Navigating Life Transitions – Interview with Laura Englund

Embark on a journey of insightful revelations with Laura Englund as she unravels the intricacies of navigating life transitions, including these three key takeaways that might just reshape your perspective:

🙌 Early Conversations Are Key: Laura passionately advocates for the power of early conversations and strategic planning when it comes to life transitions. Waiting until retirement, she cautions, might add unnecessary stress. Learn why initiating these dialogues sooner rather than later can be a game-changer in navigating the twists and turns of life.

🙌 Downsizing Beyond the Tangibles: In a heartwarming exploration of personal anecdotes, Laura delves into the emotional toll and family dynamics associated with downsizing. The big revelation? Downsizing doesn’t equate to selling everything. Discover how a shift in perspective, coupled with professional assistance, can streamline the process, allowing you to preserve cherished memories while embracing a simpler lifestyle.

🙌 Embrace Alternatives: Laura encourages us to broaden our horizons by considering downsizing alternatives. It’s not just about clearing physical space but finding ways to declutter our lives continually. Moreover, she introduces the concept of aging in place comfortably, showcasing that downsizing doesn’t always mean a complete upheaval.

Tune in to discover the practical steps and mindset shifts that can pave the way for a more graceful journey through life transitions.

Show Notes:

Hey there, welcome back. Today, I have a guest on the show, Laura England, a certified relocation and transition specialist and a seasoned entrepreneur with nearly 25 years of experience. She owns and operates Next Steps YQR. As we delve into our interview, you’ll hear me mention that she is the person you didn’t realize you needed.

Laura has a genuine passion for assisting individuals and their families in navigating the complex process of downsizing and relocating, which many of us are currently dealing with for our parents and loved ones. She has developed a unique ability to connect with clients on a personal level, going beyond the logistics of each project by encompassing the emotional and psychological aspects of the downsizing process.

Let’s dive right into our chat.

Zena: Hi, Laura, thanks so much for joining today.

Laura: Hi, thanks for having me.

Zena: You’re the person that we didn’t realize we needed until after we talked to you. People listening today will realize, ‘Oh my God, this is someone I should have known way back when we were going through this.’ I’m pretty excited for our chat today. I thought I’d just jump in. I imagine you wear many hats in your job, so this might be hard, but can you share a little bit about what you do and how you help people?

Laura: The hats are ever-evolving, and I think I keep gaining more hats as this job goes on. The business started as a downsizing company, primarily focusing on helping seniors when they’re ready to downsize. This often involves selling their homes and moving into a retirement community. I also assist with organizing, decluttering, and interior styling to help people set up their new homes. However, it’s evolved more into helping people, not just seniors, with their moves and addressing the emotional and psychological aspects of downsizing.

Zena: It sounds like you encompass all the emotions behind it, especially with family members involved. When it comes to downsizing, my memory is sitting and visiting my parents when my grandparents had to move due to health reasons. It was a chaotic scene, with everyone half-crying, not knowing what to do but also trying to declutter. Most people have lived in a home for 25, 35, or even longer. There’s a lot of emotion tied to their belongings. How did you get started in this?

Laura: I was working as an interior stylist, and some of my work transitioned to commercial spaces, including one of the newer retirement communities in Regina. Building friendships with the residents, I was approached to help them with their layouts or artwork. When the pandemic hit, interior design came to a standstill, but the need for people to move persisted. Recognizing a gap in our city for helping seniors with transitions, I found education and became a certified relocation and transition specialist about three years ago. I haven’t looked back since.

Zena: It makes me think of the sandwich generation, where we’re stuck in the middle caring for both our parents and our own children. I can imagine the stress and emotions involved. What are the most common circumstances that lead people into downsizing?

Laura: There’s a misconception that downsizing is something done only when necessary. In reality, it can start at any time and should be part of our planning. Many find themselves in difficult situations when they haven’t planned. For example, being in a home for 60 years without purging, talking to their children, or having any plan. Serious illness or the passing of a partner leaves them with no plan. This is especially challenging when the home hasn’t been maintained, and they lack the support needed. Those who have planned and worked towards it are usually in a better situation.

Zena: That’s insightful. So, what are some things in the planning process that you find helpful? Is it having a family meeting beforehand, exploring options, or decluttering at a certain point?

Laura: We often have this notion that we’ll deal with all of this once we retire, right?

Zena: Yes. See, I just fell into that trap.

Laura: Yeah, it’s like, I don’t know, is that what we’ve been taught? I’m guilty of it too because we don’t have the time to deal with it right now. The sandwich generation, raising kids, and caring for aging parents, leaves us with no time and a reluctance to think about it. It’s those uncomfortable conversations. I think starting the conversation much earlier is crucial.

And then there are two sides to it. There’s the physical clutter that we live with, something we have to start tackling. Many say, “I’ll deal with it when I retire,” or “I’ll deal with it when the kids move out.” But the reality is, they won’t take it all with them. It’ll still be sitting in the house.

Zena: We’ve got Tupperware in the basement. We moved, and they’ve got their names on it. I’m like, “You need to take this.” And they just somehow keep staying here.

Laura: Yeah, it happens all the time. So having conversations and planning within your family is essential. It requires work, but there are great resources out there. Step by step, discussing those “what ifs.” What if I were to pass tomorrow? What do you need to know? Where are the passwords? How do you access my computer? Who do you need to contact? What should my funeral look like? What do I want done with my possessions? It’s significant, a whole other conversation, but people…

Zena:  Are you helping with that when you have clients?

