Here's one of those grown-up topics that aren't lots of fun to think about, (like long term care) but is something we should start to prepare for as we age… what are our kids going to do if all of our stuff if we don't thin it out for them?
I've been there before – having to clean out my parents' home after they've died, and hating to let go of even one thing that still smelled like them. I still have both of their bathrobes, and my mother's 25th anniversary dress, and so on. It's so hard to let it all go, but you must in order to somehow get through it.
This article by a Portland Organizer, Heather Hawkins, is a wonderful reminder of how we really owe our kids the favor of starting this process now so they don't have to throw our stuff away while greiving …. and there are so many good recycling opportunities now that there's no excuse not to thin things out so your kids won't have to do it later.
If you'd like information on where to donate your items, please let me know. I have lists of wonderful recycling opportunities so that others can enjoy your overflow. And won't your family love you for it?
Sorry, there is no gentle headline for this kind of post. I tried: Do your children a favor and get rid of most of your stuff before you die and don’t burden them with the painful, guilt-inducing job of sorting through their childhood and feeling obligated to keep everything that reminds them of you, which is basically everything you own, but I feared it would blow up the Internet so I pared it down.
This sweet, touching essay by Jeremy Clarkson, a British broadcaster, completely sums it up. After his beloved mother died of cancer, he was overwhelmed to discover that she’d gotten rid of almost all of her stuff before she died to spare him from having to do it himself.
There is no single thing in the house of anyone’s mother that isn’t infused with a gut-wrenching air of sentimentality. It’s not just her jewelry or her clothes. It’s the little things as well. Her kitchen scissors, her bathroom scales, her flannel. Every single thing in each and every drawer is as impossible to discard as a first teddy bear…I’d need at least two months to go through it all. And I’d need about 4,000 boxes of Kleenex.
It was the greatest gift she could have left him.
I don’t know how long she had worked on her downsizing and the clear-out and the organisation of her things, but it’s something we should all try to do when we know the Grim Reaper is heading our way. Because not only does it spare our loved ones from the hassle of going through every single thing we’ve ever owned but it also spares them from the grief of deciding that the horse brasses and the Llardro figurines really do have to go to the tip.
(Tip = dump, by the way. I’m a big advocate of reuse, and there are plenty of donation centers and consignment shops happy to take household goods off your hands.)
I’ve helped people clear out their parent’s homes after they’ve passed, and it’s a big job. Most professional organizers offer this service, but we also help seniors get rid of clutter and extraneous possessions beforehand. We figure out, with input from their children, what will be passed down and what should go now. Photos get sorted and labeled. Furnishings and artwork that will be used by the heirs are listed out and saved with the will. Valuable items can be sold ahead of time. Other items can be donated. We work to clean out the basements and garages and drawers filled with opened seed packets and old receipts and clothing that hasn’t been worn in 30 years but is often the hardest for children to get rid of.
It’s not an easy subject to discuss or ponder, but it’s one that’s worth considering now rather than later. For another touching, funny insight on aging parents and the burden of clearing out a deceased parent’s home, I highly recommend New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s memoir Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
Heather Hawkins of Homeflow Professional Organizing helps Portland-area residents declutter, organize, downsize and stage their homes for sale. Contact her at 503-313-7164 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.homeflow.org for more information.
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