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Moving homes can be a very emotional experience for anyone, but for farm families, it’s doubly so. “When the family home is also the place of business, there is an interconnectedness in the heart of the family and the heart of the business,” says Boissevain, Man. farm family coach Elaine Froese.
Whether the next generation is taking over or if the farm is being sold to someone outside the family, stress levels can be high for all involved. Good communication is essential, notes Froese. “Love does not read minds.”
Even when the farm is staying in the family, for instance, there can be a lot of anxiety for other family members wondering whether they’ll still have access to the property, Froese says. “They’ll want to know, can I still come back to pick raspberries? Can I still store my stuff in the shed? Will my kids be able to toboggan in the ravine?”
They’ll also have to wrestle with the fact that things can’t be exactly as they used to be.
Regardless of who is taking over, those moving off the farm will need to let go of expectations about what the place should look like after they move, warns Froese. “They can’t expect it to stay the same.”
Envisioning the new living space and the next stage of life can help with the process. Yes, things will be different, but think of the new opportunities you will have, and the new ways you can keep connected.
Creating a ritual to help say goodbye to the farm can also be a great idea. This could include holding a family gathering at the farm, taking a family photo, commissioning a painting of the farm or planting a tree.
Setting a Marker Day is a way to create clarity around the transition for all those involved, advises Froese. After the Marker Day, people can no longer take things from the property, for example.
Retiring from the farm and transitioning to the next stage of life is a passage that some will find harder than others. If you find yourself having a really difficult time, Froese recommends reflecting on why it’s hard. A third-party facilitator or coach can also help, she says.
Also be aware that moving house is a process that overlaps with other areas where maybe you might need to pull up your socks anyway.
Smoky Lake, Alta. professional organizer and life coach Michelle Wright specializes in coaching farm and rural people through the decluttering process. She has noticed that some people get stuck because they are overwhelmed with the quantity of stuff that has accumulated in a lifetime or over several lifetimes.
Wright can usually coach people through the process in one to three hours on the phone. She shared several tips with Country Guide to help readers get started. First off, Wright says, “Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t been able to get as much done as you’d like.”
It can be a big job with a lot of emotion attached and “if you’ve got generations of stuff, you’re not going to get it done in a couple of weeks without help.”
Another challenge is that farms and rural properties often become holding spaces for other people’s stuff. Wright says she has seen situations where people have been storing furniture and campers for other people for years. Her advice is to let people know that if they haven’t picked up their stuff by a certain date, you will pay to have it removed and send them the bill.
Some items may be of interest to businesses such as car crushers, metal recyclers, and antique pickers who will come to the farm. (More of Wright’s tips for dealing with the physical stuff are found in the Resource Section.)
Bethany and Greg Mazereeuw, owners of Senior’s Move, a Waterloo, Ont. business that specializes in decluttering and downsizing for seniors, say their backgrounds in social work are useful for helping families manage the stresses of downsizing.
The move isn’t only stressful for the senior but also for the family, says Bethany Mazereeuw. When the property isn’t staying in the family, parents may expect adult children to help with the downsizing, packing and moving. This can be a hardship for those who work full-time and do not live nearby, leading to resentment when they do help and guilt when they don’t, cautions Mazereeuw.
Another common area of conflict between the generations is around the value of possessions, continues Mazereeuw. Having lived through the Great Depression or other difficult economic times, many older people feel there is a lot of merit in owning things and are disappointed when their children and grandchildren do not want family heirlooms.
As an alternative to passing things down to the next generation, you can record a video of yourself talking about the item or take pictures of the item and write down the story behind it, says Mazereeuw. It’s the memories attached to the thing that are more important than the thing itself, she says. “It’s the story that creates the generational tie.”
Some people are natural collectors and own numerous tea cups, ball caps, farm toys or other items. If you really can’t part with a collection, Mazereeuw suggests selecting the most treasured items for saving. One way to whittle down a collection is by comparing the items two at a time and then deciding which of the two to keep.
Some people have amassed numerous photographs in their lifetime which require a lot of storage space. There are businesses that specialize in helping people select the best photos and then digitize them to save space. Similar to our possessions, it’s the stories behind the photos that have the most meaning, says Mazereeuw. She suggests recording the story that goes with a photo so that it can also be shared with the next generation.
While the downsizing process can be tough, the Mazereeuws have seen first-hand how people benefit when they let go of the things they don’t need anymore.
“People feel a weight has been lifted when it’s done,” she says. ”There is a freedom from not having things hanging around.”
Tips for dealing with the physical stuff
From Michelle Wright, professional organizer and life coach:
Large metal items: Car crushers will come to the farm if there are several old cars. Metal recyclers will pick up at the farm and provide bins for collecting smaller items. If possible, consolidate items to be recycled in one place to prevent items you want to keep from being recycled by mistake.
Wood, wooden structures, old bales: Move these to mineral soil and with approval from your local municipality, burn safely.
Furniture: If it’s been in the barn for a long time, it’s unlikely to be salvageable. Furniture in good condition could be donated to thrift stores or newcomers. You could post it to social media “free sites” but if the transfer is to people you don’t know, be sure to arrange for a safe pickup.
Household goods and clothing: Donate to thrift stores, or there may be bins at your local grocery store.
Valuable items: If you think you have enough that’s worthwhile, consider an auction. “You’ll get rid of the good stuff and usually someone will pay to take your junk, too,” says Wright.
Pickers: If you have enough of the kinds of things antique dealers are looking for (e.g. wagon wheels, old stoves), you can get on a list for them to come and have a look. It won’t happen overnight, Wright warns. Depending on where you live, it might take up to two years for reps to actually get out to the farm and arrange pickup.
Evaluations: You can check online buy-and-sell sites such as Kijiji for a similar item. Professional evaluators are not cheap but can be used if you have something very unique or valuable.
Collectibles: Items such as toy trains, dolls, books and some farm equipment may have significant value to the right collector. Check Google to see if there is a group that is dedicated to your category of item. Often, they have swaps/sales/connections for selling items.
Old farm diaries, ledger books, receipts and old issues of Country Guide: These may be of interest to your provincial archives or a local museum but they rarely have much monetary value.
To find local help with decluttering or moving for seniors, check out the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers. All general members of this must meet strict vetting requirements before approval. www.nasmm.org/
The Photo Managers is a community of professionals who are passionate about helping their clients manage photo collections and tell their stories. For help with organizing, scanning, converting old media or creative ways to share: thephotomanagers.com/
Find Michelle Wright, owner of Wide Open Spaces Heirloom Rescue, Farm Clean Up, and Life Coaching on Facebook at www.facebook.com/heirloomrescues
Find Senior’s Move at symplicated.com/seniors-move. They have several videos with tips for tackling various parts of the move at: symplicated.com/videos.
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