Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Being Prepared for End-of-Life

Episode 74

This week, Rayna Neises, your host, talks with Marty Stevens-Heebner.  Marty is CEO of Clear Home Solutions.  She created the company to help older adults and their families when their treasures, paperwork, and stuff get in the way of moving their lives forward.  Marty was inspired to launch the company eight years ago after her experiences with her father and aunt.  She provides the following insights:

  • It is always so much easier to organize somebody else’s stuff.
  • Start by identifying your absolute favorite, most useful things, and then figure out what else would be good.
  • The goal is to try to create the feeling of the home in the new, smaller home and make it a reflection of what they left behind.
  • Seeking help from move managers who are a neutral third-party can make the life-altering shift smoother.
  • Acknowledge that the move will not be easy and that there will be emotions for the person moving as well as the family members.
  • Break it down into steps like one drawer at a time or one hour at a time.


*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Rayna Neises: 0:08

Welcome to A Season of Caring contest where there’s hope for living loving and caring with no regrets. This is Rayna Neises, your host and today we have special guest, Marty Stevens- Heebner and I’m really excited to have Marty here today. She’s an award award-winning entrepreneur designer and author, Clear Home Solutions, CEO, Marty Steven -Heebner, and her staff of experts work with older adults and their families when their treasures, paperwork and stuff get in the way of moving their lives forward. Clear Home Solutions is where compassion meets know-how, thanks to her hardworking staff of experts. They tackle moves, downsizing organizing as well as professional home inventories, managing all the logistics and the stress so their clients don’t have. Marty was inspired to launch Clear Home Solutions eight years ago, after her experiences with her 90 year old father and her 88 year old aunt with dementia. She’s the President Elect of The National Association of Senior, Specialty Move Managers and Clear Home Solutions was the first nationally accredited company in her industry in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Welcome. Thank you so much, Marty, for being here today,

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 1:16

Thank you. It’s a pleasure. Thank you.

Rayna Neises: 1:19

I wanted to start off a little bit talking about your caregiving experience and how that led into your passion for helping families with moving like you do..

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 1:29

Well, you know, it’s interesting cause I always say with our company that our biggest and I put this in quotes competition, are family members and friends. I was lucky because I could along with some help from my sisters and some neighbors. Go in and really take care of my dad’s items back in Buffalo. And I was so lucky because dad actually had gone through the house already and gotten rid of so many things. And he did us such a favor, because when you’re dealing with older adults, like my father. They’re the greatest generations, the people of World War II, but they’re also the deprivation generation. Because of the depression, all that rationing and the fear during World War II. If they weren’t born, you know, during that time, then they were the children who were raised right afterwards. And so you cannot waste anything. Everything is important and you don’t want to run out of anything. And also frequently people have lived in their homes for 40 years or more. That was actually, but my dad back in Buffalo mom died when I was only 26. So that’s why I’m not bringing her in, miss her though, and dad, we were lucky because he had all his mental faculties to the end sometimes to my chagrin, I must admit. But we say that in my company that we work with the DA and the family, the designated adult, that was me. And it’s amazing to go on that journey with someone who is clearly starting to languish and going through the death process. I get that term from the movie Arrival, which is a movie I love, but the aliens, they’re really cool. Aliens are not the crazy. But one refers to another is going through the death process because both ends of life, the beginning and the end. It’s unpredictable. It’s painful. And it, you don’t know what the path is going to be and how you’re going to feel during it, and then the aftermath. So it was really amazing to go on the journey when I was younger with my mom and then with my dad, because we would have incredible conversation he and I. There’s something I called temporal blending And I, this is an example of it. There was one morning when I happen to be in Buffalo. I live in Los Angeles, but I was the one going back and forth and gladly so. And I was sitting with my dad, you know, waking him up, saying, what do you want to do? Hey dad, good morning. What are you thinking about? Cause I’m thinking breakfast, you know, that kind of any he’s, he’s kind of half sitting up in bed because actually I’ve had to go to the mess first and I’ve got to talk to, I’m going to make up a name here, Scott. I got to talk to him and I realize. He’s back in the Navy in World War II.

