The “wedding planner” of senior moving — our luxury retirement community podcast

What is the biggest mistake people make when moving?
Why should you hire a senior moving specialist?
Where can you donate an excess of linens?
How do you plan a purge party?

Answers to these questions and more can be heard in our latest podcast with Tammy Bilek, Certified Senior Move Manager, and co-owner of Honoring Aging. Coordinating over 400 moves and downsizes each year, Tammy describes herself as the wedding planner of senior moving management. “Each move is very different,” she said. “Even though we all have the same end goal, all the details in the middle are very different.”

Before becoming a moving specialist, Tammy worked in law enforcement and then joined corporate America. “I learned that I was not the ‘sit behind the desk girl,’” she laughed. Two friends who started Honoring Aging asked her if she would like to help and she agreed.

Tammy’s first assignment was a three-day move from Naperville to Woodstock. “I showed up and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re going to pack all of this in one day, move it the next day and unpack it all and make it look really homey and cute?’” She couldn’t believe it.

During that move, Tammy worked closely with her client, helping her make difficult decisions about which items to keep and which to give away. At the end of the move, Tammy was leaving and she heard her client calling her. “I turned around and looked at her and she’s just crying, and I felt terrible,” Tammy said. Her client told her, “You hung the towels that we got from my parents as a wedding present way back when. As soon as I walked into the bathroom, I knew I was in the right place, and we made the right decision to downsize.” For Tammy, that was the turning point and she thought, “Yep, this is for me.”

Tammy worked for Honoring Aging for 13 years before she and her husband purchased the company. Today they have a staff of 23 who all work together to make the moving process as seamless as possible.

Honoring Aging provides a variety of services to help you go through the downsizing process and prepare for your move. On the first visit, Honoring Aging measures all your furniture and creates a customized floor plan of your new home. This helps you understand what will fit in the new space and, more importantly, what won’t fit. Honoring Aging can then help you properly dispose of those items.

“Everybody has an unusual thing that they’re looking to donate, to get rid of, to recycle, to sell,” said Tammy. “We have a resource list that’s nine pages long. It’s estate sale companies, donation companies, liquidation companies. It is jewelers. We have a gentleman that just deals with art, just deals with books.” Tammy has graciously agreed to share her invaluable resource list with our Evergreen Founders Club members. If you are a Founder, simply click HERE to go to the Founders’ Portal on our website to find the “Moving Resource Guide from Honoring Aging” in the documents section.

When asked what the most common mistake people make during moving, Tammy said, “Not having a plan…whether it’s a sorting plan, a getting rid of plan or, ‘when am I going to put my house on the market?’ It’s all of those together.” Tammy calls this the personalized transition plan or the moving timeline. She also urges everyone moving into the Villas to start sooner rather than later. “Have us come out now and start to walk through your house so we can coach you and really talk to you about the process.”

To hear more of Tammy’s tips and tricks to make your move as seamless as possible, please listen to our podcast. If you are an Evergreen Founders’ Club member who would like Tammy and her Honoring Aging team to help with your move, please contact your Personal Relocation Manager from Moving Station to get started.



Nitsa Foundos:

Hello, welcome to Living Without Limits, our fun and informative podcast about the Arboretum Villas at Plymouth Place here in La Grange Park, Illinois. I’m your host, Nitsa Foundos. And joining me today is Tammy Bilek, co-owner of Honoring Aging, which specializes in senior moving and downsizing. Welcome, Tammy.

Tammy Bilek:

Thank Nitsa. Thanks for having me today. Appreciate it.

Nitsa Foundos:

Well, the spring real estate will be heating up soon, which means the people who have purchased our Villas really need to start thinking about downsizing. So this is the perfect time to lean into your expertise.

Tammy Bilek:

That’s right. It’s never too soon to start. We’re going to talk a little bit about that today. I’ll talk a little bit about who we are and what that looks like. We’re Honoring Aging, we’re based out of Geneva. And we have been helping seniors downsize and relocate for the last 18 years.

I was an employee for the first 13 years, and then my husband and I purchased the company four years ago. So, I was one of the first three employees, and have now grown it a little bit. We have a staff of 23 and we do about 400 moves and downsizes a year. They are all very different. So even though we all have the same end goal, all the details in the middle are very different.

Nitsa Foundos:

Oh my goodness. Well, we appreciate all that you do for our Plymouth Place residents. And now the Arboretum Villas, oh my goodness, they are chomping at the bit.

But before we get there, I’d like you to give us an overview of the services that you offer.

