Each day, I work closely with heirs attempting to deal with what their parents have left behind. Some parents leave more than others, and some downsize long before their time comes. Some are so attached to their possessions, they leave it all for their children to contend with. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear they use their possessions as an anchor to this world, not fully understanding that when you are called to enter the heavenly gates, you can’t take a thing with you. You leave this earth much as you entered it, and we didn’t bring one material possession when we arrived.
On a daily basis, I hear middle-aged children tell me their mother “would kill them” if they sold or gave her possessions away, or that mom “always told me how valuable it was and to never sell it,” or that “I had to pass this down to the kids or she’d roll in her grave.” They openly share with me that mother always stressed the importance of these things and they now feel badly, wanting to sell them.
Friends, this is what I call strategically applied guilt and I am offering you some helpful advice here with the hopes that you will read it, re-read it, and pass it along to those who need to read it!
- Every “thing” has a season. That season of cherishing that item was during your mom’s lifetime, not necessarily yours. Free yourself and make peace with this.
- You may need permission to let it go. Here it is: It’s OK to let go and let someone else derive pleasure from it. There’s no sense in the item collecting dust, being stacked in your attic, or wrapped up in old newspaper in a box where it has remained since 1977. Let it go!
- No, the kids and grandkids really don’t want it, most of the time. Even if you have an idea in your head that they will want it in the future, most of the time they don’t. Ask them what they would like to keep now. If it’s not on their list, don’t force them to take it. All you are doing is “passing the buck” to the younger generation that has no tolerance for “stuff.” They prefer cash.
- Why would you clutter up your house with someone else’s stuff? It’s not fair to you, your spouse, your children. Make a pact with yourself that you will sort through it in a timely manner … not years, but weeks. Hire an appraiser to uncover what has value so you can make sound decisions. Get the kids on board and set dates for them to come get what they want. If it is unclaimed, give it to a charity of choice; let it go to someone who will appreciate it. It really is simple — you just have to make up your mind to do it, and forgive yourself for anything you think you are doing incorrectly. Always look forward.
- I’m sure they don’t care about their material possessions in heaven. Agree?
- Relieve yourself and your children of guilt. Here’s how …
My mom gave me a great gift before she died (her death was not expected). She took me to the guest room closet which had several packing boxes stacked. She told me those boxes were filled with family photos. “When I die, Julie, just throw them away because they are photos of people I don’t even know; I will not give you the guilt my mother put on me.”
When mom died unexpectedly and I was in her home cleaning it out, I walked up to that closet and replayed that scene in my mind. I actually laughed out loud when I reached for the boxes, telling my brother what mom had told me. Even though we went through the boxes, she was right and I had no trouble letting go. I was incredibly grateful my mother gave me that “gift” and relieved me of that burden. That’s love!
It’s OK to feel a pang of uncertainty. It’s not OK to drag this stuff with you through life, allowing it to drag you down with it. It’s not right to place it all on your children. Learn from this painful experience.
©2013 The Estate Lady®
Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.