Make Your Move

Professionals provide guidance and help with downsizing, relocating

Kim Martin dodged movers and boxes to get to her blue leather easy chair, already sitting by the window in her new apartment at Preston Pointe, a Morrisville retirement community.

“All I know is that chair is mine, and I get to sit in it,” she said.

Several hours into moving day, she was happy to leave the work to the professionals. The team from Move with Ease unpacked dishes, made the bed and rearranged furniture, as Martin called out directions.

Joanna Smothers unpacks mementos, dishes and kitchen utensils. “We’re really creating ‘home.’ We’re moving them from home A — condo, townhome, large home — to new home B, wherever that is,” says Move with Ease owner Susan Stanhope.

“We’re there to make sure the move goes smoothly, that the movers put things in the right place, that nothing gets damaged,” said Susan Stanhope, founder of the Cary company. “We can’t remove all the stress of moving, but we can decrease stress a great deal.”

Stanhope is a move manager, a relatively new professional field. She and her team can help with sorting and decision-making, packing, arranging the move, arranging for any sales or charity pickup, unpacking boxes and setting up the new home.

Call for help

“I had been thinking of downsizing for a while,” said Martin, who has a tart wit and an independent spirit. “My kids are grown. Keeping up with the house — painting the house, power-washing the house, buying a new refrigerator — why do I want to do this anymore?”

It took some time for Martin to decide where she wanted to settle. Her son was in Boston, her daughter was in Biloxi, Miss., and her friends were in Cary where she had lived for 13 years. When her daughter announced she and her family were moving back to the Triangle, the decision became easy.

But going from an 1,800-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bath home with garage to an 850-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment was far from easy.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do with all this?’” she said. “I picked up the phone and called Susan Stanhope. I said, ‘This is Kim Martin and I have one word: Help!’

“I didn’t know where to begin. They got to work sorting everything, and all I had to say was ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ They made a monumental task very easy to manage.”

Growing need

Once upon a time adult children would have moved a parent or grandparent. But people are a lot more mobile these days, and they have a lot more stuff.

David Blue of Blue Moon Estate Sales welcomes an early-rising crowd of bargain hunters to a Cary estate sale. The Fuquay-Varina company ran 74 sales last year.

Both trends fuel the popularity of move managers and also estate sale companies.

Caring Transitions, based in Ohio, combines both these specialties. Founded in 2006, the company now has franchises across the country including Wade Yarbrough’s Caring Transitions of Jordan Lake, based in Apex.

“People are downsizing sooner,” he said. “Empty-nesters will first move from a 3,500-square-foot house to a 1,500-square-foot cottage or condo in a 55-plus community. The next move is then into a retirement community or assisted living.”

Families don’t grow up and stay in the same city anymore, says Yarbrough. Younger folks move away, then parents follow, moving closer to children and grandchildren.

“When you start downsizing, it gets complicated,” he said. “When you go from a 3,500-square-foot house to a 1,000-square-foot house, you have to get rid of two-thirds of your stuff.”

A Herculean task anytime, but moving adds another level of stress. Debra Blue of Blue Moon Estate Sales in Fuquay-Varina, says clients frequently call them on the advice of a real estate agent.

Avery Stafford and her mother, Jennifer, eye some dolls for sale. Debra Blue, who founded Blue Moon with her husband, Ken, and their son David, says estate sales have become more popular. “Six or seven years ago, we had to explain to people what we are and what we do. Less and less do we have to explain anything.”

“When they are ready to downsize or move to their beach house they think, ‘I’m not going to have a place to put all this,’” she said.

“Usually the houses we see, people are selling 75 to 100 percent of everything.”

For a percentage of the proceeds, estate sale companies advertise, run the sale and clean up afterward. They also work with experts who can appraise items.

John Shaver of JMS Estate Sales of Holly Springs has this cautionary tale of a young client clearing out her parents’ home.

“When we got there, she had already gone through the house and thrown away everything she thought was trash. She said, ‘There were these sterling silver candelabras that were so tarnished, that I don’t think they would have ever come back. So I just threw them away.’ There were four of them, so it was probably a thousand dollars’ worth of silver.”

Professional advantage

Even small moves can benefit from professional advice. Some move managers offer free consultations, which can help clients figure out how to begin downsizing and organizing.

“Most people are price conscious,” said Yarbrough. “They will consider, ‘What can I do, and what do I want to do?’ They have us do things they can’t do or don’t want to do. I encourage folks to let us do the packing, because it’s a specialized job.”

Stanhope agrees that it’s better to let the professionals pack fragile items such as lamps, artwork, crystal and china. In her seven years in the business, she has found that a move specialist can also help in less tangible ways.

Changing tastes mean a lot of high-quality goods wind up at estate sales like this one run by Blue Moon Estate Sales. “The new generation is not out collecting china and buying china cabinets to put it in,” says John Shaver of JMS Estate Sales. “It’s more about convenience. They want to hang their TV on the wall.”

“It’s helpful for clients to have a third-party person to help with the downsizing,” she said. “Family dynamics and emotions can sometimes hinder the decision-making process.”
And often a little encouragement or coaching helps.

“I’m taking care of people, not just their belongings,” she added.

This connection and the satisfaction of being of service is the best part of her job, Stanhope says.

“It’s all rewarding — getting to know the clients, helping them keep and display their beloved treasures in a new way, helping them acclimate to a new space,” she said. “The highest compliment I can get is having a client say, ‘It feels like home.’”

Downsizing Tips

  1. Start early. Begin paring down when you first decide to move.
  2. Have a plan. If you don’t know where to begin, a consultation with a move manager may be worthwhile.
  3. Measure furniture and other large objects, so you’ll know what will fit in your new home. Assisted living facilities often have detailed floor plans with measurements.
  4. Sort belongings. Decide what to keep, give away, sell or discard.
  5. Save the memories. Take pictures of treasured items and put the photos on DVDs.
  6. Donate usable items to schools, libraries and food pantries, not just thrift stores. Ask family members what items they would like to have.
  7. Sell items through consignment shops, eBay, Craigslist or a yard sale. For some, a professionally run estate sale is a better option.

Source: The Family Caregiving Alliance

More downsizing guides are here:


Move with Ease
(919) 218-4783

Caring Transitions of Jordan Lake
(919) 267-1440

Blue Moon Estate Sales
(919) 619-8007

JMS Estate Sales
(919) 264-8794

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