Tammy Bilek:

Yeah, very good. Because a lot of people don’t really understand what we do. And so to put it in very simple terms is, we are the wedding planner of move management. So when we’re ready to move and you have this third party like ourselves Honoring Aging to coming in to help, what are the steps that we’re going to take? So first we get your information from Moving Stations, so from the PRM, and they’ll contact us, give us all the details. Valerie, our office manager calls them, sets up an appointment that works for their schedule and our schedule. And we start talking about; what do we need to go through, what do we need to downsize, how much we’re going to take with us from these areas.

On our first visit, when we come out to visit with you, we want to talk to you about a customized floor plan. What that means to you is that we measure the furniture that we’re wanting to take with us from our current home.

We measure furniture, we create it in our program, come out, show you several different options of how your furniture can be placed in different areas. We don’t want to come out and say, “This is plan A, don’t you love it?” We’re not going to live there. The founders are going to live there. So, we want to make sure that you love your floor plan.

More importantly, the floor plan also tells us what doesn’t fit. So then we can help with resources and different avenues of, “Okay, these items aren’t coming, what are we going to do with the leftover so we can be proactive about that?” And then also we talk about packing, what that looks like on the day before the move. And then unpacking, scheduling Movers. We’re going to be working very closely with Moving Stations, with the Villa project. So it is definitely going to be very smooth process, but give us a call sooner rather than later.

Nitsa Foundos:

Absolutely. And you touched on our Villa residents have met Jen, Jennifer Hornacek from Moving Station, and I know that you two have known each other for a while, but you’re also collaborators for the Villa Move process. So, describe for our founders how your services differ or complement one another.

Tammy Bilek:

Definitely complement. That’s the way that we look at it. So the process looks like this, we get their information. Jen and her team handle the real estate part of it primarily. But with The Villas, we’re walking through the process with them. So we’re there to coach you and help you through that downsizing process, giving you resources. And then as time gets closer to move date, we’re going to be working with the personal relocation managers at Moving Station to start scheduling movers. There’ll be a lot of details with that, but lots of communication, which is key to this.

Nitsa Foundos:

Well, she has nothing but good things to say about you and your organization and your team of people that make it look so darn easy. But you’re full of tips and tricks for what you need to focus on with moving. And I think some of the folks’ struggle is, “When do I actually start this?”

Tammy Bilek:

Okay. Well, first of all, I’m excited to be on this podcast. I’m excited to have everyone listening because anytime that I can give anyone a little bit of push in the right direction, I’m always doing that. So a couple of things is, I want you to start to look at your project, your home, your condo, your town home, wherever you living are currently, is that it is a little project in every room. So no, I’m not going to take on the basement today. That project is enormous and that’s not doable in a day or even a week. So when you walk into the basement or the bedroom or the bathroom, I want you to break it down as little sections, or I like to call it little pieces of the puzzle.

So, you’re in the bedroom and you’re like, “Okay, I need to tackle this bedroom today.” I’ll give you your homework in a minute, but we’re going to use some examples first. So when I say break it down to little pieces of the puzzle, it’s every drawer is a piece of the puzzle. The top of the dresser is a piece of the puzzle. Under the bed is a piece of the puzzle. The artwork on the wall is the piece of the puzzle. And you’re really only asking yourself one question, “What am I taking with me?” If you’re taking that dresser with you and you know that it will fit, or if we do a floor plan, we will guarantee that it will fit, is that the things that are in or on the dresser are, “going with me.” So you have taken out the items that are, “not going with me,” and you have three piles. So “yes, it’s going,” it goes back into the dresser. “No, it’s not going, I’m going to donate it,” or “yeah, I need to toss that.”

So, it’s three piles in every room that you’re working in. But that’s how you break down every room that you are going to start on. The most important thing is, don’t hop around, go into the bedroom and finish the bedroom. It might take you a few days, the closet is a part of the bedroom, but you’re thinking, “Oh my goodness, I can do the bedroom. But that closet is a nightmare.” So break the closet down. If there’s shoes on the floor, that might be one afternoon. Then the hanging things are another afternoon, and then the things on the shelf are another afternoon. So you can really start to see, “Yes, it’s taken me maybe a week to take on the entire bedroom, but the entire room is done.” And you’re mentally knowing that, in your head that you’re checking that box, you’re checking that room off. So “Okay, I can move on to the next room.”

What happens with most people is they hop around like little bunnies, where it’s like, “Oh, I went and did the dresser today, and then I did the drawers in the kitchen, and then, oh, I took care of the photos in the second bedroom.” And then it’s like, “Well, what have I done?” And you’re not seeing your progress, so then that will not continue on in the right direction.

