a huge challenge. The weekly report helped us focus on what had been done.
4. Stacks of sensitivity. Sarah was very conscious of not barging in. My dad’s approach was very ‘I don’t need help, I can do that myself’, but because Sarah didn’t push him, he slowly came round and realised how she could help us. She managed that cleverly.
5. Taking responsibility for the move. It meant I could stay in Australia, Sarah could manage it entirely, then I could come over for the last few days in the old house. It saved us all. In fact, we would not have made the move if Sarah hadn’t helped with it.