At a recent conference where I was speaking, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with many young professional women. One of the topics they most wanted to talk to me about as the “Downsizing Designer” was how to talk to their parents about all of their stuff.

While they said they felt comfortable talking to their moms and dads about many things, the one conversation they avoided was what to do with all of their parents’ stuff because inevitably it caused arguments.

One said she received a gift still in the box, a gift her parents didn’t want, but they wanted her to take.

Another said her mother is saving her Spode Christmas dinner plates for her. She doesn’t want them; she doesn’t even like them.

And another young woman said she tried to tell her parents that she only wanted a few of their things and said that her parents were offended and made her feel guilty.

Bottom line: The conversation they all were reluctant to have keeps getting postponed until “someday.”

How to Communicate with Your Parents with Ease

This is a difficult conversation for many adult children… They want to know how to talk to their mom and dad about this touchy subject because frankly, they just don’t want their stuff.

As the “Downsizing Designer,” and as a baby boomer myself, I appreciate these open and honest conversations. These real concerns have the potential to cause hurt feelings at best, and family rifts/divides at worst.

While each family dynamic is uniquely different, if handled compassionately, it is possible to have a caring conversation that will open the door to more productive conversations on the subject and hopefully, successful outcomes.

My Top 5 Tips to Get the Conversation Started with Your Parents About Their Stuff

1.   Ask questions about their things

When you are at their home, ask questions about some of their things that you know matter to them.

Ask why some important to them and have them tell the story behind the piece. This will not only shed light on why it’s important to them, but it may also offer some family history.

If they ask you, if you would like it it’s OK to gently decline. You might, however, express interest in another piece that you truly do want 

2.   Ease into multiple brief conversations to open the door to them being comfortable with talking about it

  • Tell them you know they’re trying to declutter and downsize and that you just want them to know you’re here if they would like you to help
  • Ask them if there’s any particular job that would make it easier for them. Downsizing in decluttering is a very physical task. They may welcome your muscles.
  • Talk about the benefits of decluttering and downsizing, How much easier their life with it will be with less stuff. How much safer it will be if they aren’t ascending and descending stairs.
  • Ask if they have friends who have decluttered and downsized. What was their experience? How did they do it? How did they like it? Living with less less?

3.   Listen intently

Give them your undivided attention. Listen to their concerns. Talk about their feelings.

  • They might be worried they don’t have enough money.
  • They might be overwhelmed by the size of the Downsizing task ahead of them.
  • They might be afraid of aging and falling.
  • They might be guilty because they have so much.

4.   Let them control the conversation

Just ask questions. Be sincerely curious. Let them know you understand their concerns, that you love them, care about them, and their health, safety, and happiness. Also, let them know that this is their decision, and just like they’ve supported you, you are now there to support them.

5.   Don’t put it off!

Whatever you do have many conversations as soon as possible over a period of time. Start now. Don’t put it off.


6.   Manage your expectations

This may not happen immediately. Ease into the conversations, make them brief, ask questions, be patient.

A word of caution: if it does start to escalate into an argument, ask them if you can talk about it at another time.

Most importantly, don’t use threats or ultimatums. You wouldn’t like that nor will they. Be kind, compassionate, loving … and most of all patient!

Never miss an episode! Click the following link to like Rita’s Facebook page or subscribe to her Decluttering YouTube Channel. Check out our YouTube playlists if you want to learn more.

Sign up for Rita’s FREE Newsletter HERE!

Follow me on social media for more updates:


Rita Wilkins Offers Lifestyle Design And Interior Design Services  

Do you want to learn more about downsizing and decluttering? You can also connect with me by following me on Facebook and LinkedIn. Would you like complimentary advice from the downsizing designer? My book Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle: Secrets to More Time, Money, and Freedom is now available in paperbackaudio, and on Kindle! Get your copy soon.