The Downsizing Dilemma: “Nobody wants my stuff!”

Moving Boxes

Moving Boxes

If your elderly parent is thinking about moving to a senior living community sometime in the future, now’s the time to start figuring out what to do with the houseful of furniture artwork, china, crystal, jewelry and sentimental collections they won’t have space to take along.

Maybe your loved one is assuming you’ll be happy to have it, or that they can pass it along to the grandkids. If so, they may be in for a big disappointment. More and more seniors are finding that handing down “treasured family heirlooms” isn’t a given.

For the first time ever, two generations—Baby Boomers and their elderly parents— are downsizing simultaneously. And while you may not have the room to take your parents’ belongings, your kids likely don’t have the interest.

Times and tastes have changed

Mass merchandising has made household items so inexpensive and available, there’s just no need to take a parent’s (or grandparent’s) hand-me-down items. We all have our own stuff.

Lifestyles are shifting towards minimalism, especially for younger generations. The heavy, formal furnishings are replaced with the inexpensive, assemble-it-yourself Ikea variety.

The reality is that many Millennials don’t have the emotional connection to things that earlier generations did, and many Baby Boomers aren’t eager to take on their parents’ stuff. You’re already thinking about how to downsize your own!

Talk it over together

 The best-case scenario is for a senior to ask their children or grandchildren now what items they might want. If your loved one hasn’t done so, be proactive: Sit down together and talk about it. Be honest about what’s wanted, what’s not, and make a plan for the unwanted items.

If there are specific things your loved one plans to leave to family members in his or her will, why not consider giving those gifts now? That way, the giver will be able to enjoy seeing their items going to the person they wanted to have them. (Hint: this is a good time to start asking your own children if there are any items of yours that they’d like to have, and do the same!)

A place for everything

Once you’ve determined which items have a place with a family member, it’s time to find a suitable place for the rest. Here are three different ways to do that:

Sell – eBay, Craigslist, consignment shops, and even smartphone apps are all options for selling unwanted items (not to mention the good old-fashioned garage sale). It’s wise to check with a reputable professional, like an antique/art dealer or jeweler, before selling higher-end items. If you want to let someone else handle the whole process, hiring a firm to hold an estate sale may be the best choice.

Donate –  Why pay for a storage unit or stuff boxes in an attic or basement? Donating items means they’ll go to someone who can use and appreciate them right now. (Plus, that good deed can turn into a tax deduction.) Local charities that take a variety of household items include the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Value Village, and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. You can also try shelters, nonprofit groups, and senior center or church thrift shops.

Recycle/Freecycle – Some things can’t be sold or donated, but there are options other than the garbage. For larger items like mattresses, furniture, electronics, or appliances, consider Freecycle and the ReUseIt Network. They help keep unwanted possessions out of landfills by connecting donors with those in need. The Buy Nothing Project facilitates local giving between neighbors. You can also list donations in the “free stuff” category on Craigslist.

We’re here to help

Hearthstone Senior Living communities have a genuine heart for serving seniors and their families. We’re happy to offer our guidance in the “downsizing my stuff” conversation—and any other questions your family may have about transitioning to a senior community.

To get a first-hand experience of our locally-based, family-operated communities, we invite you to call and set up a personal tour and lunch at Hearthstone. We look forward to meeting you.


Hearthstone of Beaverton:


12520 SW Hart Road

Beaverton, OR 97008


Hearthstone at Murrayhill:


10880 SW Davies Road

Beaverton, OR 97008

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Hearthstone Senior Living specializes in independent, assisted, and memory care living options in Beaverton, Oregon.

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