No matter what stage of life you’re in, packing for a life transition can be both daunting and exciting at the same time. Do you remember your life transitions?
Remember summer camp. You knew you would return home after a short summer. Once you got past the jitters and excitement of the first day and began making new friends, home became a distant memory. Mom? Dad? Who?
Leaving home for college brings up the same emotions, until one gets into the swing of classes, involved in extracurricular activities and makes new friends. After graduation, you probably claimed your independence without moving back home.
Packing and moving into a parent to a senior living community is much like the move to college or relocating from an apartment.
I have spent the past month going through boxes of “things” with my mother in advance of her move to an assisted living community. At first it seemed like an overwhelming project, something to be accomplished on a to-do list of tasks.
But I’ve changed my viewpoint; it now seems like an honor, an opportunity to get to know my mom better. I am learning a lot about my mom in the packing process!
For example, my mom owns more paperclips than Staples, Office Depot and Office Max combined. This includes regular paperclips of all colors, shapes and sizes, bag clips, and even the reinvention of the clothespin as a paperclip. All important papers are bound together by a clip of some kind. Who knew?
And my mom loves keeping piles of newspaper articles she deems important, covering topics like politics, gardening, retirement tips and library happenings. And she has kept every church bulletin since moving to her home in summer 2005. I’m thinking that the church could easily start an archive with her collection.
My mom is 85 and has always been a private person; her affairs are her affairs. Some people tell me this is quite common for her generation. So, you can just imagine the level of diplomacy it takes to go through her personal items with her as we decide what to keep, what to put in storage, what to donate, and what to bring to her new community.
What we decide to keep and what we decide to let go of are equally as revealing about my mom, which I love. Each decision tells me more about who she is as a person.
They say that the process determines the outcome. My advice as an adult child: Approach the packing and moving process as a wonderful opportunity to be with your parent, one that sets the stage for their happiness in their new community.