Laura: I’m starting to get into it, yes. Because that’s another huge gap. We plan our future goals, but we’re not discussing what we want done with all our possessions, and what it’ll look like if one of us passes. Naming an executor and that, it’s a whole other conversation, but there needs to be more conversations and planning around that. So it’s not when something happens, but rather your loved ones can grieve more seamlessly and efficiently with the resources.

Zena: That’s insightful.

Laura: Definitely start talking about it sooner rather than later. Don’t assume it’s something you’ll do once you retire because your health might not be there. You might find yourself alone when you retire. We have this broad picture of retirement, but what does it really look like? What if one of us isn’t around anymore? What if one of us is ill or physically or mentally incapacitated? Those are the tough ones too as we age.

Zena: So, that must take a toll on you emotionally. You’re dealing with all the emotions, leading and coaching, and talking about helping them plan. Probably when you find them, it’s a little late because you’re assisting them through the transition. But then, you’re helping them set up for that as a surviving spouse. What’s a story or moment or a common scenario you can share about what’s happening right now as you help families transition and move? What’s the most common factor there?

Laura: I would say the most common factor is probably that people haven’t had the right conversations with the right people.

Zena: Yeah, so it’s the surviving spouse and family then caught off guard and having to deal with things.

Laura: Yes, absolutely. And not necessarily knowing what that person might have wished for their possessions, right? People aren’t having the conversations and not planning in advance, and then not having the family support is another big one, right? I’ve had plenty of situations where there might be children around that can help with this, but there’s some sort of family dynamic happening that is preventing a seamless or a supportive transition.

Zena: I’ll share a personal story. My father-in-law passed away a couple of years ago, and my mother-in-law, of course, nobody takes it well, but it was surprising and quick. Everyone was caught off guard, and they were in rural Southern Alberta on an acreage. They hadn’t been there their whole life, but they moved and accumulated. You can imagine a shop, a huge shop. So the stuff out there, it’s been almost two years. They’re just finally starting to wrap up and deal with it. Here’s a scenario where the eldest son, my husband, lives here in Regina. They’re in Southern Alberta as two other siblings are picking up and having to do it all. There was this, okay, can we hire someone? But there’s the family dynamics; no, this is something family does. But now there’s guilt on our end of okay, at least can we wait? What can we do to help because we don’t have the time, and we can’t anyway. It’s just such an ongoing process. I think to have those conversations ahead of time, what if, and then almost make it like a game plan. Okay, we’re all in agreement. A third party will come in and help with this transition. Can we start getting rid of some of the stuff? Just that conversation of getting rid of stuff has held things up for months of who’s going to take what and where it should go.

Laura: Yeah, and people don’t realize the toll that’s taking on them, right? I understand it for a short period, people want to deal with the situation. That’s their way of grieving, working through the process. But for something to carry on for that long, or where the family dynamic is preventing it from being as easy as it could be, that happens a lot too. One person wants to hire, another wants to just get a bin, the garbage bin, and fill it. And then we’ll wrap this up in a day.

Zena: My daughter went out there for the summer and helped. Last summer, there was a bin, and she was putting things in the bin, and grandma was jumping in the bin and pulling things out.

Laura: Yes, that happens.

Zena: And so that went on for a summer.

Laura: Yeah, and that’s emotionally taxing for a lot of people.

Zena: Yeah.

Laura: Whereas if everything, not everything in your house needs to be labeled with what’s to be done with it when you pass, but if you can have some sort of structure around that, I think that’s very helpful.

Zena: Yes.

Laura: They’re not going to deal with anything in their house. Their kids can deal with the whole mess once they’re gone. That is a huge disservice to your family. They just need to grieve. They need to just grieve. Then they’ve got all the logistics, the estate stuff to work through, right? All that paperwork. And that’s so consuming. I have just gone through this with my father’s estate. He passed away just six months ago. So from a personal standpoint, again, I’ve learned, okay, this is what people go through. This is a huge, massive undertaking, right?

Zena: And no matter what, it’s going to happen. That’s the unfortunate piece. It’s inevitable. It sounds like the best pieces of advice you can give us right now are to have these conversations now.

Laura: Yeah, it’s never too early to start for sure.

Zena: Taking care of that (the conversations). And then to call you. Because we didn’t know that there was someone like you out there that can help with this and has experience in moving and transitioning. Is there anything else you want to leave with us?

Laura: I think just understanding that downsizing is a huge process, but it’s even more overwhelming when you’re forced into it. You’re forced into it when there’s been a death or when you physically can’t handle things anymore or mentally can’t. Downsizing can start at any time, sometimes just cleaning out a couple of closets here and there. Just deal with everything on an ongoing basis. I think that will make things a lot easier down the road. Just understanding, in the first place, that downsizing doesn’t mean you have to sell everything and move out of your house. There are great ways to age in place nowadays too. Aging in place also means maybe getting rid of some of the clutter. It’s not just about stuff and possessions and moving into a 400-square-foot suite or retirement community or care home. There’s so much more to it, and I think it’s really important to take the time to work through it if you can. That will make things so much easier in the long run.

Zena: Thank you so much, Laura. This is something in our financial planning office, we have these conversations and try to do life planning. It has sparked a little fire under me for 2024. We’re going to bring this back to the table and have more of these conversations. Thank you so much for sharing everything with us. How can our listeners find you? We need you. How do we find you?

Laura: You can find me through Google at www.nextstepsyqr.ca and also on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, all of the social channels.

Zena: Thank you so much, Laura. I’m sure we’ll have you back, and we’ll talk again.

Laura: Sounds good. Thanks for having me.

 

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