Downsizing, Rightsizing and Sorting Through a Loved One’s Possessions (with transcript)

Downsizing, Rightsizing and Sorting Through a Loved One’s Possessions (with transcript)

Rachel Kodanaz is a heart-minded professional helping her audiences to Embrace Life’s Challenges. Rachel has been speaking passionately to national audiences for over 20 years, addressing all aspects of change, growth, and acceptance that comes with embracing life challenges.

Rachel has published numerous articles and has appeared on Good Morning America. Her books, Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time: What to do with yours or a loved one’s personal possessions, best-selling Living with Loss One Day at a Time, and Grief in the Workplace have received international acclaim.


Frank Samson:           Welcome to Boomers Today. I'm your host, Frank Samson. Each week we bring you important, useful information on issues facing baby boomers, their parents, and other loved ones. And we have another great show for you today. We have with us, Rachel Kodanaz. Rachel is a professional helping her audiences to embrace life's challenges. Rachel has been speaking passionately to national audiences for over 20 years, addressing all aspects of change, growth and acceptance that comes with embracing life's challenges. Rachel has published numerous articles and has appeared on Good Morning America, her books, Finding Peace One Peace at a Time, What Do You Do With Yours or Your Loved Ones Personal Possessions, bestselling, Living With Loss One Day at a Time, and A Grief in the Workplace, have received international acclaim.

                                       Rachel, thank you so much for joining us on Boomers Today. We just so much appreciate it.

Rachel:                         I'm excited to be with you and your audience.

Frank:                           So can you begin by telling us a little bit more about your background and how it relates to this generation where we call the baby boomers or the boomer generation. So talk to us a little bit more about that.

Rachel:                         Well I’m a baby boomer myself, and my background is in IT and telecommunications. It was my goal was to break the glass ceiling in those industries. In '92 my husband passed away suddenly, and it was then that my whole perception of life and the challenges that we embrace, or need to embrace. I started thinking about how I could help people in my position, people working in corporate America, suffering a significant loss and returning to work after. The coworkers, managers, how do we deal with people that are experiencing life's transitional loss, whether it's finances, whether it's loss of independence, whether it's a medical situation?

                                       So that's how I got into the industry of embracing life's challenges and helping people. And then that led to me helping in so many different ways. I started a non-profit and I ran a baby boomer group with a widow group for over 10 years. So I've been hanging out, so to speak, with boomers and life challenges for a long time.

Frank:                           Coming from corporate America, as you know, I'm in the business, senior care and we're seeing a tremendous trend with big corporations and them providing more benefits to their employees as relates to getting them help for a loved one. Coming from corporate America, were you seeing that or do you see that or have you gotten involved with any of that at all?

Rachel:                         Well I do quite a bit of work with employee EAP, Employee Assistance Program, and I do see that some of the offerings they have are now whether it is helping with adult daycare, whether it's helping with, because they're both people in the workplace or the term that's been around for years, probably not used as much is sandwich generation. But these EAPs are helping and offering things for, as I said, aging parents or taking care of parents or time off or even like things like the Family Leave Act is helping. There's more programs each year that will help employees be able to juggle their life challenges at the same time as working.

Frank:                           Yeah, and we’re seeing that as big trend, which is great. So, you’re a professional helping audiences to embrace life's challenges, which is extremely important, but everybody could perceive life's challenges differently. Can you give us some examples on the types of things that you have helped people with as it relates to quote life's challenges?

Rachel:                         So I have this motto, so to speak, is that we can't change what happened to us, but we can change how we look at it. So you can change any words around that. But I can't change that. My husband passed away. We can't change if we get laid off from work. We can't change that we're aging up. There's so many things that we, we have no control over and we can be very upset about it. We can let them overwhelm us or we can accept them, although I don't love the word accept. But we can learn to live with them. So with all that said, is a couple of examples of that is that whether it's a death, whether it's a loss of a job, whether it's the loss of finances, whether it's loss of a limb, all those things can create a challenge.

                                       But how we embrace them will change the outlook of that. And, that what happens. So for example, in the workplace, I'm very busy working with coworkers and managers. The coworkers and managers don't know how to work with that person when they return to work after the loss. To me, that's extremely important because that transition, how it is accepted and how it is taken care of, will make a totally different outcome.

