Updated: Mar 16
Moving a parent to a nursing home or assisted living plus dealing with their lifetime of belongings can be overwhelming.
Consider having an estate sale.
Your parent(s) have now transitioned to their new home. You are now faced with the daunting task of dealing with a house full of decades of accumulation. It’s a series of chores that can be emotionally, physically, and financially overwhelming. Figuring out what to do with everything can seem impossible. Below are some tips to ease the burden.
First of all, it is unrealistic to keep every item in the house in honor of your parent. There are probably a few items that hold special meaning, but the reality is likely a house full of souvenirs from trips you didn't take and mementos of a life you didn't live. It is natural that you have less attachment to those things. You can't keep everything and you should not feel guilty about that reality. So, the first step is to go easy on yourself.
Go through the house thoroughly and gather the obvious items you treasure. Look for things like old handwritten letters, family recipes and old photos. Take those home to be stored in a safe place and enjoyed at a later time.
Gather important documents you may need later:
____ Marriage certificates ____ Life insurance policies
____ Birth & death certificates ____ Auto insurance policies
____ Adoption certificates ____ Mortgage documents
____ Citizenship certificates ____ Credit card statements (current)
____ Veteran’s papers ____ Recent tax returns
____ Health records ____ Stock certificates
____ Current passports / Drivers' Licenses ____ Current legal contracts
____ Vehicle titles / Registrations ____ Property deeds
____ Will and trusts
____ Powers of Attorney (medical - financial - general)
Before deciding to keep items, consider where they will live in your home and whether or not you have the space for them. If you cherish items but have no space for them consider taking pictures of them.
You may find that family and friends are not interested in most of the possessions. Maybe they want one or two items and those items aren't what you expected them to choose at all! Why doesn't anyone want mom's gorgeous dining room set? Well, the reason they don't want it is probably the same reason you don't want it. They already have one or it's not their style or they move around often and it's too big.
Keep in mind that times have changed dramatically. Your parents grew up in a time that valued basically everything. They didn't throw anything away and, therefore, some of the items you will come across will be obsolete or outdated. Items people collect and love have also changed considerably. Sadly, some collections that were once beloved and profitable just aren't anymore. When faced with the option of keeping or selling a collection your father may have been building for decades, realize that he did, in fact, enjoy it and now it may be time to pass it on for someone else to enjoy.
Still feeling guilty or uneasy? Perhaps these statements from people who have been in your position will help to ease your mind.
"I was confusing loving my parents with loving all the stuff they left behind."
"If it doesn't bring you joy, let it go. We should never have to feel guilty for ridding ourselves of clutter or things that take up precious space. If your family members don't like you getting rid of it, they can either take it or deal with it."
"In that regard, the only way to separate junk from good is to look at what my heart responds to. What holds happy memories for me? The rest can go out and find someone new to love it."
"I realized my retention efforts were futile: I could hold on to her memories without her stuff, just as she had always remembered me, my childhood, and all our memories without ever accessing those sealed boxes under her bed. She didn’t need papers from 25 years ago to remember me, just as I didn’t need a storage locker filled with her stuff to remember her."
Hiring an estate sale company can help you to dispose of unwanted items in an efficient and timely manner. Once you have decided what to keep, the estate sale company does the rest.