In Defense of Plan B

In popular language, ‘Plan B’ is used to mean a reserved, secondary plan, in case a first plan (typically ‘Plan A’) fails. In short, Plan B is second best. I think Plan B gets a bad rap; there is a lot to be said for Plan B.

Plan B

Take the client whose house sells more quickly than expected, and who needs to live in temporary housing for several weeks or months until the new apartment is available. The client groans at the thought of moving twice—Plan B—until I remind her that having your home sell for a price you want, not going through weeks of living in a home while keeping it “market ready,” and not having the anxiety of waiting and wondering if the house will sell . . . is actually a good problem to have. The ironic thing is that when these clients finally move into their permanent home, having spent weeks or months with things in storage, they invariably decide they did just fine with a lot less around them, and when things come out of storage, most end up parting with things they had previously thought “essential.”

Conventional wisdom is that it is best to sort through and dispose of everything not going with you before you move. But take the husband who announces, “I’ve been caregiving for my wife 24/7 for five years, and I am used up.” He is being clear that he is maxed out, so the solution for him is Plan B—a “new home” or “stays here” move plan that minimizes his pre-move involvement. After the move, when his wife is being cared for by others, he can return to the house, better equipped physically and emotionally to make plans for items not taken.

Or take the couple, both very frail, who qualify—just barely—for independent living. It’s clear to everyone involved that they will soon need much more support, and that it might be easier for them to move once—directly into assisted living. Except the move to independent living is the move they are willing to make at this time, so Plan B, which will ultimately require another move, is the plan that gets them out of their three-story house.

The Roll of a Senior Move Manager

As Senior Move Managers, it’s common for us to visit homes that have piles of paper in every room: mail, insurance forms, receipts, paid and unpaid bills, lists and notes, investment records, coupons . . . you name it. Rather than move piles that should be shredded or disposed of, it makes sense to urge the client to sort through the papers, right? Wrong. If the client could stand sorting through and organizing papers, she wouldn’t have piles of paper everywhere. Instead of asking her to do what is clearly a struggle for her, let’s develop Plan B—a move plan that enables her to be successful with things she doesn’t mind doing. The Senior Move Manager packs all her papers into boxes so later, when the stress of moving is over, she’ll be better positioned to tackle tasks that are a challenge.

The proverb “Perfect is the enemy of good,” attributed to Voltaire, is one of my favorite sayings. It reminds me of the Pareto principle, or 80-20 rule—that it commonly takes 20 percent of the time to complete 80 percent of the task, while the last 20 percent takes 80 percent of the effort. It’s not that achieving perfection is impossible, it’s that the increased effort often results in diminishing returns as further activity becomes increasingly inefficient. This principle speaks to the client who “must” recycle and dispose of everything properly, as well as to the Senior Move Manager who is adamant that every carton be unpacked and put away.

So Plan B is my plan of choice. Not because it is lesser or easier. Plan B is where wisdom meets reality and comes up with a solution.

This article originally appeared on June 11, 2012 on Moving Solutions, by Margit Novack.

Reprinted with permission. Margit Novack is the president of Moving Solutions, a Senior Move Management company serving the Philadelphia area. She is the founding president of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM), and she chairs NASMM’s Ethics Review Committee.