Post #1 Dealing with a loved one’s stuff (after their passing)

It is VERY important to wait a while before you start this process. Allow yourself time to grieve. There is no time limit and no rush.

This one comes from personal experience. We lost my dad in 2000, and mom in 2018. It’s been up to me to clear out her house. She was extremely organized. Even after she had a stroke. She was also the queen of RE-USE. Everything she owned had a purpose or a place. She was an avid decorator and antique collector. Her (their) house is gorgeous! But there was a LOT of STUFF. In the process of decluttering, I found that my mom had kept nearly all my dad’s stuff. In trunks, stashed in dressers and nightstands, everywhere. In going through it all, I was not only mourning the loss of mom, but of dad too, again. She saved all the greeting cards throughout her lifetime. Letters, books, family heirlooms from her parents, dad’s parents, my brother’s and mine. She had a love of wildlife and architectural art. While their house afforded very few blank walls, as they are all windows, much of the artwork was carefully wrapped and stored under her bed, well over 30 pieces. Mom had expensive taste, so most of her stuff had some value...to the right buyer. We all invested in antiques over the years, hoping that they would increase in value, however, that has not necessarily been the case.

But I digress. I started with her clothes, she was petite and no one else in the family is, so Goodwill got a huge donation of quality clothing and coats (she had at least 20 coats, with matching hats, gloves and scarves). I also found myself donating my dad’s clothing, it was clean but pretty outdated, considering.

Next I started separating really cool antiques (items you don’t see all the time) from the usual antiques (dime a dozen). We had a big sale, priced everything to sell and got rid of A LOT. We now have vacant corners and empty dressers and tables. It’s so easy to dust and Swiffer now!

Clothing: Let family members choose pieces they want, donate the rest. Places to donate:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Career Gear
  • Dress for Success
  • Local Women’s Shelters
  • Society of St. Vincent de Paul
  • The Red Cross
  • The Salvation Army
  • Vietnam Veterans of America
  • Goodwill

BOOKS! And more BOOKS! Both of my parents were avid readers. I swear they never discarded a single book. The library takes book donations as well as most thrift stores. I’m on several Facebook organizing groups and the question about what to do with all the books comes up often. If you don’t know what to do with your books (keep or purge), ask yourself these questions, and answer honestly.

  1. Will I ever read this again?
  2. Can I get this book at the library?
  3. Can I get this book on my E-Reader (Kindle, Nook)?
  4. Does this book have sentimental value? If so, why?
  5. Is there something else I would rather do with the space than store this book?
  6. True or False, I enjoy dusting off this book every so often.

Cards and Mementos: Throw them in the recycling bin. These items meant something to your loved one, they are not your memories or souvenirs. You know your dad loved your mom (hopefully this is the case!), you don’t need to save every anniversary or birthday card he gave her to remind you of that.

Serving Ware: Mom wasn’t much of a cook, yet she had every possible serving utensil you could possibly want for a wedding party of 500. Gravy boats, salad bowls, platters, bottles and dishes to accommodate anything. These items I gave careful thought to. I dug deep, “will I EVER use this?” I had to throw out my romantic notions of giant family gatherings (with more than the usual 8 of us), and once I did that it became easier to give the stuff away. In doing so, I created a huge amount of space in the pantry for more important items (like bulk toilet paper).

Cassette and VHS Tapes: Toss, even the thrift stores don’t want these anymore. Unless you have a collection of vintage Disney movies in their original cases, you might want to try and sell those. Note: It will take the right person to buy them. Search eBay for VHS tapes, filter by sold items only, to see if you might have something worth selling.

Collections like stamps or coins: If they are extensive, have them appraised. Again, you have to find the right buyer for items like this. If they appraise for a good amount, place an ad on your local Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor.com, eBay, or check with a local dealer.

Furniture: If you or a family member or friend has a need for the furniture or love a certain piece, then by all means, keep it. DON’T keep it for sentimental reasons (like, “dad always napped in that chair”, or “mom’s butt has been on that couch”). If nobody needs it and it’s in good shape, donate it. Many charities don’t accept furniture, but many do. Some provide pick up as well. Ideas:

Guns: If you want to get rid of the guns, take them to a legitimate gun dealer and have them appraised. You may be able to sell them to the dealer, or to friends or family. There’s no shortage of gun enthusiasts out there. Check out this website before you attempt to sell any firearms: https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/state-gun-laws/

PHOTOS! It’s inevitable, there WILL BE photos...and lots of them. Keep them. Put them all in a clear storage bin, stack them nicely so it won’t scare you in the future to go through them.

When it comes time to go through them, automatically toss the duplicates (unless you think someone else in your family would want them), toss random scenery, sunrise, sunset, moon pictures.... unless of course you’ve NEVER seen anything like it before.

Sewing notions and fabric: Unless you are an avid seamstress, no need to keep these items. You might get a few bucks on eBay, but it typically ends up being more work than it’s worth.

Tax returns: Keep the last 6 years. Believe it or not, the IRS can audit the dead. Each year you can shred the oldest year.

Vases (why do we all have so many vases??) and other glassware: Donate or toss depending on their condition and uniqueness. Unless of course, you have a fondness for a certain piece. Don’t keep things and clutter up your space, just because they belonged to your loved one, I’m sure they wouldn’t want you to do that.

Corks:

My parents kept corks from champagne bottles. They dated them and wrote the important event or person's name on them. I was at some of the events and the corks meant something to me as well. But, I have my own cork collection. Oops. So I started giving the corks to the people who were named on them. I only have a few left. Personally, these are some of the hardest things for me to get rid of. The celebrations of good times. However, I know that tossing them in the trash, will not erase those times, and I will get around to it. This is my personal struggle. :-)

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