One of the primary challenges that Senior Downsizing Specialists face when planning a client move is to help their clients stay on track so they’re prepared and ready on move day.
It’s easy to get sidetracked. The sheer volume of decision-making that’s involved to organize, purge or dispose of a lifetime of items only adds to the confusion and sense of overwhelm that clients feel during this process.
Many of my clients over the years would confidently tell me they could be ready on move day. Unfortunately, the reality was that most of them fell significantly short of what they hoped to achieve despite their best intentions and efforts.
Procrastination is Not Our Friend
Why? Daily life just got in the way. Procrastination, or other distractions, reared their ugly heads, and as each day passed, their “To Do” schedule slipped further and further behind.
That resulted in a move-day from hell for everyone concerned. It usually also cost them more money, more stress, and more problems than they could have ever foreseen.
If you’re new to the downsizing industry and you don’t have a clear accountability plan for your clients, it’s time to implement one. You’ll be doing your client, and yourself, a big favor.
The 3-Step “Stay on Track” Plan
So, here are three steps you can take to help you and your clients keep the train on the tracks.
1. Set clear expectations on goals and task timelines early.
The first thing I do with new clients is to meet with them, and their families, if they are actively involved in the project to create a game plan. This includes getting clarity about their expectations of the process ahead.
If I’m not providing the pre-move purge and disposal services I ask them to walk me through the process they’ll be taking to ensure they are ready on move day.
Asking the right questions is key. Offer them realistic examples of the amount of time and energy their “to do” list will entail based on their unique health, energy, and family assistance levels.
I do this because clients who are already overwhelmed tend to significantly underestimate the amount of time these tasks require.
This is where we, as Downsizing Specialists, can really help them create a more realistic plan. But, a plan isn’t worth a dime if it doesn’t have their buy-in, so ask them if it’s ok for you to check in with them on a weekly basis (or another acceptable timeline) so you know when they need help keeping things on track.
This creates accountability because they know you’ll be following their efforts.
2. Assess your client’s procrastination “problem spots”.
We all have things we prefer to do over others. Be prepared for your clients to focus on tasks that they like better vs. the ones they loath.
For a while, I took them at their word that they would be ready on pack day or move day. After all, they truly believed they had it in the bag. Too often, though, that wasn’t the case.
Sometimes they’re embarrassed that they are so far behind, that they don’t want to admit it. They may also be in complete denial about what it really takes to get it done in time.
Either way, you are left solving last-minute problems. The client is twice as overwhelmed and stressed which is not a good combo.
During your initial planning session, ask them to be as straightforward with you about where they tend to procrastinate most. Most people will share which tasks are most challenging for them when they know you’re trying to help, not judge.
I find using humor is especially helpful during this conversation because it helps everyone relax. I’ve yet to find a client that wasn’t appreciative of a good laugh during stress.
3. Stay in regular communication.
So, you’ve set up a solid plan. They’ve bought in 100%. You’ve given them tools to help them manage their tasks (yes, even the ones they loath). So, now what?
If you aren’t actively participating in the purging, disposal, or other tasks in the plan, the secret to avoiding unpleasant surprises on move day is to stay in regular communication with your clients.
The benefit to weekly check-ins is that you can pivot when needed and adjust the goals or steps required to execute a task without things escalating.
Don’t be afraid to bring them into reality in a gentle and compassionate way if they are resistant. It might have been quite a while since they’ve moved. People often forget about the kind of last-minute surprises that can crop up even with the best-laid plans.
Setting clear expectations early, helping our clients create a realistic pre-move plan, and then walking with them step-by-step through the emotional and physically taxing process to successful completion is what makes our profession unique and so very appreciated.
What’s Your Plan to Stay on Track?
Take a moment now to review your own plan. Are there areas that could be strengthened so your clients can have better clarity on what’s expected from them? Are there new and creative solutions you could offer to address your client’s most common (and vexing) challenges?
You’ve got this!
P.S. Feel like you need a little more clarity about understanding the psychology behind downsizing? Want to work more effectively with your clients? Click here to learn more about “The Psychology Behind Downsizing” course written for families of seniors and senior service-related professionals just like you!