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Downsizing Divas help make letting go a little easier

When moving from a family home to a retirement residence or condo, older adults may need time to come to terms with divesting themselves of some possessions they value

As many homeowners will attest, there’s nothing quite like the sense of renewal and breath of fresh air that a good spring cleaning can bring.

But for Arlene Stephenson, owner and operator of Downsizing Diva franchises in Newmarket, Aurora, Richmond Hill, King City and Thornhill, that feeling is more than a once-a-year indulgence. It’s even more than a business, though she has found considerable success during her three years in the role.

“You could definitely say it’s a passion project of mine,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson, along with her all-female team of trained organizers, specializes in downsizing, organizing, and moving for senior citizens and older adults —whether it's moving from a family home to a retirement residence or condo, or simply seeking to reduce clutter around the house.

By respecting the often difficult process for their clients, and moving at whatever pace they desire, the Divas — as they proudly call themselves  — ensure the experience is as fun, easy and enjoyable as possible.

“We try to bring fun and levity into what can often be a serious situation,” said Stephenson. “The camaraderie that develops with our clients is one of the best parts of our work.”

Stephenson, once the primary caregiver for her father, said she has an intimate understanding of the difficulties that can arise in old age. She has helped her father move more than 30 times, downsizing and upsizing as needed.

With her passion for organization, working with Downsizing Diva represented the perfect opportunity for Stephenson to combine her skills into a career she loved. She left a corporate job at Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan, a position she held for more than 23 years, and hasn’t looked back since.

But for all the benefits her work brings, from decreased stress and increased space for senior clients to a personal sense of satisfaction, Stephenson admitted it often has its challenges.

Currently, she’s faced with the business ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from the current crisis, her greatest challenges are the more fixable difficulties that come with convincing clients to let go of things that no longer hold worth and clutter up the house.

While some seniors understandably place high value in possessions like china, crystal, and silverware, Stephenson said the market for these is increasingly small and often doesn’t give them the returns they desire. Large items such as pianos and old furniture are also hard sells, and are often donated in dearth of buyers.

One hundred per cent of profits made during this process goes into the hands of Stephenson’s clients.

As for the aspects of her job that make it so rewarding? She said there are too many to count.

“One of the things I enjoy most is learning about the lives my clients have lead,” said Stephenson. “It’s fascinating, what they’ve done. I worked with one man who told us about being a teenager in Nazi-occupied Holland, and he had relics from that period that were just incredible to see.”

At the end of the day, Stephenson asserted, it’s all about establishing trust. Seniors welcome Divas into their homes, and trust that they will leave, days or weeks later, with an organized home or move perfectly suited to their needs.

The Divas, on the other hand, recognize that each client’s need is different, and that good humour, conversation and camaraderie go a long way in making any sort of transition feel right.

“If we can empower seniors to manage their move and home the way they want to, then it’s a job well done.”