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Springfield, MO

Title: Senior Moving SpecialistCompany: Smooth Transitions of Southwest Missouri LLCEducation: Bachelor’s in social work, Texas Tech University, and master’s in social work, with an emphasis on working with seniors, University of Kansas Elder advocate: Holmes serves on the foundation board for the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging and is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.Contact: mjh@smoothtransitionsswmo.com
Title: Senior Moving Specialist
Company: Smooth Transitions of Southwest Missouri LLC
Education: Bachelor’s in social work, Texas Tech University, and master’s in social work, with an emphasis on working with seniors, University of Kansas
Elder advocate: Holmes serves on the foundation board for the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging and is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.
Contact: mjh@smoothtransitionsswmo.com

A Conversation With ... Mary Jane Holmes

Posted online
What is your role through Smooth Transitions of Southwest Missouri, opened in 2009?
I help seniors and their families with the physical and emotional aspects of downsizing [their homes]. There’s a lot of hand-holding with this job. I’m not the moving company, but I do everything else. I have helped with 65 to 70 moves. I work for an hourly fee, and I can usually go in and give a pretty good idea of the cost and try to work within their budget. I pack everything up. I help them hire a mover and develop a new floor plan for them so they know what furniture they can take. I make templates the size of their furniture, and we take them over to their new places if that’s a possibility, and we move them around so they can see how it’s going to look and realize that they can’t take everything. … Once I get them (moved), I totally unpack them and hang up the pictures on the wall, and they’re ready to go within two or three days, rather than having boxes sit around months on end.

How did you prepare to operate your business?
I went through training with Barbara Morris, out of Kentucky. She’s the (founder) of Smooth Transitions, and she was one of the founding members of the National Association of Senior Move Managers. … As far as Smooth Transitions goes, I’m a licensee, not a franchisee, so I received my training and bought my territory from her, but then, I run my business how I feel would best suit Springfield. There are about 51 Smooth Transitions companies around the United States.

What are unique challenges for seniors when they move?
Starting out, it’s finding a place to live. … I work with all the senior communities here, and as my clients move in, I get to know … the staff and some of the clients who live there, so I can usually get a pretty good feel for where I think they would do well.
 
Probably the biggest thing is sorting through things from their pasts. I just finished up a job (for) a lady moving from her house after 50 years, and her kids had tried to help her sort through her things but … she just really didn’t want to part with anything. … They called me in, and I helped her for about six weeks. We’d meet three times a week and sort through each thing. … That’s probably the part of the job I love the most, because you come across pictures and documents, and you get to hear the stories.

How do you help them let go of the things they can’t keep?
(I might suggest), “Let’s keep your favorite things,” like out of a huge teacup collection and take pictures of the rest, and we can put those in a scrapbook. Or maybe (a family member) would be interested. … One of my clients was an artist, and she had to let go of some of that because her sight was going bad, so we donated a lot of her stuff to The Creamery. … Sometimes, you have to be really creative to find a place for things. We do try to sell some things, but some things just aren’t worth as much as people think they are, and that’s a whole other educational process.

Does any of your work focus on the home left behind?
I clean out the attic, the basement and garage (and stage the home for sale). I help them find a Realtor. I’ve got a couple Realtors I work with who work very well with seniors. It’s very different doing real estate with seniors than younger people. You have to spend a lot more time explaining things.

Will you work with younger clients?
I help any age. I just worked with a young (lady) who had preterm labor and had to be on bed rest, and their house sold and they had to move. So she laid on the couch and told me where to put things. And I’ve helped people move from 7,000- to 10,000-square-foot homes.
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