down-sizing households

Downsizing our lives

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Boomers need help dealing with their parents’ ‘stuff’ | Business & Technology | The Seattle Times.  The attached article by Sacramento Bee reporter, Claudia Buck, provides sage and practical advice for those who are downsizing a parent’s belongings when said parents move into a senior housing environment, and for those who are dispersing the parental belongings after their death.  Please read Ms. Buck’s article; it contains extremely useful information.

The following list gleaned from the article provides a few suggestions worth your consideration:

  • When you set out to eliminate stuff from a residence, don’t get rid of the memories in the process.  Once you’ve dispensed with the goods, you’ll never get them back again.  My mother died in her sleep – no one in the family expected it or prepared for it.  After the funeral event had passed and my brother and sister had returned to Washington and California, I remained to help my father with a massive downsize of his house.  There were obvious sentimental items that were boxed up for later, but for the most part, we stuffed large Hefty bags with items and placed them into two piles: donation-worthy, and garbage.  Not a bad idea, actually, but we didn’t pause long enough to properly discern what should have been kept.  With both parents now deceased, us three adult kids have far too few tactile sentimental items in our possession.
  • Creating a shadowbox of the most precious mementos.  Having read the attached article, I’ve decided to create a shadowbox of the few items remaining from my parents’ lives so I can reminisce at the sight of them.  One thing is for certain: containers full of sentimental nick nacks stacked in a closet do not honor a memory.
  • If you absolutely know that some of the nicer items will not be enjoyed by your household, give them away or donate them so others can.  Look at it this way, your and your parents’ legacies will live on in the lives of others.  Not a bad consolation if I do say so myself.
  • My family in the 70s. I no longer have the red dress I'm wearing, but I do have those earrings my mom is wearing.
    My family in the 70s. I no longer have that red dress but I do have those earrings my mom is wearing.

    If at all possible, prior to any parent’s death, document the items that are meaningful to each family member.  You’ll be glad you did.  Within three months of my mother’s death, my father moved into an independent living senior community taking with him the bare necessities of furniture and kitchen items, as well as the aforementioned sentimental items that he and I had boxed up earlier.  As he aged, he wisely decided that the next time each of us kids visited him, we would designate which items we would most like to inherit at his passing.  Dad documented our wishes, and when he died all I had to do was retrieve the list from his files and distribute that which us three kids were interested in.  Sure, conflicts can arise, but a little give and take go a long way towards preserving the value of each memory.

  • Speaking of taking steps in advance, what about you?  Do you have clothing you haven’t worn in more than a year and probably won’t wear in the years to come?  How about household items for which you have duplicates?  Is there any chance whatsoever that over the years you’ve acquired items that could be re-purposed, donated, or tossed?

I’d say with 100% confidence that you have belongings that you no longer use or need.

Donating to charity is very commendable because it’s always a good thing to provide for those who don’t have the means.

And just think of all the room you’ll gain in your closets once you’ve successfully downsized your life by adding to the lives of others.

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