Whether your parents are downsizing to a new, smaller home, a senior living community, or an assisted living facility, the process of downsizing can be a lengthy and emotional one. Leaving a family home, friends and neighbors, and a community they have been part of for so long is not easy, even if they are excited to start a new chapter of their lives or be closer to family. If you are helping your parents downsize, this article will be of great help.


Beginning the downsizing process sooner rather than later helps in a few ways. First, it gives you more time to help your parents sort their belongings and determine what to pack long before you have to start finding boxes. Your parents undoubtedly have accumulated a great deal of belongings over the years, and the task of going through everything can take quite some time. Decluttering and sorting items early on will save you time and money when it comes to packing and moving your parents’ belongings because you won’t be moving as many things to the new home.elderly woman with middle aged daughter behind here by window in black and white

You also may find old files and receipts, trophies from when you were a kid, piles of old greeting cards, mementos from family trips, and more items that will have special meaning to your parents but that they won’t be able to take with them to their smaller home. Thus, the second reason to begin the process of downsizing as early as possible: parents will want to tell stories and share memories with you, and you need to give them as much time as they need to do so to make the downsizing process less difficult for them. Take time to listen to their stories and look through their belongings; after all, they have hung on to them this long for a reason.

Keep in mind that your parents may need some time to come to terms with parting ways with their belongings. If you find that your parents continue to struggle with sorting their items and deciding which to keep, try using the four boxes approach to downsizing. Place four boxes in each room of their home and label them: keep with me, appraise and sell, to pass on to family later, and garage sale/donate. Work with your parents room by room until you know exactly what will be following them to their new home. If they have items that won’t fit into boxes, such as furniture, put pictures of them on index cards and place the cards in the corresponding boxes.


Start way ahead of time to give yourself, and your parents, ample opportunity to prepare for the transition. It’s wise to follow a moving checklist, such as this one, that offers week-by-week to-do’s to ensure you stay on track.

Make moving day as easy as possible by hiring movers. You will not want to be packing boxes, carrying furniture, loading trucks, and driving heavy loads to your parents’ new home on moving day. And, you definitely won’t want them to do so either. Moving is stressful enough, and risking someone’s health or safety is not worth it. Instead, enlist the help of professional movers to take care of the packing, heavy lifting, and loading for you. As with anything else, you should shop around and find the most reliable moving labor help by reading reviews and comparing prices for the area to which your parents are moving. In most cases, movers will assist in packing, carrying, loading, unloading, and unpacking, so you can spend time helping your parents say goodbye and handle moving day more positively than if you are the one doing all the physical work.

You can get your parents through the downsizing process more easily if you begin as early as possible so they have the time they need to go through their belongings, share their stories with you, and come to terms with parting ways with some of their items. It also helps to have a checklist to use throughout the process for organization purposes. Lastly, consider hiring movers to assist in packing, loading, and hauling so you can spend time caring for your parents to make the move as easy as possible for them. 

Marie Villeza is the founder of Boulder, Colorado based Elderimpact.org, whose mission is to empower seniors against ageism by making handy the information they need to keep controlling their own lives. Their team works to incorporate market research with senior needs, using acessible technology, to improve elder's social calendars, medical attention and other resources they need. Reach Marie at info@elderimpact.org.

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