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Cleaning Out a House Full of Memories

With the huge influx of baby boomers now moving towards retirement age, many of us will eventually have to deal with our parents’ estate. Handling the details of an estate is not just about carrying out the directives of the will and distributing financial assets – you may also have to pack up and clean out a house full of memories.

Determining the disposition of a household can be a trying time, not to mention a lot of hands-on work. You may want to consider some simple ways to make the job as smooth as possible.

“Joan” remembers having a hard time with all the packing and organizing of her mom’s home. Every time she came across a photo album, the clean up would come to a halt. Joan realized that all the lingering and looking at photos prolonged the whole process for her and made the experience more painful. While perusing and contemplating past memories through old photos and letters can help the healing process, save this reflection for another time. It’s OK to detach yourself when you are going through your parents’ possessions.

It’s also not a time to be indecisive. “Rob” says that when he cleaned out his parents’ attic, it seemed like his wife was being unsympathetic, throwing everything in the garbage that wasn’t in pristine condition. But he later realized that somebody had to make these decisions – and quickly. If you have myriad household items, you may want to consider hiring an estate liquidator or giving the items to charity.

“Carol” enlisted the help of her kids and her two grandchildren when her aunt passed away. While you may think you can go it alone, just consider the voluminous piles of paperwork and other items just in a person’s desk drawer. Multiply this by the dozens of drawers most people have even in a small apartment, and you’ve got a lot of work. Just having someone there with you while you pack and organize can make all the difference in the world.

Lastly, though some of the possessions may hold fond memories, it’s important to remember that they are just material things. Your loved one was more than just possessions. Don’t feel guilty if you have to give some things away to charity or dispose of them. It’s one of life’s realities that is painful and tragic, yet something that needs to be done nonetheless.


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