Things That Have No Place Anymore

In every home, in every estate of a deceased loved one, there are items we have to deal with that don’t seem to have a place with us anymore.  Perhaps they are no longer useful, or the sentiment has worn off.  Maybe there are so many items, there’s no way you can take them all!

After the family comes in and takes what they want, and some of the items have been sold or given away, there are always leftovers that can’t find a home.  Old photos and slides no one wants.  Brittle college diplomas and certificates from the early twentieth century.  Ancient textbooks on everything from WWI nursing to social etiquette to typewriter maintenance.  Old tax returns that need to be shredded and magazines and catalogs that weigh a ton.  Old TV parts, metal bits and pieces, broken appliances that are stuck up in the attic.  Prescription meds, record albums, small appliances, old computer printers and fax machines.

Optimally, these items should have been dealt with a long time ago so it doesn’t put the family in a crisis mode when the time comes.  Old appliances and computers can be recycled, as can the endless paper piles we find.  Metal can be scrapped; $100 is better than hauling it to the trash, right?  Prescription medications need to be dissolved in vinegar before flushed to neutralize the meds, or better yet, dissolve them and place them in a container with old coffee grounds or kitty litter.

These items should be disposed of properly, but it makes us feel guilty when we are throwing away things like old photos or slides.  After all, who has time to go through 10,000 slides from the 1950’s?

Let me share a quick story.  I used to be one who didn’t have time to go through all the family slides … until mom died.  I brought the slides home and at night while watching TV, I used a little light-up viewer I bought on Ebay to see which ones we wanted to keep.  I found a gold mine!  Photos of dad on his ship in the Navy, mom and dad’s engagement in 1953, early baby photos of me and my brother never seen before, photos of all the kids and cousins from long ago.  I had these selected slides made into prints and distributed them to family members.  The thank you letters, emails, and phone calls came pouring in.  It was like they each won a small lottery and were most appreciative to have these never-before-seen photos.  In my case, it was worth the effort.

If family does not claim these items, or there is no family left, sadly, these items either need to be discarded, donated, shredded.  And it’s okay to do that — you have permission to do that.  If no one else wants them or needs them, let them go with respect.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

2 thoughts on “Things That Have No Place Anymore

  1. Odd to see the part about the slides just as I am going through ours…I couldn’t think to get the scanner and TIME, etc. before Dad died, but I have them now and I wanted to get them all copied onto my hard drives, printing a few…so I can have them archived and done. I like the way you ended the article. I am one of those folks who grapples with the “keep or toss” dilemma when it comes to heirlooms and things from the past. Sometimes the guilt factor can indeed create fear of further loss, etc. Hard as it is to do, we do reach the point when we must let go.

  2. You are making me kick myself all over again 🙁 :(. Several years ago, I inherited a box of slides from my mother after she moved into a nursing home. It was at a time when I had no time, the task of sorting 100’s of slides was too daunting, the box became a ‘nuisance’ and I chucked it out. Over the past few months, I’ve had recriminations about having done that although there is perishing little I can do about it now. Fortunately, I kept all the photos.

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