Rayna Neises: 4:09


Marty Stevens-Heebner: 4:10

He knows it’s me, but I’m there with him. And so rather than saying, “Dad, we’re not there, what’s the problem.” And really startling him out of that. For me, it was really interesting to kind of go with him and how he saw that a little bit. And so I said, well, what do you need to talk to Scott about? And he started saying, well, I don’t know what the flight plan is for today. And some other things. And then eventually. Is that, I guess, I guess I’m not on the map on the map. I said no, but that was really interesting Dad, but that was really kind of fun. What do you want for breakfast? And then just didn’t make him feel bad about it, but just moved into the day. And especially with people who have dementia, like my aunt did. She would come into the room and I would be new to her because she hadn’t seen me in years when I was visiting her. And I would just get up and each time, introduced and then reintroduce myself, I’m Martha, because of my full name, Martha, I’m John’s daughter. And he wanted me to come visit you to see how you’re doing. Oh, thank you for coming. It’s so wonderful to see you. And it was this big surprise each time for her and delight. And so that’s what I would do at each time, cause she didn’t remember. What families have to remember, it’s the disease, they’re intentionally forgetting, it’s the disease. And when it can just accept that, you’re good to go. And I figured, you know, the first time I reintroduced myself to my aunt, my Aunt Babes, what she went by. I knew exactly what I needed to say. So I just repeated myself every single time. So it was really easy and saw that joy in her face and seeing me. So that was wonderful. I didn’t have an example with her. For example, sometimes people with dementia will say, “well, where’s Helen?” And Helen is the wife who died all that time ago. Just go with it, Tell them, they went to the grocery store

Rayna Neises: 5:59


Marty Stevens-Heebner: 5:59

and they’ll be back. And then redirecting.

Rayna Neises: 6:02

Yeah, that joined reality is so important because they don’t benefit from the correction.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 6:07

They relived the depth again,

Rayna Neises: 6:10

They do. Huh?

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 6:11

How did she die, It’s so easy to spare them, that grief over and over again.

Rayna Neises: 6:19

So the process then of taking those situations where these people that you loved had the stuff you mentioned, your dad had done a good job of kind of eliminating the extra stuff and just kind of having some of the special things. Yeah. That’s a blessing, my dad did that as well. But, then it can be so difficult to try to tackle own things, our families, things there’s so much involved in all of that. So why, why is that?

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 6:46

Well, you know, it’s funny Rayna, I think I may have mentioned this to you, but when we spoke earlier that I have been known to hire my own team to help me with my own stuff. Because it’s different when you’re with your own. Isn’t it interesting how it’s always easier to organize somebody else’s stuff so much easier. We live within it and we have our priorities and the way we live. It’s easy to kind of not notice what’s piling up. I honestly don’t notice if I have clutter until I have somebody coming over. Mind you with COVID that hasn’t been happening, but it helps sometimes when I’m on zoom and I’m in a different part of the house, like, okay, what does that look like? There’s there are so many thoughts and emotions that relate to things. And also I mentioned with the older generation, the older adult population now, deprivation population..

Rayna Neises: 7:32


Marty Stevens-Heebner: 7:33

And they don’t dare let go of anything. And they’re terrified if you do, plus especially toward the end of their lives. And let’s say they’re moving to Assisted Living or what have you, an older adult living community. They have to accept somewhere within them that they’re closer to the end of their lives and much farther from the beginning.

Rayna Neises: 7:56

Yeah, definitely. And that’s easy.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 7:59

It’s not easy. When I met with somebody like I said, I’ve been doing this eight years. I want to say it was probably my third year of doing this work. I literally had someone say to me, I feel like I’m moving to the place. I’m going to die.

