Linda Lammers is a certified relocation and transition specialist and the owner and operator of Change is Good!, a professional moving and downsizing company. Her company provides specialized services to assist those 55 years and older with later-life moves in order to make the moving process something that isn’t completely dreaded. Lammers sat down with us to express how passionate she is about her business, and how she will never hesitate to go out of her way for her clients
Photo by J. Alan Paul Photography
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
“My name is Linda Lammers, I own Change is Good and I help older people with later-life moves. In the event that they want to either stay where they are and they need help with the downsizing process or in the event that they are moving – I can help with that entire process. It’s anywhere from helping them with downsizing and sorting out stuff to doing the packing for them. I also do the floor plans, so I go into where they’re going to be living and measure out everything down to the half inch. We also help them pack up and we arrange the movers. I’m also at both sites the day of the move and we also resettle them as well.”
What is it in your background that led you to start and operate this business?
“I’ve always been able to see what to do first, second and third. About 10 years ago now, my parents moved. I’m the oldest of five and we all had our different ways of helping them move and my mom and dad had not moved in 50 years. We didn’t know what we were doing and they didn’t know what they were doing. So, I saw the chaos that happened with people when faced with moving out of the home and how hard it is on the family. I thought to myself that there was a niche here, and that there was a real need for something like this for people 55 and older. I’ve been doing this now for about eight years and I really enjoy it.”
You’re a certified relocation and transition specialist. Is that required for this business or is there other special training you have to do?
“You don’t have to be certified, but I decided to be. I’m also a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers. I went ahead and got certified for the credentials and I think it really helps out. If we’re going to be dealing with mom and dad’s coin collection, or their china or any other private things they may have, I’m sure the kids are wondering who in the world is helping mom and dad. So that just gives me a credential that says I’m in this for the long haul, and it’s just not a passing thing for me. I’m fully insured as well, so I truly care about what I do and have the credentials to back it up.”
We had to reschedule a few times after things came up for you, so what is a typical day like for you with things being so chaotic sometimes?
“It really varies. Just from seeing people for the first time and explaining what we’re all about, to actually doing the move and doing the packing to dropping stuff off for donation. If someone is looking to do an auction or an estate sale, I also line up meetings with those given people for the client to see which way they’d like to go. So I really help them with the whole process. Depending on the day I might be taking things to recycling, I might be helping somebody move or I might be packing boxes. It can really vary and every day is totally different.”
When we spoke beforehand you said you were working on packing a shed-full of boxes to be shipped. Is that sort of daunting task something that you do often?
“No, it’s not something I do often. I really go with what the client needs. That’s what I do. If they need things shipped to their kids, I arrange for that to happen. If they need things brought to a donation site, recycled or even need a cleaning crew to come in I can make those things happen as well. I do a lot of extra things that many people may not know about.”
What are some of the challenges or rewarding aspects with this job?
“If people are dealing with issues such as dementia or other related illnesses, that tends to make things a little trickier because they can’t remember what they’ve told us before. Usually in situations like that there will be a family member there to help take care of things. Those situations tend to be the trickiest, but they can also be the most rewarding because those families just cannot do it by themselves. The fact that we can duplicate somebody’s current home into their new surroundings and have it look the same – that’s the most rewarding part. It’s great to see the family and the clients walk in at the end of the day and be happy with what they see. We’ll have the beds made, the televisions plugged in, the bathrooms (in) operation, the boxes will be gone and everything is all set up for them.”
That sounds like a wonderful aspect for the client, especially with moving being one of the most stressful things in life.
“Yes. It’s nice because we can take care of the stuff while the family takes care of the health issues, of whatever it may be. We just take that chaos out of the moving process for them. Nobody wants to stare at all of those boxes; it can make you feel out of place or homeless.”
Do you do any other types of moves or do you tend to stick with older ages?“I have just focused on the over-aged. The younger crowd tends to want to do all of the packing and all that sort of stuff themselves, but I would do something for anyone if they were relocating or something like that. But my expertise is in the older ages.”
It only makes sense to start a business like this. It’s quite common for everybody to downsize later in life. “Exactly. Families get busy or they’re just not around anymore to help out. Sometimes people will go out to a condo or a new living situation and think about relocating there. Then they’ll go home and look at all of the stuff they have and won’t know where to start, so they just end up staying where they are even though it may not be the best place for them.”
You have a team that helps you with all of this; what is that like? “I have six people that help me out on a parttime basis, so we can come in and do the packing and moving very efficiently. It depends on the size of the job for how many people I bring in, and I still oversee every job that happens.”
Do you have anything you’d like our readers to know? “We just really take care of the client and the family. There are times when we bring them breakfast. There are times when we make them coffee. There are times when we remind them to eat. Things like that where we add a real personal element to moves such as this.”