                                       Other types of examples are when there's a diagnosis,  I can help people understand andlearn more about the situation rather than keep them in the dark and the unknown.  

Frank:                           That's wonderful. I know you've written a book called Finding Peace One Piece at a Time: What Do You Do With Your Loved One's Personal Possessions? And I know you talk about downsizing and what you refer to as rightsizing. Tell us a little bit more about that. Being in the senior care industry, I know that downsizing is huge. There's a lot of people that have set up businesses, particularly just in this area and working with families. But tell us a little bit more about what you mean by downsizing and rightsizing and the importance of all of that.

Rachel:                         So I've learned through my journeys and working with people for over 20 years, there's a couple things that really I find paralyze people. It's not that they don't want to downsize or rightsize as I say, it’s that they don't know how to do that.

So the reason why I titled the book, Finding Peace One Piece at a Time, is that until you find peace with those items, with that story, with whatever it is, it's really hard to do. So my two key ways of doing this is to keep the items that tell the story of you, your loved ones, your family, your history. And the other thing is you keep the items that keep the connection to your story. So for example, you don't need a hundred tee shirts. You don't. But you might need those 25 that tell your story. And I use the word very strongly in my book as with in my presentation. It's not about cleaning out, clearing out. It's about thinning. Because if we thin out our stuff, then it's easier to sort through it and figure out what do you want to keep.

Frank:                           Right, well, that makes sense. So my wife is a saver from the standpoint of our kids. So if you go into our garage, there's boxes. My kids are already older, married, they have their own children. If I went through some of those boxes, it's things that they did in kindergarten and in the first grade and projects. And my wife feels that my kids are going to want that when it becomes our time to say, here or they come see it in the garage at a particular time. Well, what are your thoughts there? It's not even, like you say, thinning out for yourself, but who's to assume that your kids are going to want all this stuff?

Rachel:                         Well it's interesting that that's what the example that you wanted to share. And of course, it's personal so we could totally both relate to it. I actually alluded to this in the book specifically.Whether it's a trophy that you've been on the sports fields forever or it's a piece of art that got an award, as parents we're just as attached to these items as the children or perceived that the children would be.

                                        So in terms of your wife and her situation, you could open those boxes and you start thinning them. Or you could repurpose them into another box or another situation. There will be things that you will be able to send out because you will barely remember the story behind it. Or there'll be things that are similar that you do know the story and for you like better. So don't think of it that she has to clean it out. Think about it as you want to thin it and you want to break it down to a smaller amount.

Frank:                           Right. It's interesting, not to continue on in my family's life, but as I say, my wife will have like artwork done by our kids when they were younger. Right now, they don’t want her to keep it, but what if, when they have kids of their own, they suddenly want their artwork? I guess it’s true that you start to see things differently when you’re a parent. 

Rachel:                         I think it’s true that when you become a parent, and you'll see things differently.           And I'll tell you what I stress at the podium all the time is, if you have children under 25 years old, you make the decision for them. And I'd even go up a little higher because until their in their own house and they have their own children, they don't know what they want, nor should they. So it's up to us as the wisdom of parents to put a little bit of empathy to use in there to help them know or just protect them by not getting rid of things too soon. I have this plaque in my office that says, 'I would have been a millionaire, but my mom threw out all my baseball cards."

Frank:                           Well, that's adorable, actually. To go back to your book for a minute - can you tell us how your book may differ from other books on the same topic?

Rachel:                         Living With Loss One Day at a Time was inspired by all the experiences I had had from running my groups over the years. Being the computer geek that I am, I would come home when I came home after the session and document the different things people said over the course of the day. So what I chose to do is to write a book about incorporating loss into your daily life, rather than trying to make it to these milestones along the ‘appropriate’ timeline of grief?

                                       The book is titled One Day at a Time because I offer daily ideas and thoughts on loss. Some days I'm really nice to my readers and I suggest that today's the day that you sit on the couch, you eat Bon Bons, watch terrible TV, and just be you. And other days I suggest to them they have to have one meal out of the house. And the reason why I say that is you could get up, you could get dressed, you make a plan, you drive or walk or however you get there, you pretend at lunch, whatever meal it is, you pretend that you want to be with the person you're with and you drive home. While you're driving home, you think to yourself, that wasn't so bad. Maybe I can do it again. I have found the book to become a journal for people that are working through loss because they could talk to their family members without asking that question, how are you today? You just go more with the thought that I provide them each day, if that makes sense.