Rayna Neises: 8:11


Marty Stevens-Heebner: 8:12

And after I’ve gulped probably audibly,

Rayna Neises: 8:17


Marty Stevens-Heebner: 8:18

Again, go with it. Don’t say, oh no, you’re going to love it. It’s going to be great. That’s what they’re saying. And, you know what? I just said, what I was thinking. Like, I, I can understand how you would feel that way. I get it. I get it. Here’s the thing to keep in mind though. You’ve got a whole third act to live out and she loved that cause she was a singer and but it made sense to her. And I said, someone else will do the cooking. Someone else will do the cleaning. And this is obviously pre- COVID. So I said, if you so much as sneeze, they’re going to be taken care of you. And plus you’ll meet this whole community of contemporaries, remember things the way you do. And so that really helps, but frequently when they have to start thinking about love, letting go of the home, they’ve been in for years and relinquishing a lot of the items that have traveled with them all this time, because they’re often resent is too strong, a word, but they don’t like that. They’re moving into a smaller space. And I think there’s no way it can feel like home and they want to take everything. And what I always say, and this is what family members can say to let’s identify your favorite things first, your absolute favorite. And then let’s also think about what’s useful. A pen is very, it’s not necessarily your favorite, but it could be really useful, unless you have it 150 of them, and then maybe pick out your bigger and especially when the ones you keep are working. So it can feel like they’re letting go of their legacy. And of course they’re not, they’re not, it just helps to identify and pair down the favorite, most useful things. And then also remind them that when they move, unless they literally are moving across country or moving out of town. I always tell people if they’re moving locally, it’s not like your home is going to fall off the cliff the next day. Let’s move you in with your favorite, most useful things, and then let’s figure out what else would be good for you.

Rayna Neises: 10:12

What are you missing? Yeah. What else do you

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 10:14

What are you really Our goal with the work we do and what family members and friends who are doing it with their loved ones, is to really try to recreate the feeling of the home in the new, smaller home. Make it a reflection of what they left behind. I think one of the most key things, now mind you, a lot of people like their TV across from them. I mean, I’ve got a TV across from me in my bedroom. But remember whatever’s across from their bed is the last thing that they’re going to see when they go to sleep at night. And the first thing that they’re going to wake up to. So make it something that they love. And especially with someone with dementia, find out which photos resonate with them. Maybe put those across from the bed or nearby because then they awaken to those and that can be more pleasant for them because they’re going to feel really out of sorts.

Rayna Neises: 11:07

That’s a good point to think about the fact that if you recreate just on a smaller scale, I think sometimes it’s family members, especially as kids, we think, oh, won’t they love something new. I mean, gosh, that couch is 20 years old. It has to be disgusting, blah, blah, blah, whatever, but really there’s comfort in that. And you’re already moving their environment and they’re losing some sense of independence. So. actually being able to find a way to keep the home feeling like their home can be so important. If you just move them into a model home, they feel like they’re in a hotel, they don’t feel like they’re at home. So really helping to recreate that. I can see that that makes a big difference.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 11:51

Yeah. And especially if there is that chair that they love, realize it’s molded to their body and it may look horrible. It has a bunch of blankets over it, but you know what? That’s comfort to them, that’s their haven and their safety, to respect that. It’s really good point.

Rayna Neises: 12:10

So as we are needing to move them in and we’re finding resistance of letting things go. What do we do?

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 12:18

Well, the most friendly and loving of families butt heads at times like this, you have to realize this shift is a life altering shift for everyone in the family. I frequently have to remind adult children or even really identified it for them. That you’re going through so much as well. This is scary for you. And you know that their heading out to say goodbye. And it makes you aware honestly, of your own mortality is that adult child. And I have grandchildren crying in front of me because they’re so concerned about their grandparent. So sometimes it’s good to bring in outside help. It can be friends. But again, you have to make sure they’re really on board with you, getting them to move that they themselves are organized and that they will listen to you. They’ll talk with you and confide in you and not actually come in and triangulate the whole thing and kind of decide to be kind of in the middle. Cause that will just slow things down and just be horrible. At that point, it is helpful to bring in companies like ours, people like us- move managers and also aging in place specialist. I’m certified in that as well. And that’s going into recalibrate the home, especially when they’re coming home with a walker, wheelchair or something like that. To adjust the furniture and make sure that, you know, make sure there aren’t any sharp points that they have plenty of room. I mean, that’s the basics, but also there’s doing adjustments to the home, widening doors, showers, things like that. But it can be very helpful when you’re having to confront all the stuff. And they don’t want you doing it with them. Bringing in outside, like a neutral third party can really help because I don’t know about you, Rayna, but with my dad, I could say the sky is blue. And he would say, no, it’s not. It’s green and purple, anything but blue up until someone else can came along and said, oh, you know, it’s blue. Oh, really, I guess it is blue. And I’m just sitting there steaming. I think we’ve all had that experiences with our parents. And having a neutral party there, especially someone who this is the work we do all the time and we love it.

