How You Can Help a Senior Loved One Downsize into a Smaller Home

How You Can Help a Senior Loved One Downsize into a Smaller Home

It may fall on you to help a senior you love – a parent, grandparent, mother-in-law, aunt, or uncle – downsize into a smaller home so they can continue to live comfortably and independently. For most seniors, downsizing is the key to being able to age in place. It’s a tough task, however, and they’ll be needing your help. Here’s what you can do.

Help them decide what to throw away

When downsizing possessions, there should really be only four “piles” – keep, throw away, donate, and sell. Throwing things away will be one of the hardest pills to swallow for your senior loved one. Seniors may have held onto certain belongings for decades and may put up a fight when it’s suggested they simply toss them in the trash. But progress must be made.

Your strategy for this should be to get rid of three easy-to-part-with items first. It’s important to at least make a dent in the beginning. Target a) duplicate items (they don’t need 3 toasters and 25 serving spoons), b) clothing they haven’t worn in over a year, and c) utility items that they haven’t used in six months.

Host a yard sale for them

Seniors are much more likely to be ok with parting with their possessions if they get something in return. A yard sale is a great way to help you downsize and make some cash to hire the movers (more on that in a bit). As HGTV points out, the primary goal is to get rid of the stuff, however, not to make money. So be reasonable with the pricing. Here are some more good tips on hosting a successful yard sale.

Give their sentimental items a good home

Sentimental but functionally useless items are the hardest part about downsizing. Over the years, a senior amasses dozens upon dozens of items that take up room, don’t serve an immediate purpose, but hold a lot of emotional significance. We’re talking about old photos, your old participation trophies, their mom’s old sewing machine, and so on. These are hard to part with, but in many cases it must be done.

The way you can soften the blow is to make sure they find a good home – one close to your loved one’s heart. Either you take them for now or see if other members of the family will. Knowing they are safe within the family makes it easier to part with these sentimental items. Another good idea is to take pictures of the items. Pictures take up less space and still preserve the memory.

Handle the big move for them

You want to involve them in the packing/downsizing portion of the task, but when it comes to moving day it’s best to just handle that yourself. For one, seniors aren’t usually equipped to help move large, heavy, awkward items. If you have the time and the inclination, go ahead and do the moving yourself or enlist help. But very few things are worth the money as much as professional movers.

Moving is emotional. Watching your longtime home empty out can be a big shock to the system. Avoid this heartache altogether and just let someone else handle moving day for you.

Above all else, remember to be patient with your senior loved one when downsizing. It’s painful to have to get rid of decades worth of accumulated belongings. Help them make tough decisions but be compassionate in the process. You’ll want the same of your kids one day.


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Author: Michael Longsdon (

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