Downsizing the farm - the help you need for movingThe number 2020 stares at me from the flipchart paper on my kitchen wall.  This farm coach is being coached to set timelines for moving off our farm yard to make room for our successor to live on the main yard. I have four harvests left to get things chucked, sorted, and packed for a new home.

Sounds daunting to some, to others, it is a great relief to have a target date to make changes. Michelle Wright of has crafted a niche business of “heirloom rescuing” and “money wrangling” helping farm folks in northeastern Alberta make the transition to a new lifestyle.

Here are Wright’s tips:

1. Get started by focusing on the farm piece.

In our case, the farm is staying in the family, just new faces in the yard. For farm folks who are vacating and selling, they have more layers of issues. Finances, organization, and making transitional plans. Wright has a background in stakeholder relations in the oil patch, so she uses those skills to help folks focus on one piece of the move at a time.

2. List out the many things that you want to accomplish.

Wright works at the kitchen table and builds relationships with the landowners. She can remove firearms since she has her firearms safety certificate. She is on a first name basis with the landfill folks and has trained to remove hazardous materials and dangerous goods. She know the correct disposal for lots of stuff and has metal guys who clear up bush loads of steel and iron and take it away. Their fee is usually the value of the load on the trailer.

3. Know your social service network.

Many adult children live far away from the home farm that is up for sale, and they don’t want to be driving or flying “home” every weekend of their precious summer to be dealing with all of mom and dad’s possessions (a.k.a. junk)! Wright lines up social service connections and food banks locally who can benefit from the household effects. She gets called in when the dad starts giving away boxes of stuff while he promises to get things cleaned up, but somehow “dad” never gets the de-cluttering job finished.

4. Have realistic expectations.

Farmers rarely move. Over the course of 40 to 60 years, they can accumulate a pile of stuff. You’ve probably watched the picker shows on TV where guys hunt for treasure, but you don’t have time for this. Wright feels you need 18 months to downsize. She coaches her families gently over and over again saying, “Let go.” Letting go is a coaching strategy. You need to be able to let go of things so that you can create new space for a new chapter in your life. Wright is careful to ask “Where are your treasures?” and learns the story about the objects. When the clients say “I am not ready to let go”, then Wright asks, “What are you ready for?”

5. Get another perspective on your stuff.

Wright has downsized a grain bin full of used washing machines. The objection from the hoarder was “if something breaks I might need a part!” Imagine all the generations of stuff in layers in the farmhouse Give treasures to grandkids, and share the story of that treasure while you are alive.

[Tweet “Your succession plan is in place, and now it’s time to leave the #farm. These tips will help.”]

As a home economist who enjoys practical re-purposing of found objects, I am drawn to de-cluttering articles and books. The hot one on the market these days, which I have read is “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo.

Kondo starts with clothes first, by discarding all at once, intensely and completely. I know that when my aunt died, my uncle could not move a thing, even 5 years later when it was his turn to move to a new home. Do your family a favour by making large donations to the local thrift store.

Have a picture on the fridge of your new home or ideal new location. A vision of what you are moving toward can inspire you to keep throwing away or giving away the pieces of your old life chapter that you don’t need to carry along. My mother-in-law set up an 8-foot table that was the FREE zone, and each time she had visitors, they had to scan the table for treasures to take home with them. Her large book collection was a great gift to life-long learners who appreciated her generosity.

Keeping up the energy for sorting, tossing and giving is hard. That is why we have offered to help elderly women in our community. You could do this in your rural community to help folks move on.

I have deep emotional connections to stuff, my age 5 black and white oxford shoes are in my freezer room on a rafter. UGH. They don’t bring me joy, but a photo of them would likely be more realistic to keep. Don Aslett, author of “Clutter’s Last Stand” says we keep too much evidence junk, like old university papers or textbooks.  I donated old trophies to the local school to repurpose. It takes time and effort to give things away!

Kondo suggests that “during the selection process, if you come across something that does not spark joy but that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future ?”  Our ownership patterns reflect what we value. My sister is a minimalist, and when she moves, I, the older sister get a lot of furniture, pillows, and mirrors that she no longer cares about. Why does my house become the holding tank for deceased relative’s possessions and my sister’s former things?

Borrow Kondo’s book from your library and be inspired to start downsizing. Leaving a tidy estate is a great gift to your heirs. Taking the things with you that bring joy will bless your new home in town and give you a fresh start for the next chapter beyond the farm.

Let me know how it goes. I need tips and action to get stuff sorted. Four years are going to fly by, and my daughter-in-law will appreciate a clean slate in 2020.

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


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Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
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“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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