Frank:                           Of course. And how can people get that book?

Rachel:                         It's pretty much available everywhere and for signed copy or those that you would like to give as a gift, I suggest getting them on my website because then I write not only a gift card but I write a special note to the person that you're sending to.

Frank:                           So your latest book Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time, and it's interesting, your other book was called One Day at a Time. This one's, One Piece at a Time, What Do You Do With Your and Your Loved One's Possessions, and we talked about downsizing, rightsizing, et cetera. Is this new book along the same subject lines?  

Rachel:                          Again, I try to do it organically. That's why I call it, One Piece at a Time. And you caught on to how I'm doing that. It's like just trying to not get my readers and, or the people that are experiencing it, I want them to know that nothing has to be done right away, but you have to be able to feel it emotionally inside. Your brain has to be aligned with your heart. And once you can do that, that's where the one day, one piece at a time comes along. So the whole notion of what the tiny piece, one piece at a time, what to do with the possessions, it came about because I've been speaking on this subject for 20 years, and I've been speaking on the possessions side of it, what to do with all this stuff, so to speak.

                                       And I've named this program so many different things, whether it's from air loons to underwear; how do you sort through? I've named it a bunch of different things, but the whole notion of it is when, let's start first with when someone passes away, especially suddenly, what do you do with all those belongings? How do you bring that person...? What's worthy of Goodwill with donations, trash, sharing with somebody else? So in the book I help people define what a possession is and what their connection to the possession is and how to connect to the person. And it's really fascinating how the book came along and the results that I have had from the book is that it helps people understand what to keep, as I shared earlier, is that what you want to keep is what keeps you connected to the person. And, or if you're downsizing, rightsizing, it's the items that tell your story. You don't need it all.

                                       We think we do, but you really don't. And so if you touch each item, that's why I call it one piece at a time and whether you really do it that way or not, I just like you to think that way. And you don't need 700 pens. You need the ones that have meaning. 

Frank:                           In the book, you referenced the magic of six piles when you’re right sizing. Tell us more about that.

Rachel:                         As you sort it through and you downsize and you rightsize the first, you're going to create six piles. The first pile is you're keeping, the second pile you're sharing, the third pile you're selling, the fourth pile you're donating, the fifth pile is either recycle or trash or shredding, all that type of stuff, but the most important, which makes it the magic of six piles, is the sixth pile is the ponder pile. I don't know what I want to do with it, but I don't want it to derail the process.

Frank:                           And hopefully that's a smaller pile. Not a huge pile.

Rachel:                         But it does become large for some people, and I really like to share with the listeners today and when I'm sharing with other people as within my book is it's okay for the first pass for you to have a big ponder pile. Because if you don't know what to do with it, if you don't start the process, you'll never have a ponder pile. But what I do suggest strongly is that you revisit that pile three months, six, nine months, and 12 months. And if you are moving and you don't have storage and you're putting stuff in boxes and asking somebody else to hold them, then maybe you move that three months up a month.

Frank:                           Got it. That's great. So again, I know we mentioned your website before, but you know how can people learn more about what you're doing, and of course, your book. So why don't you go ahead and share with them any information you want regarding that.

Rachel:                          I'm on a book tour right now because my book just came out. It has what I call my public events. I don't put private events that are being hosted by companies because it's not open to the public. But on my website, not only can you get my folks, you can see the events where I am. I also have a tremendous amount of blogs that I've written over the years that are housed there. They're all different subjects, all different age groups. But there's insight to whether I've had a conversation with somebody or you know, even something like this that might trigger something. My website is, R-A-C-H-E-L-K-O-D-A-N-A-Z dot com. 

Frank:                           Great. Rachel, thank you so much for joining us on Boomers Today. It was a lot of information and a little bit of time, so thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Rachel:                         Well, thank you. I've enjoyed talking to you.

Frank Samson:           Yeah, I've enjoyed it as well. And I want to thank everybody out there as well for joining us on Boomers Today. Just be safe out there and we'll talk to everybody real soon. Thank you.

Downsizing, Rightsizing and Sorting Through a Loved One’s Possessions (with transcript)