I know I've talked about this before, but this time, it was SERIOUS crunch time and we had to get the rest of the items out. I figured although I'm 25, I have helped my parents in numerous ways deal with my grandmother and all of her belongings. For my readers who are dealing with aging parents, I figure maybe some advice could help you with their homes; in addition, what you can do NOW to prevent your children from dealing with your stuff.
My grandpa passed away almost 2 years ago to the day, July 7, 2006, the day before my grandma's 88th birthday. What have I learned from this experience?
- Older generations have a difficult time getting rid of things, they really need to be reasoned with about what is important, and what is not. A napkin collection (I'm talking paper, from fast food restaurants, not linen)? NOT. A silver tea set that was a wedding gift. YES. My grandma's generation who survived the great depression thinks they need to stock pile things; don't get angry or upset, talk to them in a logical tone and help them realize that used tinfoil isn't important and buying a roll isn't expensive. Chuck the old stuff and if they need new, they can easily access it.
- Even though my grandma has three, yes, THREE homes full of stuff, she still feels like she needs it all. You have to be firm about paring down what goes and what stays. My parents and uncle, God bless them, have allowed her to keep so much (really, Tupperware from 40 years ago? When she doesn't cook?) that they have garages and homes over flowing. Ridiculous and pretty silly.
- Take one day for your loved one to go through the house and pick their favorite things; then take them somewhere else (outside the house) so that they can relax and every able body is ready to go to work. (I wish we had done this!) Put those things in a pile so you know for sure those are getting packed up to go home. It's HARD to get things done when she's asking questions every 2 minutes and wondering what is going on and if we're bringing that chair, etc. When packing up a house, it's business time and getting distracted when you're trying to work is just mentally exhausting.
- Call a used furniture store and see if they buy estates. Instead of hauling things through 3 states, pick your favorite things, family heirlooms, quality furniture that can be used and sell the rest. This way the buyer is responsible for hauling everything else away; dishes, furniture, housewares, etc. No boxing it up and bringing it home and then dealing with it later. No, you probably won't get as much as you hoped, but do you want to deal with a yard sale of items? It's not just the yard sale, it's renting a trailer, boxing everything up, loading it(which is exhausting in itself), taking it home, unloading it, going through it (again...), taking the time to set up a yard sale, etc. If the items aren't that precious and were used as a winter home, they're most likely just spare goods. Check out the yellow pages for used furniture places. Trust me, I wish my parents would have done that!
- Be understanding. My grandmother was SO emotional about everything. It's frustrating on the kids (and grand kids) to see her make a huge deal out of a few mugs and 20 year old spices, but those are her things. Again, talk to them about how their goods can be used and appreciated by someone else. She loved them and appreciated them at the time but now that time has passed, she needs to move on.
I hope these tips have helped. Like I said, this is a HARD time to deal with everything and she is so old she just sat around and couldn't do much of anything; this really frustrated her because she didn't understand what was going on. If you're getting on in age, start going through your things and picking what is really the most important to you. Please don't put on your children what my grandparents have put on our small family. It is hard. It is physically and mentally exhausting. And VERY time-consuming. Make it easy on your family and cut back on some of the things that may not be that important to you; you can't take it with you!