Nov 22, 2022

Sunbound Asks: Marty Stevens-Heebner of Clear Home Solutions

Nat Miller

This week on Sunbound Asks we had the pleasure of sitting down with Marty Stevens-Heebner, president of the National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers and CEO of Clear Home Solutions based in Los Angeles, California. We had a blast welcoming Marty to the blog, and covered a wide array of topics ranging from how her own life experiences led her to being a professional Senior Move Manager, to the technology tools she uses to fulfill her clients’ needs. To learn more about Marty and Clear Home Solutions, check out her website, listen to her podcast How to Move Your Mom (and still be on speaking terms afterward), or read our interview below.  

 

Q: How long have you been a professional Senior Move Manager?

A: I’ve been a professional Senior Move Manager for 10 years and I’ve loved every minute of it.

 

Q: How’d you get into senior move management?

A: My dad made it to 90! He lived in Buffalo, my hometown, and I was the one flying back and forth to see him through his last years. I loved what I learned about later life working with my dad and his sister, who had dementia. It was fascinating and beautiful. From a business perspective (Clear Home Solutions is my fourth company) I recognized how big the senior market is and how much it was growing. I just needed to find the right fit for my skillset. I discovered this niche of working with families’ treasures of their lifetime, and all the other stuff that goes with it. So I launched Clear Home Solutions and never looked back.

 

Q: What’s your favorite type of project to work on since you started your business?

A: All projects fascinate me for different reasons. Each client and situation have unique needs. My favorite part of the work is learning people’s stories through their possessions. It often becomes a treasures hunt as we find things in attics, garages and the back corners of closets. If it’s a hoarding situation, then it’s more like an archaeological dig. The treasures are in there! We just need to get a little dirty as we peel back the layers to find them.

We’ll often help people sell or donate their items, and giving those items a second life with someone satisfies my company’s mission to preserve our clients’ legacies in any way we can.

 

Q: What’s your favorite memory as a Senior Move Manager?

A:  After 10 years of this work, there are so many favorite memories. The one that comes to mind was a wonderful older couple who were moving from their beautiful home of many years. The wife and I had gone to the same university, and her husband had had Parkinson’s disease for quite some time. One morning I came into the office and found she’d left a voicemail at 8 am. She sounded spent and exhausted as she let us know her husband collapsed and had died at the hospital overnight. She said we were one of the first she was calling because “you’re like family.” It devastated all of us. Our staff had worked with them just the day before.

I remember the phone calls and tears that day for all of us. But I also cherish that she’d felt – and feels – that we’re part of her family. We did end up moving her eventually, and then worked with her twice after that. So we’re not only part of her family, but she’s part of our family, too.

 

Q: What’s your most unconventional senior move management tip or trick?

A: I take particular care to train my staff on helping seniors with dementia. Early on in my business I had a consultation with a lovely mother and daughter. As we sat down to talk, the mother said, “I’m so worried, when am I going to move, and how are we going to get it done?” and I said, “That’s why I’m here! You’re going to move a week from Thursday and we’re going to take care of everything for you.” Her eyes lit up and she said, “Thank you so much! You’re wonderful.” 

Then, 5 minutes later, she asked the same question. I knew that she was anxious about her move and didn’t remember asking me. She asked me 10 or 12 times in that first hour, and each time I would give her the same comforting answer and she would thank me profusely and say, “You’re wonderful.” The first few times she asked, her daughter put her hand on her mother’s hand. But once she realized I understood that those repeated questions weren’t intentional, she became very comfortable with me.

It’s so important to remember that it isn’t the person being annoying, it’s the disease. You already know what the answer is. All you need to do is repeat it cheerfully. And it helps model good behavior for others who might not understand.

It’s so easy! Plus I was told I was “wonderful” a dozen times in an hour. Can’t beat that.

 

Q: What professional organizing practice do you use most in your own life?

A: There is a great book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. I came away from reading that with what I call the 2-minute rule. If you have something that will take you less than 2 minutes to do – paying a bill, filing something away, putting away the dishes - just do it. Otherwise multiple tasks pile up, and then you wind up with a few dozen random, disparate 2-minute tasks that feel like a mountain to climb. Take care of each of these easy tasks when they appear. It feels so good to just get it done.

 

Q: What’s your favorite new trend in senior move management?

A: Technology! There are several great platforms that can help Senior Move Managers, including SMMWare, a CRM tool specifically built for our industry.

When our clients have items to sell, we frequently partner with MaxSold, an online auction site that’s efficient, easy to use and sells to your local market. Since many smaller onsite estate sales and auction companies went out of business during the pandemic, MaxSold has become the primary place where we sell our clients’ downsized belongings.

When we perform home inventories, we have a few well-organized inventory platforms to choose from, including Pinventory, FairSplit, and Homezada.  

 

Q: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about senior move management?

A: That we exist! I’m president of the National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers (NASMM), and though we’ve got some great press especially in the past few years, most people still don’t know we exist. If I’m at a gathering and I bring up what I do, I get one of two questions: “Where were you 3 years ago when I had to move my mom?” or a relieved “You can take care of that for me?” People are so relieved to know our services are available to guide them through one of the biggest shifts in the life of an entire family.

I also wish more people knew the questions to ask to make sure they’re working with a bonafide company. We were once brought in after someone had worked with a couple from their church who their pastor had recommended. They’d robbed everything of value from our client before we began working with her. So many scammers target older adults, and that infuriates me.

The vital questions to ask are:

·   Are they a member of NASMM?

· Do they have liability insurance? (No one can join NASMM without it, along with other requirements.)

·   Is their staff comprised of employees or subcontractors? (They should definitely have employees who are part of the company team and have been trained.)

·   Do they carry workers compensation insurance? (That will cover anyone who gets injured on the job, so they don’t wind up suing you instead.)

Remember that Senior Move Managers work in your home and are handling all of your belongings. That’s why you want someone who has been fully trained and vetted by NASMM.

 

Q: If you weren’t a Senior Move Manager, what else would you be doing?

A: I’d be miserable! I love this job because it fits me so well and is deeply satisfying. I’ve worked in different arenas during my life, but working with older adults and their families is my final career. This work really makes me happy! I will confess, though, that when I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut.

 

Q: What senior move management resources would you suggest for our readers?

A: Go to NASMM.org to learn about what we do, and to find a senior move management company in your area. Also, if someone’s interested in becoming a Senior Move Manager, NASMM offers important training that can launch you into business.

 

If you want to learn more about how a Senior Move Manager like Marty can help you with your move, please reach out to us at info@sunboundhomes.com or check out our FAQ page to learn more about how Sunbound is the best way to pay for senior living.

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