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Andrea Gardner Apatow

What a heartfelt collection of life and death experiences shared here. It can be overwhelming, sad and at times impossible to sort through the save, sell and give away bits of our loved one’s life of “stuff.” My mother died in 2011 and my dad just two years ago. My parents build our house in 1954. And the collections collected. And the memories of how the stuff came into their life circle my guilty brain.
My mother bought an antique grandfather’s clock in the ‘70s when I was in college. My father said that if she could buy it while he circled the block, she could get it. It now sits in my entry… and doesn’t work. And my mom would buy antiques in Paris and London, and they would sit on her lap on the airplane. I have a collection of Staffordshire cottages… I may be the only person my age with this odd collection.
I once told my dad that when he dies, I would lock the door and caulk the windows. After a few moths of disbelief of what I had to deal with, I started the process. The house sold and I just can’t drive by to see it. It might be a leveled lot or on hold with the building department with plans to mansionize it. 😢😢😢

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Clearly this topic touches a lot of people in a big way. Hoping not to repeat what has already been shared, the following have worked well in our family:

*My mom was the best at simplifying her life. She sold our family home when I was in college and rented the rest of her life. When my stepdad retired, they bought an RV, minimized their belongings and put them in a storage locker, then hit the road for several years while they could still travel. Our house was their "home base" but it was not their storage space. By the time they were ready to quit traveling, the minimalist lifestyle carried over into their small, one-bedroom apartment, then ultimately into the 650 sq. ft. in-law suite in our home. What she still had of value was financial investments which took up absolutely no space, had little emotional value, and were easy to share evenly. Her will, which she presented carefully and intentionally to both my sister and me, was explicit and fair - no hassles and no hard decisions to be made. A couple pieces of furniture, including a piano our grandmother had purchased when we were kids, were easily distributed based on our relative abilities to house and use them.

*For persons facing mounds of documents and pictures, consider the value of those items in a larger context than the immediate family. Were the parents active in their community or career fields? Is there an interesting or significant family history (genealogy materials)? Because of his family's history in the newspaper field in our state, my husband sent many of his parents' and his papers and photos to the state library and archives, including research of the family's genealogy he had already completed.

*Periodically, try to look at your house as an outsider. Our daughter comments about all the "stuff" we have that presumable she and her brother will someday have to manage. Her observation is ironic considering the phase of accumulating "stuff" her family is in. But it did help me reevaluate items that have a place in our house, are not used and may not even have sentimental value, and which we don't actually "see" most of the time. That became really apparent when I had to move many of those items to make room for said daughter and her family to move into our house for almost a year while going through selling and buying a new home in a bad market. A year plus later, her family has moved out but many of those "stuff" things are still in our attic; we haven/t needed them and don't miss seeing them! Time to act on that reality!

It's amazing there are not adult-education classes about how to navigate this common phenomenon of life.

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Kathleen Marineau

Too many people with an "It makes me sad/depressed to think about when ..." Or "I don't want to deal with it" attitude.

Hubby would rather have less space in the garage for his car than touch the dozen or so boxes of his old stuff. The coat closet has 12 of his coats and jackets. I think there's 2 that fit. He bought a new daily jacket in the fall because his old one wouldn't zip anymore. But I'm not allowed to do anything with the old one - "I've had that since...."

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