Five years ago, Linda Lammers’ parents decided to move from their home of 50 years to a condominium.
The transition was tougher than anyone anticipated. As Lammers and her sisters juggled their schedules so they could help on weekends, their parents struggled with the numerous details of downsizing their lives.
“I realized how traumatic it was for them and how traumatic it was for us,” says Lammers, a Sabin, Minn., resident. “At one point I turned to my sisters and said, ‘There has to be a better way to do this.’ “
Indeed, there is. Lammers saw a TV news story on a Minneapolis-area company that specialized in helping senior citizens relocate. The work immediately appealed to Lammers, a born organizer who worked with many elderly clients in her previous career in insurance.
Now, through her business, Change Is Good, Lammers helps people 55 and older with the physical and emotional demands of downsizing or relocating their homes.
As a certified relocation and transition specialist, Lammers is part of a growing field that developed in response to our graying population. She received her certification through the National Association for Senior Move Managers, which means she received training, passed background checks and is fully insured. In her three years in business, she has helped about 30 senior citizens move or relocate – usually to smaller, more senior-friendly homes.
“It’s an aging America,” Lammers says. “Lots of people need this.”
Senior moving specialists can step in to help families who are too busy or live too far away to help their parents with this major transition. The elderly client is often leaving a place they’ve lived in most of their lives, and the process of sorting through items accumulated over 40 or 50 years is too overwhelming for loved ones.
Unlike movers who chiefly pack and move items, Lammers offers a variety of services, which include:
- Assisting in sorting and downsizing, often taking time to discuss with clients what is most valuable to them and what they’d like to keep.
- Arranging for excess items to be sold or donated.
- Sketching out a floor plan of the client’s future home so she can determine where the client’s favorite items should be placed.
- Arranging shipments and storage.
- Coordinating the move with the client, family members and the landlords or retirement homes involved.
- Packing items and overseeing movers.
- Unpacking items at the new place and setting up the new home so the surroundings seem as familiar as possible. “If they are used to having their recliner right next to a table with the candy jar and remote, we’ll do that,” Lammers says.
Sometimes Lammers works with the senior; other times she deals mainly with family members. All the time, she views the elderly client as her No. 1 concern. Once in a while, the senior citizen will be defensive and will view Lammers as some sort of decluttering expert who will force them to give up their favorite treasures.
“It’s very important that the client know they’re the boss,” Lammers says. “I’ll say, ‘No, that’s up to you. I’m here to make things easier.’ “
Lammers’ services makes things easier for families as well. She
serves as a professional, impartial voice during a time of upheaval and change.
“Families can be too close,” Lammers says. “They’ll say, ‘What do you mean you want to get rid of that couch?’ “
Susan Redlin found Lammers’ services invaluable when her mother, Phyllis Hammond, moved three times in a year: first¸ from Florida to a retirement community in Fargo, then from one retirement community to another, and then, most recently, back to Florida.
“She helped her pack, orchestrated the move and hired the movers and even went over to the apartment,” Redlin says. “She is just terrific. Very cool, calm and collected. And she’s very organized. I was working at the time, so we could only do so much, and Linda was a godsend.”
Lammers charges $40 an hour for her services. Clients can hire her for specific jobs – such as drawing up a floor plan –
if they can’t afford to hire her from start to finish.
“People will see my company name and they’ll say, ‘Is change good?’ ” Lammers says. “I’ll say, ‘It is, but sometimes it takes a while to see it.’ “
For more information
- The National Association of Senior Move Managers Web site features a list of accredited senior move specialists by state: www.nasmm.org
- To contact Linda Lammers, go to www.changeisgood.us.com or call (218) 329-7442.
Tips for helping the elderly move
- Plan ahead. It’s important to allow loved ones time to acclimate to the move. Rushing them will only add to the stress.
- Be kind. Their point of view may be completely different from yours. Allow them to have some control over the situation.
- Take photos. Your loved one may have lived here 40 years. Photos will help them take memories with them to their new home.
- Plan a layout. Change is hard, especially for the elderly. If they have a visual of how their old belongings can work in a new space, it can ease the transition.
- Hire movers. Caregivers may find it emotionally and physically draining to take on the entire packing/moving project themselves.
- Go slow. Remember, their minds and bodies may be slower than they used to be. Respect that.
- Communicate. They need to feel like it is their choice and you aren’t taking over. Make sure you tell them what’s happening at every step of the process.
- Give them tasks. Don’t do it all for them. Even if it’s wrapping up items, these tasks will keep your loved ones busy and feeling important.
- Start small. Start packing in a room or area with the least sentimental value, like a bathroom. It goes faster and gives a sense of accomplishment.
- Give them space. Listen when they want to revisit memories, and be aware it might take a while. Let them deal with the emotions of loss and change. Encourage your loved one, and let them know that you care.
Source: Today’s Caregiver magazine