The other thing I like to talk about is your family and friends. Now, we all know that they don’t want anything. I know that, I hear that every day, that your family has full homes, your friends, they don’t want your things, like that. But I want you to consider a purging party. I learned this from a client years ago and I thought it was really great.

What she did is she went around the house and she had sticky notes on the things that she was taking with her. And that’s key to do because if your family comes over and you’re sitting in the living room and they see these pink sticky notes and they’re like, “Mom, what’s going on with the pink sticky notes?” “Well, this is what I’ve decided that I’d like to take with me.” And then the daughter-in-law’s kind of eyeing that chair like, “There’s no pink sticky note on that chair over there.” So that gives them an opportunity to say, “I would like that chair. If you’re not going to take it with you.” They’re not going to ask you if they don’t know if you’re taking it or not.

With the purging party, what this gal did was she had the sticky notes all around, and then she had a few card tables and things and she brought things out and put them on tables of things that she just didn’t want anymore. Of course, she could donate them or take them to goodwill or whatnot, but she invited people over, had some hors d’oeuvres and pizza, just finger foods, had all of her bags, meaning like gift bags and tissue paper out. And then she called it a purging party. And so her friends and family came to take a piece of her home that they wanted to remember her by. I thought it was fun. It was called a purging party.

Nitsa Foundos:

You sold me at party. Okay? I heard the word party and that’s it, invite me. That would just be a blast. And I think anyone can do that, whether they’re moving to The Villas or not. I think I’m going to adopt that.

So Tammy, why would someone use a moving service that specializes in seniors? Is there a big difference?

Tammy Bilek:

There’s absolutely a big difference. So, we are considered senior move managers. We’re also a part of NASSMM, which is the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Management. So, what that means to you is that, we go through classes on a yearly basis to help clients really understand the meaning behind downsizing. Where some people like, “Oh, well, I went through my kitchen and I got rid of two pieces of Tupperware and three spatulas,” and so on and so forth. But when we are involved, we know the community. We understand the apartment that they’ve chosen or the Villa that they’ve chosen the space in that kitchen, or do we have a linen closet? How big is our closet? A lot of times we will give them measurements of, “This is how many inches of hanging space you have. So, this is how many of inches in your current closet that we can take with us.”

So, we’re really trying to coach them and help them through the process. Because the worst thing is to get to the Villa and there’s just way too much stuff. And it’s extremely overwhelming, where now we have things in the hallway or the movers are like, “What are we doing with this extra stuff?” So, to coach them from day one that, this is the space that we’re going to have, this is our kitchen layout, this is our closet space. These are the pieces of the furniture that we’re taking with us, so we want to make sure the items are going to fit into those pieces.

When you hire a moving company, they absolutely will pack up for you and take things over. They don’t really unpack for you. If you do have a moving company, unpack, every surface that’s available is covered with stuff. That’s considered unpacking in the moving industry.

So, when we are there, when we do the packing, first, we’re coaching you, through up until pack day. We’re there with the floor plan that has numbers on it, so number six end table in the living room, we’re labeling the table number six. Everything we’re packing off of it, putting into a box is labeled number six. The lamp base is number six, the light bulbs number six, the lamp shade is number six. We’re trying to recreate that number six that you had in your home for the last 48 years into your new home at the Villas.

Nitsa Foundos:

I’ve always wondered how you were able to replicate like silverware drawer. You told me a story about that one time where someone likes their silverware in a certain drawer next to the sink, whether it’s the right or the left, but it’s taking the meaning behind it to the point where it’s so personalized to that individual.

Tammy Bilek:

We call it mirror imaging. We’re trying to mirror image how they lived at home into the new Villa. Now, it’s not perfect. We maybe can’t have the glasses next to the sink on the right side. They might have to be on the left side. We really try hard to see how they live now.

I had a client not too long ago, she was a portrait artist, oil paint. And I walked in the door and I was blown away by her paintings. And she was like, “No, I’m going to give that up when I move.” And I thought, “I can’t have that happen on my watch.” That was just like, “What?” I mean, she was just unbelievably talented. So, it’s important to recognize because we are senior move managers, that I created that space so she continued to paint as long as she could, at her new community in the apartment. And so that’s really important.

So, when I answer the question, I don’t want to say “We’re the end all be all,” but we really understand what they’re going through when we’re downsizing. So, it’s important to have somebody that really gets that.

