Dear Donna:

We are preparing to move my parents to an assisted living community. They’ve lived in their current home for decades. It’s a large house with several outdoor buildings. We are a bit daunted at the idea of making all of this happen. The downsizing alone seems overwhelming.

My siblings and I are researching different aspects of the move to create a plan. One step we’ll likely need to take is hosting an estate sale. Do you have any tips to make hosting a sale at our parents’ home easier?


Lisa in Ann Arbor, MI

Organizing an Estate Sale for a Senior

Dear Lisa:

Families often put off a move because of the reasons you stated. We’ve found, however, that the most difficult aspect of downsizing is getting started. It sounds like splitting up responsibilities is a good way to go!

Estate sales are fairly common when older adults are transitioning to senior living. Here are some tips to help you plan an estate sale:

  • Identify items to keep: First, decide what furniture and belongings will go with your parents and what will need to find a new home. Your parents will likely have much less space than they currently do. Keep that in mind as you work through this process.
  • Time the sale well: Families often wonder which months of the year are best to host an estate sale. While spring and summer tend to be popular for garage sales, estate sales generally do well all year long. Shoppers will still come in the winter, largely because estate sales are held indoors. Weather generally doesn’t play a factor.
  • Research prices online: Pricing the items for sale can be tricky. Sentimental items might be the most difficult. Other items might be worth more than you think. A good way to get started is to review estate sales and auctions in your area online. If you have any doubts, pay for an appraisal.
  • Consider selling valuables elsewhere: Some high value items that appeal to a small audience might be better off sold through an auction house or specialty website. For example, rare art or vintage jewelry. By contrast, other items shouldn’t be part of an estate sale. Those might include cheap electronics, exercise equipment, and food. Visit a few estate sales in your community to get a better idea about what does and doesn’t sell.
  • Shop by room: One nice thing about an estate sale is you can leave almost everything in place. It actually helps shoppers as they make their way through the house. Just make sure everything is easily accessible.
  • Keep high value items in sight: An exception to leaving things in place is valuable items. Set up a table for these near your checkout table, preferably away from the door. That lets you or your helpers keep an eye on them.
  • Put secure price tags on everything: Unfortunately, people may try to switch price tags around on items. Make sure every item in the sale has a price tag securely in place.
  • Discourage parents’ attendance: One final suggestion is to try to keep your parents from attending the sale. It can be difficult to watch strangers pick over a lifetime of treasures. It’s best for them to avoid being there.

I hope these tips are helpful, Lisa! Please drop me another note if there’s anything else you need.

Kind regards,


More Advice on Downsizing

Helping a senior loved one rightsize to a senior living community can be a lot of work. Read “10 Tips for Downsizing and Moving a Senior Loved One” for more advice as you begin this process!