Q: My mother died a few months ago and I am completely overwhelmed with the accumulated mess she left behind. Though I tried to offer help on many occasions through the years, she would hear no part of clearing out her stuff. I spend most of my days in tears, resentful that she left me this mess, squeezed between my family, my job, and her affairs. Do you have any advice for me to handle this daunting task? Can you at least tell others not to do this to their children?
A: You have touched upon one of the most important aspects of my work and of my public speaking. In my work, I deal with children every day who are flying in and out of town, trying to handle parents’ estates. The “Sandwich Generation” is caught between caring for our parents and our children, with not enough of us to go around, especially when geographically remote from either parents or children.
When I speak, I talk openly about accumulation, what to do about it, how to begin thinning out your stuff, or get rid of it altogether. Evaluation is the first step in any estate settlement process. Children are often in a crisis mode and don’t know where to begin this daunting task. Finding a company or person you can trust to help you understand the values of your parents’ personal property is paramount.
Once you are armed with that information, you are better able to decide what can be thrown out, what can be donated, what to keep, etc. Remember that knowledge is power. If you do not possess the knowledge to make these decisions, find a professional who does and can offer you objective information. This professional can also help you sell items of value, and clear out the estate. These services are especially valuable if you live out of town and have limited time to spend handling the estate.
Often I find my older clients have massive accumulations in their attic, closets, basement, and garage. The reasons are numerous and not always understandable. My guess is that they don’t know how to handle the accumulations either.
All too often, I sit beside a child whose parent has just died; they are angry that mom or dad left this mess, and they are grieving too. This becomes a double blow to their heart and spirit. If parents could see what I see, they wouldn’t do this to their children. How would you like to be remembered?
© 2010 Julie Hall