What I love about my work is that no two days, or families, are alike. I recently worked with a child of an elderly parent who is “ready to get the ball moving and clear out the house now.” Not time to go through it much — just get it empty and ready to be sold. Why? Because he has a financial interest in the property and he openly admitted it.
On the flip side, I know of other children of the elderly who are painstakingly going through the estate to uncover (and even cherish) every piece of paper mom ever touched. I have seen people hug toasters claiming a special “memory” and even packing up her old coupons to keep, though they expired in 1971.
Somewhere there has to be a happy medium.
I have seen children claim they’re not taking much from mom and dad’s estate because their own houses are so full there is no more room and “my husband will kill me if I take any more stuff.” Then, when I go back into the estate to do my work, it has been so picked over, there is nothing left but donation items.
I have my own theories about why people have difficulty letting go, particularly the Depression era and older boomer children. But what they don’t realize is these items will one day become a monkey on the backs of their children. It’s time to give this serious thought.
The younger kids don’t want the majority of it; what their parents have done is pass the buck to another generation who doesn’t have the same appreciation for these items as their parents do. As a result, these items will find their way to the dump, Goodwill, yard sales, etc. And the child will be resentful that they have to take the time to deal with the stuff, because their parents never did. That is not the kind of legacy I choose to leave.
Best as I can figure out, they believe that by leaving more stuff, they are leaving a valuable inheritance in their eyes. No one can discount the value of sentiment, including me. But why are they taking a table saw when they’ve never used one? It will only take up a huge amount of space and become problematic in the future, sitting there with an inch or two of dust on it. By the time someone goes to sell it, it will be considered antiquated and obsolete. It’s only purpose at that point, will be as an anchor.
Keeping that in mind, I also find military medals thrown in the trash where they keep company with the family photos that have been tossed. If it doesn’t make sense to you, then you’re in excellent company. You just never know what you’re going to get. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
© 2012 Julie Hall