The Art of Estate Downsizing (Part One)

When it comes time to downsize the estate of a loved one many emotions can arise for each person involved.  Things can get “pressurized” for all parties but particularly for the one experiencing the most change, the one whose estate is getting downsized.

Because of this, it is wise to not only manage the physical requirements and time constraints of the change but also the mental or emotional aspects.  Below are some ideas to help move through the process with as little friction and pain as possible.


When you are helping someone downsize and they are willing to start the process but somewhat resistant to the change, frame decisions regarding what to keep, what to let go or what is needed in their new environment as yes or no questions.  It will be easier for them to make the break if grey area is minimized as much as possible.

Another idea to assist in a smoother downsize is to make minor decisions for your loved one.  For example, some items are clearly not worth keeping around like old spices in the kitchen, expired medicines, ancient toiletries and so on.  These items will likely not be missed and can be easily replaced if it turns out that your loved one wants them.  Making the decision to keep or throw out this type of item will not only help ease the burden on your loved one but will speed things up as well.

Some items that a loved one has may be earmarked for another family member one day.  Why not make today that day?  It not only helps with the downsize, but it allows the loved one to enjoy the act of giving in person.

One emotional hazard is the tendency for people to overvalue their belongings.  Not counting the sentimental value, often older furniture or other household items will simply not sell for as much as the owner thinks they should.  The original owner remembers how much the items cost back in 1977 and assume they will appreciate or at least stay the same.  Certainly there are many examples of antiques or other highly sought-after items that do quite well on the open market, but average ho-hum items tend to bring ho-hum prices.  Looking at Craigslist or Offer Up with your loved one will help both of you to see what the going price is for items and may help to keep expectations realistic.

Another way to ease the possibility of frustrating everyone is to focus the downsizing activities to one room at a time.  This will help everyone focus and not feel the overwhelmed feeling when looking at the whole house.  Remember the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time!

When it’s time to enter the new space, it’s reassuring for your loved one to see some familiar things.  An effective way to help with this is to have some family pictures or heirlooms displayed prominently around the new digs.  If enough wall pictures are not available, maybe a photo album or two will do the trick.

These are just a few tips to help during this potentially challenging time.  In our next blog, we will look at the physical requirements of estate downsizing.  For help with all the aspects of a downsize or estate resolution, remember Family Friend Estate Solutions.  We know about the many challenges of an estate transition and are here to help ease the process for you.