Rayna Neises: 14:25


Marty Stevens-Heebner: 14:26

Like you’ve mentioned in my biography, where compassionate with know-how. We’re very efficient, but also we just know how to be very, very compassionate. And when they come across something. I mentioned that client who had said I feel like I’m moving to a place I’m to die. Now she, wasn’t crazy about moving, where literally our last day in her home and kind of out of nowhere, I find this, like an old child’s crayon drawing. And it said I’m making up the name, but like, Steven. And there’s more adult writing thing, age seven. It was her one child who had died when he was 17.

Rayna Neises: 15:04

Oh, wow.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 15:06

It’s one of those moments where you have to stop and just take a minute and give them that emotional time and room to have that reaction. Cause that was extraordinary. So having a neutral third party involved they may behave better. There’s something I’ve learned in the terms called the audience effect. It’s when someone neutral comes in and everyone wants to behave better in front of it to kind of you over. And we’re very used to those dynamics. And we also know how to, especially for working in teams and there’s just such frustration between say parent and adult child, or even spouse and spouse, the project manager, you can go with one person, the other staff members can go with the other. And just kind of hear them out and be very sympathetic. And then kind of try to explain the other person’s point of view to get them to be more patient. So that’s part of it. And it’s just, it’s hard to let go of stuff. I just really is, especially clothing, clothing has a lot of emotions attached.

Rayna Neises: 16:12

We’d been in the home 43 years. And so it was where I grew up. And so even letting go of a lot of those things had to do with my emotion too. And my sister, this was our home. This is where, we lost my mom, we lost my dad. It was all of those things. And so there is a lot of emotion. It was funny, I we’ve actually purchased my mother-in-law’s home and we live in the home. My husband grew up in and I said to him when we bought this house, I said, I’m okay with that. As long as everybody realizes, this is our house and I’m going to need to do the things I need to do to make it my house and not your mom’s house. And I said to him, when we were talking about my dad’s house, I said, yeah, I would never have been okay with that. It would have been so hard for me to watch the changes. And my sister has been like, have you driven by the house? And I’m like, I have not driven by the house because it is what it’s supposed to be in my brain. And I don’t need to see it any other way. I can totally get why all of those things, I’ve also learned for myself as far as giving away things or letting go of things. I always say, I can’t look it in the face and give it away, but I can put it in a pile that if that pile disappeared, I’m okay. So I’ve learned that about myself, which has helped me to be able to say to my daughter-in-law, Hey, could you just take all this stuff to Goodwill and leave, and just not notice it walking up the door. So I think sometimes just learning what helps you with that in paying attention to what helps the person that you’re working with? What is it, that I’ve told the story and now I can release it or is it that I can’t release it even once I told the story, so many things have stories behind them. And sometimes I think even as a professional, I’m sure most of your job is listening to those stories.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 18:04

