Helping senior citizen parents downsize

Home is the place where you have celebrated birthdays, instilled family values and made memories. When the time comes to move into a smaller home, it’s not only overwhelming, but can be very emotional. Figuring out what to keep, what to sell or give to charity, and what to leave with family members is especially daunting for older adults.

Because of all the memories your parents have created at home, it’s important to be sensitive to their feelings when helping them downsize. But with cooler months ahead, now is the perfect time to start talking to your parents about de-cluttering. Here are five tips for getting started.

1. Start by helping your parents make a list of what they want to keep, give away, or sell and label each with colored stickers.

2. Basements or attics are a good place to start because chances are, they won’t have strong emotional ties to items stored there.

3. Don’t do everything at once; break it down into small segments. Take an afternoon to clean out a shelf in the basement or a closet.

4. Get rid of your parents unnecessary paper clutter. Make sure to check with an accountant or financial advisor to see what needs to be saved and shred or recycle what they don’t need.

5. Photos and memorabilia take up a lot of space. I recommend digitizing your parents photos and documents. Propose the idea to your parents, but make sure to keep a hard copy of the most important or favorite items. Enlist the help of a local photographer or try a professional digitizing service.

At Colonial, we know that helping your parents prepare their home to sell is not always easy and we are here to make that transition as stress-free as possible by connecting you with the resources and assistance you need. We can offer advice on how to talk to you parents about downsizing and where to start. You can get an idea of how to maximize a smaller space by touring one of our Independent Living homes at Berkeley Square or Westover.

For more advice on talking to your parents about downsizing or to learn tips on how to maximize a smaller space, visit Berkeley Square for a lunch and tour on July 25 at 11 a.m. or schedule a personal tour at your convenience. For more tips, or to schedule, call Shelly Henderson, senior director of sales strategy at Colonial, at 513-896-8080 or email

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Community First Solutions ( is the nonprofit parent company of Colonial, Community Behavioral Health, Community First Pharmacy and Partners in Prime. Email the writer of this feature at