Nitsa Foundos:

Well, Tammy, you have many resources, people that you know through other organizations. And a lot of the questions that we’re currently getting from our Founders is, they have perhaps exercise equipment they need to donate, there’s recyclables, there’s things that what is valuable to them could be valuable to someone else. And yes, you can donate, but perhaps there’s organizations or places that would have more meaning behind donating. So what would you recommend for those folks?

Tammy Bilek:

Absolutely. So depending on the county that you live in, will depend on my recommendation of resources. So one just right off the top of my head that we refer a lot to is Restoration Ministries, in Harvey. They will come out to your home, come into your home, and get that dresser or the item in the basement, those types of things. They help families get back on their feet. So fire, flood, domestic violence, helping set back up an apartment. So that’s really important when I refer an organization. There’s also one in Downers Grove called Sharing Connections, where they’re helping families or individuals get back on their feet and it’s helping those in our back door.

But if you need more specific resources, “Tammy,” this was a question to me a few years ago, “I have an excess of Styrofoam.” And I always stop, I’m like, “What Styrofoam? Okay.” “I want it recycled in the right way, so where can I take that?” “Okay great, I’ll figure that out.” So I was like, “Where do you live?” And so they told me where they lived and I went to a resource called Earth911, put in Styrofoam and the zip code that they lived, in was able to find something local for them.

Everybody has an unusual thing that they’re looking to donate, to get rid of, to recycle, to sell. We have a resource list that’s nine pages. It’s estate sale companies, donation companies, liquidation companies. It is jewelers, we have a gentleman just deals with art, just deals with books. We have a gentleman that just comes out and buys things. So it all depends on what you’re looking to part with, and what would you like to see happen with it.

Nitsa Foundos :

So we have a resident portal. And it’s specifically designed for access to key information as it relates to the Villas. This nine-page list of resources. How comfortable would you be allowing us to post that on the resident portal?

Tammy Bilek:

Yeah, that’s a great question. Well, first, thanks for the opportunity to do that. I would love to have that happen. It will not be nine pages, I will tell you because we work all over Chicagoland. So I’m not going to put the Village Treasure House in Glenview on there necessarily if we don’t have people coming from Glenview. But we can definitely get it to this area.

Nitsa Foundos:

They could start there.

Tammy Bilek:

Yes, absolutely. And then if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they can always call.

Nitsa Foundos:

Oh, well thank you for doing that. I appreciate it. So when you think about the mistakes people make when moving or planning a move that involves your expertise, what is the biggest mistake that you’ve seen thus far in your professional career?

Tammy Bilek:

Not planning. Not having a plan of whether it’s a sorting plan or getting rid of plan or, “When am I going to put my house on the market?” It’s all of those together. We call it the personalized transition plan or the moving timeline. So it’s, have us come out, have us start to walk through your house so we can coach you and really talk to you about specific areas of, “You have an excess of linens.” I was in a house the other day, the people around this table, we probably could put all of our linens together, and she definitely has more than us. So when I see that, it’s like, “What items do you use out of this closet on a weekly basis?” And then we talk to her about can we donate some of the not so great ones to an animal shelter? Where she’s like, “Animal shelter?”

And I said, they use towels all the time for birthing of little puppies or kittens and cleaning up after those little animals. So, it’s just a different resource, but a lot of people don’t think about that.

And the second part of that is having support. So if you have family, that will be your support system. That is wonderful. But there’s a lot of people that don’t have family in this area to be that support system. We sometimes are the support system, meaning whether it’s myself or Amy or Gloria that will come out to see you and walk you through that process, just to have them take you out to lunch on the day that you move. So the truck is loaded, you’re kind of like, “Ah,” letting your hair down a little bit. We’re here to meet the truck at the Villa to get it unpacked and resettled. Just take a couple of hours to be with your son or daughter and have a lunch. Simple, straightforward, just to not quite think about every little detail, just for a moment.

But to have that support system is really important through this whole moving process. We want to include them in our process as well. So when we do a customized floor plan for founders, we can email it to them. So then when they talk to their daughter in California, they’re like, “Hey, pull out the floor plan we, let’s talk about that. Do we want to move anything or change anything?” Or the daughter might say, “Mom, where was that one drop leaf table that you’ve always talked about? I don’t see that in the plan?” “Oh, shoot, I forgot about that.” So to keep them involved, because it is all about having that support system, but we’re all a part of that team, of that person moving.

Nitsa Foundos:

Absolutely. Well, several of the founders I know for a fact have taken your advice and have started. But there are some that think that their support network can do it all. I know you’ve heard that, “Oh, my kids will do it.” “Okay.” So what other advice would you like to offer them that are listening today?

