Moving Our Parents: What Do We Do With All The Stuff?

As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist® I hear it a lot when older parents are moving and downsizing.  The question is, “What do we do with all the stuff?”. Many older adults have accumulated a lifetime of belongings only to be faced with the challenge of what to do with those things that are no longer needed when it comes time to move. This is especially true when the older adult is downsizing dramatically (such as moving in with family or into a senior living community). So, when faced with the question, here are some options.


Family and Friends: First, offer items to family and friends. This can be a great opportunity for the older adults to gift any meaningful items in person. Grown children should also be willing to take their childhood memorabilia. Not all family or friends may be willing to receive some items, but it is a good idea to evaluate the meaning behind the gifting gesture before refusing to accept items. Sometimes, it is easier to accept the items temporarily and then decide what items will be kept long term.

Charities: Donating items to charity can not only give new life to useful items in good condition, but can also extend a financial benefit to the donor in the way of a tax deduction. Keep in mind, however, that not all charities accept all items, and some may pick up items but others do not. It is a good idea to do some research on this ahead of time.

Estate Sale: Professional estate sale businesses will inventory, price, and sell the items in the home. This service can be especially valuable when the home is still full of items, but most estate sale services charge a large commission on all of the items sold. Also keep in mind that is it likely that not all items will sell, so you will need to have a plan for what may be left. Other options include holding a yard sale (which will save paying the commission) or selling items individually online, but this takes a lot more work on the seller’s end.

Estate Buyout (liquidator): A buyout service can be a convenient way to liquidate an estate. They do an overall assessment on all of the items in the home; assigning value to the items they are willing to purchase and then subtracting the cost of removing the unwanted items. Depending on the values of each, this option may net the owner proceeds from liquidation or it may be “a wash”. If, however, there are not enough items of value or the seller is not wanting to sell them at a large discount, a buyout may not be the best option.

Haul Out Service: When the items left in the home are of no value (they cannot be resold or are trash), a haul out service can be used to remove them. Keep in mind that this service does charge a fee. Depending on the amount of items to be hauled away, a less expensive option may be to simply order a temporary dumpster to be placed curbside at the property but this requires that the owner supply the manpower to fill the dumpster with these items.

Important Note: Since most people have at least a of couple items that would be considered valuable, it is a good idea to decide which services (if any) will be needed before selling or donating the most valuable items separately. This may net more money initially, but could end up costing more to remove the other items.

Senior Move Manger: One final option is to hire a certified National Senior Move Manager who will typically subcontract these services for you, while also providing downsizing and moving assistance. This can be a tremendous resource for those who have limited energy or mobility, little or no nearby family support, or who feel overwhelmed by the process of figuring out what to do with all the stuff.

As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist®, I can also provide referrals to these services as needed while coordinating them with the sale or purchase of a home. Have questions? Give me a call at (619) 405-5006.