Moving manager can make transition easier

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 25, 2011

By Robin M. Perry
For the Salisbury Post
A familiar scenario: Mom lives alone in the home she and your dad shared for over 23 years. Dad passed away a year ago and the house is too big and lonely for one person. She needs to be less isolated, but you live 200 miles away and have a family and job of your own.
Maybe you’ve found the perfect setting for mom to move, but where do you start in the moving process?
Senior move managers are professionals who can come in and guide seniors and their families through the often overwhelming physical and emotional upheaval of moving and transitioning to a new residence.
Smart Choice Senior Transitions is Rowan County’s first and only such move management firm dedicated exclusively to helping folks with relocation transitions, downsizing and aging-in-place.
Jo Kearns, Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist, opened her firm here in 2009. She has lived in Chicago, New York, and for a year in London, working as an office/project manager in various industries. In the course of her career, she had to organize and orchestrate several office moves. After moving 90 people from two locations to a single office with little disruption of work for Doosan Infracore, a Charlotte manufacturer, she realized she was good at it.
But when the economy soured, she was laid off.
“So I had to re-invent myself,” she said. “I looked at all my experience moving many businesses, and myself, and realized I had a lot of wisdom and expertise in this area,” she said.
Kearns went online to research relocating senior adults, and found the groundswell of a developing industry called senior move management. This combined her experience and interest in seniors. “Since I am a senior myself and can relate to what they go through when moving, this was the smart choice for me,” she said.
She earned her certification as a Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist and started Smart Choice Senior Transitions.
She provides services tailored for each client’s needs and situation. If they are moving, she will have a consultation on floor planning, drawing the new layout, measuring items to confirm that all the furniture will fit. Then she goes through the house room by room with the client, helping decide what to keep, what to give to family, what to sell or donate, and what needs to be thrown away.
She then tags the items to go with red ribbons or dots, so the moving company will know what to take. She sets up the movers, and works with them to ensure everything is packed, unpacked and placed correctly. If items are to be shipped or donated, she will take them to the appropriate place. She includes helping with change of address notifications, pet moves, disposing of unwanted items/clothes, obtaining antique appraisals and other details.
Kearns, and move managers like her, strive to reduce the emotional stress from the move. A successful move
Jean Gilooly is a recent client. She and her husband, George, had looked at moving to Oak Park last fall to downsize from their home of 21 years. Sadly, George passed away unexpectedly in December. Jean spent many months making the tough decisions that come when a spouse dies. This spring, she decided to follow through with the plans she and George made, and move to Oak Park. Her children agreed.
Kearns and Smart Choice were called in to help. Kearns had been working closely on various projects with Candy Ellis, owner of Smart Moves for Seniors in Concord. They helped Jean move from her 1,840-square- foot home with seven rooms to a 700-square- foot apartment with two rooms at Oak Park.
“It’s been wonderful,” Jean said. “I could never have done it myself. They take the panic out of it and help with so many decisions.
“They were very efficient and knew exactly what to do. The nice part to me is that they listen,” she said.
After deciding were her possessions went, Jean left the house on moving day and let the movers (Salisbury Moving and Storage) take over, with Kearns and Ellis supervising.
Jean also stayed away from the apartment, again letting the pros do their job getting everything moved in. Her new home at Oak Park turned out to be even “more comfortable and brighter than my old home,” Jean said.
Staying put
Aging in place is another area Jo serves clients.
“Many folks don’t want to move and don’t need to,” Jo explains. “We provide advice on how to make their home more livable and safe.”
That can mean anything from clearing clutter — Kearns said we all have too much stuff — to removing furniture, or reorganizing a kitchen for better use. Structural changes can also help, such as adding ramps, grab bars, lighting or widening doorways. Kearns helps contract the right folks to perform all these tasks.
De-cluttering is a popular term and seemingly difficult task for many. “Maybe someone has lost a spouse and couldn’t go through their belongings alone. We can help,” Kearns said.
De-cluttering can take place in closets, attics or the entire house.
“It is so gratifying to know that we have made a difference in someone’s life by making it easier for them to move,” Kearns said. “And they are always so appreciative.”
Kearns helps clients feel good about their move. She relates how one woman had quite a collection of “fabulously glamorous shoes” and evening gowns from her earlier days. With Kearns’ help, she donated the shoes to Piedmont Players and took the evening gowns to a consignment shop.
In another case, Kearns helped Tom Alcock, Oak Park’s first resident, with a collection of nearly 80 World War II model airplanes he had built. Alcock didn’t know what to do with them, so Kearns called the Price of Freedom Museum near China Grove. The museum operators were thrilled, as was Alcock, that they would be enjoyed by many for years to come.
Kearns offers free consultations/estimates to determine the services needed. Pricing can be by the hour or by the total project/move. Along with her certification, she is a member of the Rowan Council on Aging and her business has been certified as a Senior Friendly Business in Rowan County. She is also a member of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.
You can contact her at or by phone at 704-640-6844. Her website is
Kearnsand Ellis will conduct a workshop Tuesday called “Minimize Your Stuff — Discover Your Personality” at the Cottages at Trinity Oaks in Salisbury from 2-3:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public, but they ask those interested in attending to call for reservations and directions 704-603-9204.