Tammy Bilek:

Absolutely. They’re not going to do it. And I know that’s like, “Tammy, I think you might be wrong. I think my family’s going to step up to the plate.” They want to, and they have really good intentions until, “Well, now the grandson has a traveling sport out of state, and that’s when we’re moving.” Or, “Oh, so-and-so got hurt at work,” and so on and so forth. So I always say, start sooner rather than later. Let them know that you’re starting. So if you let your family know like, “I’ve heard this podcast and she’s really all about starting sooner rather than later, which we are, and these are the areas that I’m going to start working on.” They might hear that and say, “Well, I can come over on Saturday and help you get those things out of the crawl space.”

That’s the other part of it too. If they’re in their area or like, I have a couple clients right now, they’re like, “Oh, my daughter’s flying in to help me.” “Great, let’s make a list.” And they kind of look at me. They’re like, “Oh, we should make a list.” “Yes, we Should.” Because we want to make sure when she arrives, I’m a daughter and a daughter-in-law too, when I arrive to help, I want to make sure that I’m really productive for my mom or my mother-in-law. So make that list of the things that you would like to accomplish with them.

So that is really important that we talk about, have you create a plan that you want them to be a part of, but not in the last month that we’re almost ready to move. We want to start that now. They might have more time over spring break time or over the summer. So we really want to ask for help

Nitsa Foundos:

Well, thank you for sharing that. There’s one thing that comes to mind, the last time you presented in our building, that really was meaningful. I mean, it’s all meaningful, don’t get me wrong, but it spoke about those family heirlooms where there’s a story behind the heirloom, and ways you can capture that without feeling like you have to hold on to it forever and a day. Do you remember that?

Tammy Bilek:

I do, yes.

Tammy Bilek:

Yes. It’s a personal story if that’s the one you’re referring to, Nitsa, yeah. So my mother-in-law decided to go through some of the things in her home, and she asked for my time. So she called up and she says, “Hey, I want to know if I can come over on Saturday

So she comes over and she has this stack. I’m holding up my fingers. It’s about five inches high, four inches high of photos. And then she has her spreadsheet. My mother-in-law is a retired CPA, hence the spreadsheet, and has every son’s name on it, Michael, Joe and John. I’m a part of Michael. And then it has numbers. And I thought, “What are we doing?” And so what she did is she went around her entire home and took pictures of things that she wanted to know if we wanted.

And I thought, “Oh my gosh, I just want to hug you and cry.” Because I was so excited that she was actually trying to help me, because I’m the only daughter-in-law. That in the end, the boys are not going to handle the little bottles on her dresser.

But the reason that I tell you those funny stories or different stories is first of all, she asked for time. She asked for my time and Michael’s time. And then while we went through those, I don’t know how many pictures were there, 400 maybe, I got to know my family that I married into a little bit better. And she’s being proactive about her stuff, which is huge. But more importantly, I was able to hear the stories. Like now on my dresser, we have these little bluebirds, and I was like, “Oh, those are kind of cute.” But then the story that she told me behind those, I was like, “I have to have those.”

The key is that your daughter, son, son-in-law, whoever it is in your family, niece, nephew, they don’t know the story. They know that Glass Bowl has sat in your curio cabinet for the last 55 years they’ve been coming to your house, or whatever that is. So it’s important to ask for time, tell the story.

And I’m lucky because my mother-in-law only lives seven miles from me. But technology we want to use to our advantage, where you can create like a Google photo drive and in each photo you can type on that like, “This is grandma so-and-so, she came over from Germany.” And then share that Google photo drive with the family to say, “Hey, I’m really starting to go through my things. These are some great photos and great items that maybe you want to have.”

Nitsa Foundos:

Well, that’s brilliant. Thank you so much.

Tammy Bilek:

You’re welcome.

Nitsa Foundos:

Well, I really appreciate, Tammy, that you joined me today in sharing all of your insights and expertise.

So to learn how we can help you make your move to the Arboretum Villas as smooth and seamless as possible, give us a call. We’re here to answer all your questions. Simply call 708-482-6634 or visit While you’re there, check out our events page for upcoming presentations. To see our beautiful floor plans and finishes in person, stop by the Design Center, 26 South La Grange Road in downtown La Grange, and say hello to Shelly. We’re open Monday through Friday, 9:00 to 5:30 and Saturday by appointment. Thank you so much everyone for tuning into Living Without Limits. We look forward to talking with you soon. Until then, I’m Nitsa. Foundos.

Nitsa Foundos:

It’s a wrap. It’s a wrap.


You don’t get to say that.

Nitsa Foundos:

Yes, I do.