Difficult Decisions in Helping Mother Move to Next Life Chapter
When I was nine, my family moved from the city to our new house in the suburbs during a snowstorm. I’m not sure why my parents thought it was a good idea to move in the middle of the school year during Christmas break. The house was brand new, and I remember it being freezing since the heat was not on yet. It had a built-in electric range in the kitchen which pulled out from the wall. This “flair oven” was the newest thing in kitchens at the time (in the early sixties). I remember my mother turning on the range to try to warm my baby sister’s feet until the heat came on.
Over the years, my parents raised five children in that house. However, they faced increasing home maintenance challenges as they grew older.
My mother had talked for years about maybe moving somewhere warmer, but my father was a homebody and wanted to stay put. When my father developed Alzheimer’s, he became even more tied to familiar surroundings, and the idea of moving was not an option.
The Difficult Decision To Move
After my father had died, my mother alternated between wanting to live in a nearby retirement community and wanting to stay in her home of more than 50 years. My siblings would take her to visit retirement communities in the area, but my mother always ended up wanting to stay put even as she complained that taking care of the house was too much for her.
A few years after my father died, my mother started feeling unsafe in her home. She repeatedly called the police because she said she heard someone knocking at the front door late at night. The police responded every time but never found any evidence that anyone was trying to break in. This situation happened several times over some months.
We had an alarm system installed to help her feel more secure. That didn’t work, and the situation escalated to the point that she felt increasingly panic-stricken at night.
It became apparent that she would need to move sooner rather than later. In December 2015, she found a lovely one-bedroom apartment in an independent living retirement community. Then, we started working on getting the house ready to be sold.
Now The Real Work Begins
When I learned that I was the executor of their estate several years ago, I asked them to please clean their house before they died. They laughed and said, “Sorry, we can’t make any promises.” My parents were the type of people that held onto things. I wouldn’t call them hoarders, but when I started going through some of the piles of papers in the house, I found a payment coupon book for a car loan from 1964.
After my mother had moved, the challenge of getting the house in a condition that it could be put on the market fell to my sister and me. I was having nightmares about how we were going to manage this enormous project. Fortunately, my sister has a long-time family friend with her own cleaning business.
In January 2016, I met the three-person cleaning team at the house and walked them through it. They were not concerned and told me they had seen a lot worse. They agreed to tackle this project in addition to their regular cleaning business.
As a favor to us, the cleaners worked on weekends from January through May to clean out the house and discard items. They rented a dumpster and filled up over 100 garbage bags. They also painted the entire interior of the house. It looked better than it ever had.
One member of the cleaning crew worked for a landscaping business. He did a great job pruning and cleaning up the shrubs outside the house which increased the curb appeal. All of this work was done at a discount, and we ended up paying much less than we would have if we had hired separate professional cleaning, painting and landscaping services.
Selling The House
After the many months spent cleaning and getting the house ready, the process of selling the house turned out to be the easiest part.
The friend with the cleaning business put us in touch with a realtor she knew. At the end of May, my mother, sister and I met with the realtor at my mom’s house to review the comps in the area and discuss recommendations for the list price.
The listing went online in late June. Much to my surprise, after four days on the market, my mother received four offers including a full price offer which she accepted.
I don’t think my mom appreciated how unusual this was.
Since the house was built in the 1960’s, there were some upgrades needed before settlement and some minor repairs were also needed. Overall, the buyers were very reasonable and only requested a small seller’s assist along with some repairs.
The Next Chapter
I accompanied my mother to settlement and took her out to dinner afterward to celebrate. The proceeds from the sale of the house should provide her with financial security for the rest of her life.
My mom is much happier living in her retirement community. She has always been very active, and now she fills her days with yoga, tai chi, art classes, bingo, puzzles and playing cards.
She has many new friends and is thriving.
For years, I had dreaded the thought of what it would take to get that house sold. After the sale, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted and it turned out to be a win-win situation.
My siblings and I are just so happy to see her moving forward with her new life in a way that is right for her. She has taken care of us and others throughout her life. Now it’s her turn.