sharing your home with your older parents

Sharing a Home with Your Older Parents

In many societies, multi-generational living is the norm.  While Americans are less likely to combine their living arrangements with their aging parents and/or adult children, the challenges created by the pandemic and the needs of aging baby boomers has created more of these scenarios. 

Merging Households

In the world of downsizing and senior housing, we see a variety of solutions that allow for multi-generational living on the same property.  Common solutions include:

Family members may combine resources to buy a home and an income-type property to house multiple generations, like a duplex or multi-family unit.

Accessory dwellings can be designed specifically their situation.  These are known as granny pods, elder cottages or MEDCottages, and can be a great solution if local zoning allows for them.

Homeowners will add features to their existing homes, such as a garage conversion or the addition of a kitchenette or a separate entrance,


Pro Tips for Sharing Space

Many families find a way to create separate zones in their home to facilitate privacy and personal space, while maintaining common areas for combined use.

Arlington VA-based Certified Professional Organizer  Heather Cocozza advises her clients to repurpose under-used square footage, and look for creative uses of shared spaces.

Ideally, a long-term multi-generational living situation will ensure that each generation has their own completely separate space, i.e., a full bathroom and kitchen.” even though separate spaces may not be required all of the time. “This is not something that is necessary every minute of every day – for example, planning and cooking large family meals in the larger kitchen is a lot of fun!” 

Tips for Making a Shared Kitchen Work for Multiple Generations

In multi-generational living arrangements, the kitchen frequently becomes the workhorse of the home.  If you are sharing a home with your older parents, having enough storage in the kitchen is often the biggest challenge.

Cocozza recommends:

If the kitchen is a shared space, consider communal areas where dishes, pots, food, and daily maintenance responsibilities are shared. It is important to have the right organizing systems in place.

Combining two kitchens into one requires downsizing your dish collections, crock pots, and utensils. Decide how many dishes you will need and decide which set makes sense.

Label shelves, bins and cabinets to clearly define the homes of items.

Use an open-storage shelf with baskets to create an organized pantry that will hold lunch boxes, Tupperware, blenders, etc. 

if you do not end up putting a full kitchen in the in-law suite, consider having a sink, dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven and hot plate.

Other Tips

Remember to knock when entering the other generation’s home. Sometimes this seems silly and formal, but it is a sign of respect and courtesy.  Always err on the side of being cautious and courteous when you can because you never know what is going on behind closed doors.

Don’t assume everyone wants to be together all the time— just ask! Asking ahead of time and doing a little bit of checking and planning can go a long way.

When possible, preserve ample storage space for larger kitchen items, out of season clothes and linens, and bulky items like suitcases.  If one of the homes is smaller than the other, do your best to share storage areas like closets and attics so that everyone’s belongings have a home.

Declutter and purge regularly.  With more people under one roof than just one family, things can accumulate quite quickly.  Keep on top of items like mail, newspapers, and clothing, remembering to regularly donate, recycle, trash, or sell your items

Heather Cocozza is an Organizing & Productivity Consultant with 
Cocozza Organizing + Design, LLC in Arlington, VA. She can be reached at or 703-253-9447.

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