Friday, January 16, 2009

Your Parents' Clutter (and your own)

Boomer Burden book cover

Julie Hall wants those of the boomer generation, and their parents, to be ready for the inevitable. In her book - The Boomer Burden: Dealing with Your Parents' Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff - she emphasizes making sure the parents' wishes are clearly known (through a will, and more), hiring a personal property appraiser so you know the value of what you're dealing with, keeping family relations cordial while sorting through a deceased parent's things - and decluttering. Here are a few choice quotes.
You don't need things to remember your mom or dad or another loved one. Just close your eyes and check in with your heart. It is there you will find your loved one. ... While it is important to keep one or two items that have only sentimental value, you should resist the temptation to keep your parents' memories alive by keeping all of their stuff. After all, the memories will always be there, ready to recall at any moment.

Referring to her list of collectible, vintage, and antique items that may have value: You'll notice there weren't any Cool Whip containers on that list. Or old magazines, jars of buttons, spools of thread, or canning jars. In most homes, greater than 50 percent of the things that have accumulated over the years can either be donated or go straight to the Dumpster.

Referring to the work boomers can do, so they don't cause clear-out-the-house grief for their own children: Climb into the attic and find a new home for everything you carted up there. Most of that stuff could be labeled "someday" as in "Someday I'll make a quilt out of all my kids' old flannel shirts." Well, either make someday today and get started on that quilt, or be honest with yourself and admit that quilt will never come to be. ... And don't fool yourself into thinking your grandkids will wear those clothes someday. ... Do you really think your granddaughter wants to wear her mom's clothes when she goes into the eighth grade?


Nola G said...

There is an extra burden when you are an only child with no extented family. My mother is 90 and a year ago moved in to live with me. It has taken me nearly a year to deal with all the stuff she had accumulated living all that time in the same house. I don't think she threw anything away. I'm the opposite, I enjoy 'optimising' my environment with a good chuck out on a regular basis. But I feel almost obligated to hang on to a lot of her things because there is so much history attached to them.

Jeri Dansky said...

You do indeed have a difficult situation, Nola - dealing with being your mother's caretaker as well as dealing with all her stuff.

Please make sure you're taking good care of yourself through all of this. I often direct people to Janice Wallace, The Eldercare Coach to get another perspective on the situation from a knowledgeable, caring person. I know she does telephone consulting, but I don't know of she's worked with someone as far away as Australia.