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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    At work...people on welfare are depending on me!
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    1,697

    When both your parents are gone

    My mom passed away a week ago after a 10-month battle with acute myloid leukemia. My dad passed away of a heart attack six years ago, so that's it for parents for me. This isn't a sympathy thread, so don't bother. I'm fine.

    The thing I'm pretty overwhelmed with is the amount of stuff that has accumulated over the years. When my dad passed away, my mom sold the old house to move into a condo, but she didn't get rid of anything. She just moved all of it. There are clothes still in moving boxes. Clothes with the tags still on them. Lots of shoes and tablecloths and purses and there's almost 40 years worth of stuff in her basement. Where the hell do you even start? I feel like I'm in an episode of Hoarders. I mean, my sister and I are close to just loading it up and dumping it at all at Salvation Army. Estate sale? None of us have time for that shit. Is it even worth it?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    On an island
    Posts
    15,820
    First of all, I am sorry for your loss. I can't imagine what you are going through.

    Anyways, is there a time line that you have to move stuff? Can you say, do one section of the basement for a few hours each week?

    Do you have any other family or friends that could help?

    Is hiring a professional organizer to just go through everything an option?
    Someone else's success is not your failure.

    Don't assume my posts are about you. But if you're affected that must mean you're guilty of something.


    If the grass looks greener on the other side, it's probably because it's fertilized with bull shit.

    Take a deep breath. It's just a bad day. Not a bad life.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    The Oregon Trail
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    42,343
    I understand that you don't want sympathy, but I'll offer my condolences anyway.

    My experience with this sort of situation isn't something that happened to me, but to my dad and my family once both of my dad's parents were gone. My grandfather had been gone for about three decades when my grandmother passed away, but my grandmother had been holding down the fort at the family home, a gigantic old Victorian that had about four generations' worth of stuff accumulated. A fourteen-room house that, while it never LOOKED like hoarders had inhabited it (my grandma kept everything immaculate and tidy), was chock full of stuff. I'm talking things from very valuable heirloom antiques to boxes of letters my great grandfather had written my great-grandmother, to my aunt's collection of handbags from about 1970 onward. Everyone in the family stored things at my grandma's, because she lived alone in a 14-room home and had lots of storage. People hardly ever reclaimed their stuff, and a lot of it was from past generations, too.

    My grandma had Alzheimer's for the last decade of her life, too, so there was limited time to talk about her wishes for what would become of all the stuff. In the end, it came down to my family being responsible for all of it. My dad has two sisters, but they took no part in anything regarding my grandma's end-of-life stuff. We ended up having a MASSIVE estate sale when my grandma was finally in hospice, and when she passed away, and it came time to put the family home on the market, it was my mom, dad, siblings and I who cleared out everything that either didn't sell or wasn't the type of stuff you do sell, and decided what to pitch, and what to disburse among anyone who was interested in the family. The entire process was a multi-year project, given the magnitude and the fact that it was being done by five people around their full-time jobs. Four generations' accumulation isn't easily sorted through.

    The whole undertaking was enormous, stressful, and emotionally taxing. Especially the estate sale. Even if you don't want it/don't have room for it/whatever, I found it to be emotionally difficult to see stuff representative of about four generations of my family laid out on auction-house tables, and seeing strangers pawing through it and tossing stuff aside, and auctioneers holding it up and people bidding on it. Tough and surreal. An estate sale is really only a viable option of there are actually things that are worth much. My grandma had some stuff that a lot of collectors were interested in, which is funny given that it sat gathering dust for entire generations. If you don't have anything that's worth anything emotionally to you, or monetarily to strangers, it's probably best to look into donating whatever makes sense, and trashing whatever doesn't make sense to donate or keep.

    What you do depends on what's important to you, and what you have the time and resources to deal with. You can have an estate sale. You can rent a construction dumpster and trash everything you come across that you don't tote off to the Salvation Army. It's really your call. Whether it's worth it to sort through stuff depends on whether it's worth it to YOU, specifically (and to your sister).
    "Even when I've f*&%ed up, I've spun it into a learning experience that's brought me to bigger and better things."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    1,336
    First and foremost, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry for your loss. (Like wordsmith, I understand you don't want sympathy, but my condolences as well).

    On the "stuff" issue, I can relate because my mom and sister are both hoarders. My sister moreso, she even hoard things that aren't even useful (like price tags from clothes she purchased). Don't ask me why, I just don't get it. I, on the other hand, am an organizer (but not to the point of being a neat freak).

