Saying goodbye to a family home

The Calgary Herald has a helpful article on saying goodbye to the family home. My parent’s are most likely going to be moving out of their home in the next five to seven years. It will no doubt be an emotional and trying time for them. I’ve made a suggestion to them to have a giant yard sale to get rid of a lot of the things that they have accumulated over the years. (It worked well for us when we downsized.) From the article:

Kathy Roberts says there’s no denying saying goodbye to the family home can be tough, but she believes most of the stress that comes with downsizing is due in part to all the stuff people accumulate over the years.

Whether it’s children’s report cards, forgotten birthday presents stuffed in the closet, or old gardening tools and lawnmowers in the garage, Roberts says homes are a nesting ground for clutter.

Taking inventory of one’s belongings is “often a huge (job) because nobody realizes how much they accumulate over time,” says Roberts, who owns and operates Clutter Busters.

Since my parents will be downsizing significantly, they will have to get rid of quite a bit of stuff. If you have parents who are saying goodbye to a home that they have lived in for quite some time, you might want to suggest that they have a yard sale as a good place to start with clearing the clutter.

23 Comments for “Saying goodbye to a family home”

  1. posted by Mandy on

    I would recommend looking into a company specializing in estate/moving sales. My parents are moving from a 5000 sq ft house to a 900 sq ft apartment, and they have accumulated alot of furniture and other items to go with it. My mom’s friend runs just such a company, and she has over 3,000 dealers on her list (my mom had a number of antiques to offload), which is a greater connection with buyers than my mom could have hoped to have made simply by advertising in the paper. In the end, there were hundreds more people that came than if it were a yard sale, and they ended up making a significant amount of money from the sale that they would not have otherwise. Not to mention that it was staffed by people from the company who were generally able to maintain order and were able to make sure they sold things at the appropriate price (my mom has a tendency to say “oh sure if you like it you can just have it”). Now, most of the small stuff is gone, at a decent price, and there is just some of the larger antique stuff to go (like the dining room set and a baby grand), but the rest is taken care of.

  2. posted by martha in mobile on

    I tend to agree with the above poster. A yard sale is a huge amount of work, it is wrenching to set a price on items which hold sentimental value, and one rarely nets more than a few hundred dollars (which is great if you are young and have a lot of energy, but might not be worth it to others). My folks just had a big yard sale and they still have a ton of stuff to go through. My brother told them he would PAY them to just donate it all…

  3. posted by Bobbi on

    Depending on the age and health of the parents, just the thought of doing anything is overwhelming, much less the actual doing. Many elderly resist making decisions because of anxiety, fear, and grief issues. Sometimes these moves and the necessary cleansings cannot be made until the parents are gone or in a nursing home, no longer aware enough to care. These are sad times and leave the work for the adult children, which makes it even harder. Lucky are those whose parents are able and willing to downsize while they can make good decisions and have the physical strength. (Personal experience.)

  4. posted by DJ on

    And you might consider starting early… when I had to move, I started getting rid of things a year in advance.

  5. posted by sarah on

    I am one of those of whom you write. It is offensive to me to think of selling my jewelry or my books or antiques. I would rather give them to friends and relatives–or donate them to a worthy charity, making them available to people who need and want them, but can’t afford them.

    The other stuff, which is just stuff? I’d have a yard sale only if I had the energy to sort and clean it all and put prices on it, then sit all day, all weekend, and keep a log of it so that I can pay taxes on the income.

    Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

  6. posted by Carrie on

    Especially when dealing with antiques or valuable collectibles, it might be best to let professionals do the pricing. For my grandmother’s downsizing, we had a company come in and tell us what they thought would sell, then they took it all with them to sell at their store. It made things easier than watching your belongings being pawed over by strangers.

    Having gone through this with my grandmother (twice), I’m now urging my mother to downsize her own ephemera while she can still take her time doing it.

  7. posted by Jay on

    If someone has lots of antiques or other valuables, an auction run by a professional auctioneer may be easier (for the relatives) and more lucrative than a yard sale.

  8. posted by erin on

    Off topic: In your second sentence, you have an apostrophe in the word ‘parents’ that shouldn’t be there. I only point it out because it brings the level of your site down when you don’t bother to proofread your work.

  9. posted by N. & J. on

    Having grown up all over I don’t have an emotional attachment to any one house and neither do my parents but ten years later I am still bitter about a yardsale my mom had where she got rid of almost everything they had purchased in Germany so my one word of advice is if you have grown kids before you sell it all see if they want any of it. Or they will spend the rest of their lives holding it over you 🙂

  10. posted by KateNonymous on

    Okay, I think that just posted itself. We also moved a lot growing up, so our family home was not a specific structure, but wherever we were together. About 15 years ago, though, my parents built their dream home. It’s amazing how quickly that became our “family home.”

    After my mother passed away, my father remarried and moved. He had to get rid of most of his stuff, since they were combining two households, so I took some and my brother took some. The rest (well, what didn’t go to support the women’s shelter) went in an estate sale run by a company, which was significantly more efficient–and more lucrative–than a yard sale would have been.

    Everyone got to keep the things that held the most emotional resonance, and it turns out that our taste is just different enough that there were no disputes over ownership.

    But I can’t recommend the estate sale enough. It really streamlined the process, although it might be better as a wrap-up than as a kick-off.

  11. posted by Erin Doland on

    @erin — I think the incorrect apostrophe reminds us that Matt is human and that every now and again all of us make mistakes.

  12. posted by erin on

    Absolutely – but it still brings the level of the site down in the same way that reading a typo in a newspaper does, for example. I may have not worded my comment in the best way, but my point was, “hey you may want to fix that.” Of course, considering that the majority of the western world seem to not give a hoot about proper spelling and grammar, maybe it’s not a concern.

