by Amy Doeun
As the population of the United States ages, Steve Laliberte and the staff at Sort Toss Pack are poised to help seniors as they downsize.
Laliberte’s wife, Jodi, started the company seven years ago with a friend. Since its inception, the company has grown to 40 employees. Each year, the company helps 700 to 1,000 people as they downsize their lives. The company offers classes like the one they held at the North Branch Senior Center March 4.
Sort Toss Pack also offers individual consultations; its owners are licensed movers and own a consignment shop called Odds and Ends Again in Shoreview.
Laliberte told the Post Review that most seniors fall into three categories of thinking.
“A lot of people say, ‘I’ll stay in my house forever,’” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t downsize now. The second group has a plan. They say, ‘I’ll move in a year.’ The last group has a health event that makes is necessary to move right away.”
Each year, Sort Toss Pack, www.sorttosspack.com, offers about 40 classes on downsizing. The first part of the class features a three-minute video by George Carlin.
“He talks about stuff and how our whole life is spent getting more stuff,” Laliberte said. “This helps point out their mindset about stuff. Then they talk about where to start — how to create a time frame, set priorities and pick an approach.”
Options for approaches include setting goals based on a time frame, picking a quota of boxes or working with “low-hanging fruit.”
“The biggest challenge is that it is a really emotional job,” Laliberte said. “We talk about some of the mistakes that will keep you from getting the job done, like jumping from project to project. We tell them we are planning for the future, not the past.”
One tip Laliberte shared was setting up a quadrant system: one of things to keep, things to sell, things to donate and things to recycle or dispose of. A great way to approach this is to clean out a room and use that as work space. Once it fills up you remove it.
Laliberte mentioned that as baby boomers begin to downsize, some of them are open to downsizing sooner.
“I am noticing a lot of health events with boomers,” he said.
This means a sudden downsizing. However, boomers differ from the previous generation in that “a really planted boomer will have lived in their house for 20 years, whereas the Greatest Generation lived in their homes for 40-50 years,” Laliberte said.
In that time, markets have changed a lot.
“No one is buying china anymore,” Laliberte said. “It doesn’t go in the dishwasher.” Things like unstained linens and tools can be donated or sold, but holiday, seasonal stuff, baby cribs and car seats, mattresses and small electronics cannot be sold or donated. These items have a “negative value.’
Over 40 people attended the class at the North Branch Community Center. For those who are considering downsizing, Laliberte recommends not waiting.
“Something like 8,000 boomers retire every day worldwide,” he said. “In the metro area alone, 350,000 will retire in the next year. Don’t wait (to downsize) because there is a tsunami of stuff coming.”