    What I find useful when things gets be a lot is to budget at least one full weekend to sort out the stuff. Have 3 large boxes ready. 1)Valuables/keepsake 2) Stuff that could be worth something that you can sell or donate 3) things to be trashed.

    One weekend probably isn't going to get it done, but at least it'll get you started. Who knows, you may find something that is sentimentally valuable that you wouldn't want to accidentally throw away.

  5. #5
    I'm glad you're doing OK...but remember it's also OK to now and then not be OK...

    How about having a college kid or two put stuff on eBay and keep a percentage as their fee? (After you pick out anything you want to keep, of course, and don't ignore the furniture even if you already have furniture because you can get rid of your stuff just as easily as theirs and keep whichever's nicer.)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    At work...people on welfare are depending on me!
    Posts
    1,697
    So a little bit of thread necromancy here, but we finally closed on my mom's house last Friday. I am just so relieved. My sister, her husband, and I had to go through stuff every weekend for about three months to get all of the stuff cleared out. Some things I have learned:

    1. I wish we had rented a dumpster and were less judicious about going through stuff, but we went through every single box in bitter detail because my sister was so terrified of throwing something important away. She found a box with towels or something on top with old Kodachrome slides at the bottom, so that was enough for her to declare that we had to go through everything. It was an absolutely miserable experience and I reached the "I don't care anymore" point after the second weekend. So many "oh hey, another box of cookbooks!" moments that I lost track.

    We did end up donating a large amount of it instead of pitching it entirely, so I guess somebody somewhere is using it instead of it going in a landfill.

    2. If you have kids, get a babysitter and keep them at home. Do not bring them there and expect them to sit quietly with minimal toys and no TV. Every week, I tried to guess when my 4-year-old niece would first say she was hungry (i.e., bored; they always fed her right before getting there so she was not actually hungry), and it usually was never later than 30 mins after being there. This meant we could never be there for more than 90 mins before the "I'm hungry"s just got to be too much. Driving to my mom's took 70 mins round trip. So I spent almost as much time driving as I did going through stuff. This only served to make me hate the process even more.

    3. Luckily, my cousin is a CPA and they have an industrial shredding service, so we were able to just dump all the shred stuff there. I honestly don't know what I'd do without that because our community shred day was way long ago in the summer. My dad had printed out his 401k balance every month for like 20 years, every tax form, every mutual fund prospectus; there were two four-drawer file cabinets filled with financial documents. Hopefully this is less of a concern in the future with everything being online, but my god, why would you keep that stuff for 20 years.

    I wish you could talk to a parent and tell them to go through stuff and clean things up so you don't have to, but I don't think you can. We'll have another one of these hoard-fests when my cousin's mom passes away. Her basement is worse than my mom's, and every attempt to get her to go through things is like talking to a brick wall. My cousin's husband went over there and started chucking things, and my cousin's mom ended up having an anxiety attack about it and was laid up in bed for a couple days. I don't understand the psychology involved, honestly.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Not Baltimore, contrary to popular belief
    Posts
    11,774
    Quote Originally Posted by Bocheezu View Post
    My dad had printed out his 401k balance every month for like 20 years, every tax form, every mutual fund prospectus; there were two four-drawer file cabinets filled with financial documents. Hopefully this is less of a concern in the future with everything being online, but my god, why would you keep that stuff for 20 years.
    My father has a metal lockbox that he's kept financial records and spare cash in for longer than I've been alive for sure, and I'm 31. Every time he opens that box, it's more full of envelopes than before. I dread the day my brother and I have to go through that.

    My mother has quietly muttered for years about stealing that box when my dad dies (but I'm increasingly sure she'll die first). If she does, I'll have to call the police; she has no right to anything in that box. That would be a wonderful headline in the newspaper: "PenforPrez calls cops on mother."

    Paul
    I've always been different, with one foot over the line
    Winding up somewhere one step ahead or behind
    It ain't been so easy, but I guess I shouldn't complain
    I've always been crazy, but it's kept me from going insane

    I've always been crazy, but it's kept me from going insane
    Nobody knows if it's something to bless or to blame
    So far, I ain't found a rhyme or a reason to change
    I've always been crazy, but it's kept me from going insane

    I've Always Been Crazy, Waylon Jennings (1978)

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