Frequently. Also listening to their fears. I’m just not going to like that place. Like, get that why don’t you try it out, you know, your home is going to fall off, try it out and encourage them. And also one of the things I train my staff in is that if they come across some old pencil and they are obsessed with his pencil. They have to keep this pencil. Got it. We’re going to keep the pencil. Now you don’t know if that’s just an everyday thing or if that’s the last pencil their wife held while days before she got something like that. The trick is, you know, once you figured out what to do with that, then trying to draw out the, the larger anxiety that is driving that anxiety about the penciler individually. How are you doing? This is hard. You know, this is really hard to do. I get that. Are you comfortable? Do you want some water or anything? Do you want to stand up and stretch? This is hard, you know, and I know it’s weird moving and moving. It’s tough. I mean, I don’t call it relocation personally. I call it dislocation because you’re going to feel out of joint until you’re moved in for at least a month. It’s just what it is, unfortunately. So if you can just try to let them talk about the bigger anxieties. And also when you can hire professionals to do this, it’ll get done more efficiently. Plus you will have more energy to really care about your older parents, your spouses, yourself, your families, things like that. There’s more energy. That’s not just about, managing your treasures for moving or what have you. It’s also in terms of getting caregivers ,care managers, can be real helpful to delegate some, if you’re able to it makes a big difference.

Rayna Neises: 19:49

Marty, I love too that when we met one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the podcast today was I think it’s such a struggle for so many caregivers, especially family members the stuff is an issue, but I hear frequently. Well, I think I’ll just get rid of it all. They don’t need to be there, all just take care of it. And I love that. What you do is walk them through it. So the grief that they’re experiencing, which is completely normal. Is experienced. It’s not just pretended like this isn’t happening. I love that. As you’re saying that, you’re saying that, this is dislocation, this isn’t going to be easy. This is going to be hard and you’re going to have emotions behind it. And both you as the child might have emotions of selling the family home. But definitely the person you’re caring for is going to have emotions that’s normal. So coming in and just taking care of the task behind it, doesn’t honor that piece of it. And I hear so much, your heart is to honor that.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 20:51

Thank you so much for saying that, you know, it’s interesting, frequently come in after somebody. And we’re asked to just, I’ll just go through things, just whatever, don’t just do whatever you think you need to do with it. And we always keep our eyes out for obviously we want to try to donate things. So we try to set aside anything that’s in good shape. And obviously people want help selling items. We can facilitate that as well but when things to be discarded, we always look through them. Are there photos? We found $50,000 in a bag of old bras. You just never know what’s there. So it’s important to go through things, checking clothing, pockets, fan the books, to see if anything falls out cause you never know. After eight years, how many social security cards that we’ve found, old credit cards, that kind of thing. From the first meeting, I’d let them know that as you said, this is going to be a tough process for you. And we get that. We’re not going to pretend that, just know that what you’re feeling is normal. You’re feeling what happens when you move. It’s a big deal. And so don’t compound, you’re feeling weird about move with a, why am I feeling weird? It’s normal. It’s just normal, and we’re here to kind of be the Sherpa to get you through it.

Rayna Neises: 22:04

So important and listeners, as you’re really looking at caring for your loved one there’s just different seasons. And there might be any time that you can make the home where it works for your family member, but it might be that it doesn’t work for your family member. And those are some hard decisions, that all of you need to get on the same page about. And I think, again, as Marty has said, bringing professionals in always a good thing to help you navigate that, to be able to look at things that you didn’t even think to look at, because as a professional in eight years, like you said, you’ve experienced so many things and also professionals have so many connections and resources. I love that you’re able to provide that for families too. What would be one tip that you would give a family member? That’s caring for an aging person that maybe most often we don’t know.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 22:55

Well, first of all, Talk, get conversation started early before somebody falls and breaks the hip or contracts and global disease. I mean, COVID-19 has really been a lesson for all of us. So that’s important. I think start the conversation as soon as you can be very honest about it. Don’t be afraid of it. If you’re the adult child, I’m thinking through this myself because of my kids or cause I’m 50 now and I gotta think about that, that that’s one way to encourage it. If you’re the older and parent your kids are, oh, I don’t want to hear you talking about that. Hey, it’s part of nature, you know, we have a short lease on these bodies here. So let’s talk about, or I want to talk about how I’m going to leave this world. And that’s important. I got to have those conversations with my father. Thank goodness. I really, did and also in terms of the practical side, of things the key tip would be. Break it all down into steps, small steps, one drawer at a time, or maybe one hour at a time. Make the list and you can check off each thing so that you really recognize that you’re accomplishing these things. And you’re not just walking in the home and go, oh, no, I’ve got to do the whole thing, especially if you’re doing in the garage. Cause we all treat them like storage units. And that gives just use time to say I’m going to go in for an hour and focus and maybe pick an area to focus on and just know it’s going to take a few times, but you keep going. It gets done.

