Originally a self-proclaimed North Dakota farm kid, Jeannine Bryant was lured to Lincoln by a master's program offered at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The program, Great Plains Studies, was the perfect fit for Bryant, who admits “I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
By 2008 Bryant had graduated from UNL with her master's degree, and she found herself on the threshold of figuring out exactly what her passion and career was going to be.
Bryant met sisters Linda Cotter and Kelley See, owners of Changing Spaces SRS, in 2009 when the two were looking for a business partner. Changing Spaces, which offered downsizing, estate sales and relocation services to Lincoln’s seniors, seemed almost too good to be true. Admittedly, Bryant was shocked.
“I couldn’t believe this was a job,” she said. The job embodied so many of her strengths.
“I’ve always loved organizing, and I love working with seniors.”
So it seemed fitting that by 2014 when Cotter and See were ready to retire that Bryant was ready to take full ownership of Changing Spaces SRS. Today, as the CEO and Head of Sales, Bryant employs 25 staff members who assisted 235 clients in 2019.
One of those clients was longtime Lincoln resident Rita Weeks. She and her husband chose to move to a retirement community and quickly learned that many of those communities in Lincoln contract with Changing Spaces. Weeks welcomed the help.
“They were calming and professional," she said. "They did not hesitate to ask and confirm. Their confidence and ease of approaching — it is a way of putting you at ease.”
Changing Spaces prides itself on taking care of every last detail, a commitment that didn’t go unnoticed by Weeks during the move.
“They put the sheets on your bed and make your bed the first night," she said. "And you sleep in your own bed on the first night.”
Weeks and her husband both agreed that the move was the right decision.
"We were not forced into it," she said. "We were able to make the selection.”
Still, the process of downsizing can be an emotional one, which Bryant and her staff approach with a gentle consideration.
“Everyone that we work with is going through a time of transition.” Bryant says. “That is the heart of what we do. Everyone in the world can relate to that, we all go through change.”
To help clients ease into that transition, Bryant has thrown out the term “downsizing” and replaced it with “rightsizing.”
Rightsizing, according to Bryant, is finding the place between too much and too little.
While Changing Spaces works primarily with seniors, Bryant believes that rightsizing can be right at any age.
“We can all stand to rightsize our stuff," she said. "We don’t need more storage space, we need less stuff.”
Bryant says she's seen countless times while guiding clients through this process that, “stuff stops being a blessing and starts being a burden.”
To combat that burden, she urges all of us at any age to stop accumulating, and start recognizing the impermanence of the tangible items we cling to. Bryant has soothing mantras she shares with clients struggling to let go:
“Sets won’t miss each other,” Bryant says of cumbersome china sets. It’s acceptable to keep one mug, or a special dish, while letting the rest of the set go.
Or: “Stuff doesn’t hold memories, people do.”
Staff of Changing Spaces also take their role in clients’ transitions to heart.
“We become their family really quickly,” says Michelle Eastman, an employee for more than 10 years.
Bev Piper has been easing seniors into moves and rightsizing for nearly seven years.
“Sometimes it’s almost a ministry," she says. "We give gentle guidance."
Both Eastman and Piper agree the relationships they’ve fostered have made an impact. Both still receive calls, texts and Christmas cards from past clients who are now current friends.
“The people, the friends I’ve made with the senior community, it’s amazing,” Eastman says.
Bryant feels so passionately about rightsizing that she even wrote a book about it. "Ready to Rightsize?" was published in 2019 and is available on Amazon. The book outlines the key details of transitioning from too much to just right. Bryant’s step-by-step guide never waivers from considering the process from the perspective of emotions first. Her tips allow grace for seniors, as well as their family assisting with a move.
Not sure of where to start? Bryant recommends recording video of the home to capture it exactly the way it was lived in. Capture the memories and the feel the home before even packing the first box.
Bryant also urges putting a positive spin on a rightsizing move. Reframing the transition from something scary and uncertain into a positive change can set the tone for a better experience.
Time is important, and Bryant suggests allowing as much time as needed to process both the stuff and the emotional attachments.
“Make sure the half you get to keep is your favorite stuff,” she says.
During a big move, it’s common that rightsizing can include getting rid of half (or more) of one’s possessions. The belongings chosen to remain should mean something.
As for the practical side of things, Jeannine leaves no stone unturned. Her tips range from counting everything from beds to sheets and bath towels, to a five-step plan for rightsizing any project.
Weeks and her husband, Don, are now fully rightsized and settled into their apartment. They agree that the process “is the most positive thing we could have done for each other.”
Besides, Rita adds, “It would be a whole lot better to use Changing Spaces than to pay for marriage counseling.”
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