  13. posted by Dee on

    I think depending on the age of the parents and the circumstances of the family in general a yard sale is a great option. My grandmother had to move from her home of 60 years into 1 bedroom of a family members house after she injured herself -it was an emergency type situation. We have a very large family and we all chipped in, sorted, priced, stacked, sold etc. Of course it was a lot of work, of course some aspects of it were upsetting, but in the end it was a process that we all did together and it helped my grandmother tremendously. She was also able to make some extra money and part with a lot of unneeded clutter. One side benefit was we all set up our own little stations and got rid of some of OUR stuff too. I would suggest if anyone is doing this type of large scale yardsale, rent a dumpster and plan on bringing all unsold items to charity immediately after the sale is over. We did it all in about a week – tiring but productive!

    Not every family has the funds for estate moving help and no one said that parents have to got it alone.

  14. posted by janewilk on

    My elderly parents have lived in their home (which they built) for 45 years and in April suffered through a tornado, which took off the roof, causing lots of water damage, etc. We four “kids” (I’m the youngest at 38) came to help clean out. The experience was hugely stressful for my parents (and us), but just six weeks later we are all seeing the bright side: decades of accumulated clutter (like the aforementioned report cards) are GONE. We rented a dumpster and threw out anything unsalvageable (for instance, baby equipment from the 60s and 70s is no longer considered safe to use for babies!) or just yucky, that even Goodwill wouldn’t want. We made zillions of Goodwill trips, took many things home to our own houses, and wound up putting the rest in storage while the house is rebuilt. Now that my parents are living in a temporary (furnished) apartment, they are realizing how little they actually need to have on hand. I have no illusions that they will not go back to stashing clutter (they are children of the Depression, after all, and save EVERYTHING), but at least we’ve had this major clean-up/clean-out. I’m taking the estate sale advice above to heart for the future…

  15. posted by Erin Doland on

    @erin — If you’re a regular reader of this website, then you know that grammar mistakes are not common events. Every once in a while, however, a misplaced apostrophe or comma or incorrectly used word is going to be published. The same thing happens regularly in major publications like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time Magazine. Every book I’ve read in the last three years has had at least one mistake in it. Grammar mistakes happen because people are involved in every step of the process, and people make mistakes. We’re human.

    I’m more concerned about your motivations behind your comments. If you were concerned about the content of our site, why didn’t you send a polite note on the Contact page letting us know about the mistake? Instead, you tried to publicly humiliate Matt, which isn’t cool.

    In the future, if you find a glaring grammar error, please feel welcome to send me a note on the Contact page of the site. I will respond more sympathetically when I realize that your concern is for our content and not about humiliating others.

  16. posted by Betsy on

    “Of course, considering that the majority of the western world seem to not give a hoot about proper spelling and grammar, maybe it’s not a concern.”

    Hey erin,

    “Majority,” as you wrote it in the sentence above, is singular. Therefore, instead of “seem” you might have considered using “seems.” Just sayin’ 🙂

  17. posted by Mary on

    I think that we will probably sell my mom’s home w/in 5-7 years. It’s the home to which I came home from the hospital as a newborn and I love it. I’m sad thinking about this, and it might be sooner. But we have to look to the present & future & the happiness we had there.

  18. posted by Cindy Corlett on

    This type of situation is exactly what got me into my “unclutterer” mode. When I seem the enormouse amount of “stuff” my mother and motherin-law have, it makes me shudder. I know it will fall to me and a few others to deal with it all someday. I refuse to stay in a home that is too big just to hold things. Hopefully, by the time I’m gone, my kids will only have a few boxes to deal with.

  19. posted by Arlene on

    I am another fan of the “estate sale specialists.”

    I had to clean out my parents’ home after both their deaths, and here is what I did: Went through the house searching for important business papers and for unique family documents, keepsakes, and photos.

    Believe me, you’ll be plenty tired, both emotionally and physically, after you tackle these tasks, so allow as much time as you can possibly manage. It’s one of the most psychically important jobs of your adult life.

    Of course, if your parents were typical Americans, you still have tons of stuff left after the important stuff is out–stacked in the attic, crammed in the basement, filling up the closets.

    That’s when you call the estate sale people. Give yourself a break.

  20. posted by Marie on

    This article cracks me up because my parents are leaving the family home soon–for a newly-built house that’s twice as large! My family seems to do everything opposite the norm. :p

  21. posted by Sarah on

    My parents are doing the same thing! It’s not going to be too much bigger, though, thank goodness, cause my father would fill it up with stuff. I printed out the article, even though they aren’t seniors. I need to get an estate sale person here, STAT. Thanks for the advice!

  22. posted by Ellen on

    We’ve been clearing out my parents’ home over the past few months. It really helps ahead of time to talk to anybody and everybody and search the web. There is a wealth of information out there on approaches. In our case, getting rid of the 70-80% of stuff that could be tossed first made a big difference. That cleared our heads so we could focus on the remaining valuable stuff. And don’t assume family members will all do their fair share. They won’t. That’s a given.

  23. posted by EngineerMom on

    My grandparents moved from the home they had lived in for 30 years into a condo several years ago. It took my mom and her two sisters over a year (during which the condo was being built) to simultaneously convince my grandmother this was a good thing and clear out all the accumulated junk (they had saved every National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, and several other magazines since practically the beginning of time). My grandmother was a homemaker and much more attached to her “stuff” than my grandfather – he only cared about the paintings, which they kept.

    Even after the purge, my grandparents still have a ton of stuff in their condo. It’s the same foot print as the house, but only one level (no basement), so the stuff must have been at least reduced by half.

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