Rayna Neises: 24:20

I would imagine it gets done. And it also gets done a little bit easier as you go, because you learn what triggers and how to have the conversations and really how to process through the grief in the moment, rather than in the beginning that’s so uncomfortable. We probably draw back sooner or more often than as we go through the process. So such great tips again, I think managing the treasures. They’re treasures of a lifetime and we really need to treat them that way and understand that some treasures are more valuable than others. And sometimes it’s just the story. I just need to tell you the story behind this, and then it’s okay to let go. But other things, that story becomes a treasure for me, you know, because it’s something that is amazing. One of the things I made a little shadow box for my mom, and one of the things there’s a little Schmoo. Now most people wouldn’t even know what Schmoo, but older generations will know, but my dad had given it to my mom early in their marriage and that little Schmoo pin was not anything that I ever saw my mom wear, but it was something that I knew the story behind. So when I saw it, I was like, oh, I have to have that. I need to put that up and honor her in that way. And so I think sometimes it’s just those little stories. It’s not the most valuable things necessarily financially valuable, but it’s the most valuable to us, the treasures that we have.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 25:36

Okay. Absolutely. Yeah.

Rayna Neises: 25:39

Well, Marty, thank you so much for sharing today and listeners, I hope that you found some things that have been really helpful to you. If you’re not in that stage right now, I want to just tuck it away in the back of your memory. But if you’re going there, start now start doing the one drawer at a time, one closet at a time, and just working together or bring that professional in to be a part of your. Yes. So important. We talk about it. I say all the time, talk about it often over and over and over again, because those emotions change and what’s important to us in one moment. Isn’t always the same once we’ve sat with it for a little bit.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 26:15

Yeah. And my mission honestly in life is to ignite the possibilities of later life. And if you have these conversations, they get easier and you start getting other ideas about things you want to do. It there’s so much life and later life. It’s important to recognize that.

Rayna Neises: 26:31

We are walking them all the way home, but it is still a walk that we can enjoy together. And so being able to see life as being a blessing all the way to the end is really just staying in the moment and enjoying that moment for what it is, not for what it was or what we wanted it to be, but for what it is right then. Thanks so much Marty for being here today. We really appreciate it.

Marty Stevens-Heebner: 26:54

Thank you so much. It’s really been an honor and a pleasure, Rayna.

Rayna Neises: 26:56

And listeners, you can find out more about Marty’s services if you are located in California, Los Angeles, Ventura, or Santa Barbara Counties, and definitely check out her website at www.Clearhomesolutions.com. Thank you again for listening. And just a reminder, A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have medical, financial, or legal questions, please contact your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Marty Stevens-Heebner

Marty Stevens-Heebner

Entrepreneur, designer, and author, Clear Home Solutions’ CEO

An award-winning entrepreneur, designer, and author, Clear Home Solutions’ CEO Marty Stevens-Heebner and her staff of experts work with older adults and their families when their treasures, paperwork, and “stuff” get in the way of moving their lives forward.

Clear Home Solutions is where compassion meets know-how, thanks to her hard-working staff of experts. They tackle moves, downsizing and organizing, as well as professional home inventories, managing all the logistics and stress so their clients don’t have to.

Marty was inspired to launch Clear Home Solutions 8 years ago after her experiences with her 90-year-old father and her 88-year-old aunt with dementia. She’s the President-Elect of the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers (NASMM), and Clear Home Solutions was the first nationally accredited company in her industry in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties.

Clear Home Solutions

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

Author of No Regrets: Hope for Your Caregiving Season, ICF Certified Coach, Podcast Host & Speaker, offering encouragement, support, and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, that they might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected

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