by Susan McCarthy
Which would you rather have, a dozen items that you display and view on a regular basis or dozens of boxes in your basement that are filled with “special” things that you never look at? Try the exercise below that will help you uncover the memorable things in your parent's home.
When I talk about what to do with the things you inherit from your parents, I often emphasize letting go of items. However, that doesn’t mean that I believe you should get rid of everything simply for the sake of not adding things to your home.
I am a firm believer in being intentional about what you keep. Keeping the things that you truly love and that are the best representations of your parent, your memories of them, your relationship with them. Of course, you can also keep things just because you like them, even if you aren’t certain of your parent’s connection to the object.
I belong to several decluttering groups on Facebook, and I often see people post questions about where to start emptying a parent’s home. Some individuals describe their distress at wanting to keep their mother or father’s home as it was at the time of their parent’s death so to save themselves from the task of deciding what they want to keep.
Others don’t make the decision and pack up everything and move it into storage – either squeezing it into their own home or packing a rented storage space while incurring an extra bill every month.
And then there are those who got rid of the furniture and dishes and knickknacks but who feel bad about the number of items they have kept…even though they treasure what they’ve kept.
So, here’s the situation if you love the items that you have then keep them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s five items or a hundred and five. In fact, don’t keep them. Telling yourself that you can keep five or ten items (or some other number) is totally arbitrary and has nothing to do with the sentiment of these items.
Now if your mother collected teapots and had a collection of over thirty teapots, you could decide that you’ll keep ten percent of her collection and take photos of the teapots that you give away. If many people in the family have memories of your mother and her teapots, then others may appreciate having one item from the collection. Or not.
Deciding to keep the entire collection could feel like a burden. In fact, where you can find the space to display three teapots, with thirty they may all remain packed in boxes. And this creates a different kind of stress because now you feel disrespectful for not displaying things that you said were important to you.
Hi, I'm Susan
Emptying my parents' overpacked 800-square-foot house left me popping handfuls of peanut M&Ms and doing a WHOLE lot of comfort-crocheting. The experience of sorting through mom and dad's stuff also encouraged me to become a professional organizer...so now I can offer techniques that work much better than chocolate.