Reader John submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
So my father recently passed away … Mom has been busy taking care of dad for the last 2 years (and in some ways 43 years) and now has a house in disarray that needs work and help. Dad had plenty of things that will need to go and I am being enlisted to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
I am concerned that mom is going to be overwhelmed and I want to make sure I do not push my opinions, etc., onto her.
Any help or advice you can give will be cherished.
John, please know that you have our condolences. We are very sorry for your loss.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all response for how to handle the possessions of someone who has passed away. This is why I recommend contacting a professional organizer who specializes in exactly these types of cases. An organizer can help identify what to keep, what to donate to charity, and how to handle the process so that it’s not emotionally overwhelming. They also have knowledge about your community and organizations that could use clothing, etc. Additionally, it’s nice to have a neutral third party present to be supportive and caring for your family’s needs at this time (especially since you don’t want to “push my opinions, etc., onto her”).
Interview a few organizers and choose the one who will work best for you and your mom. They likely will need your muscle strength, so plan to be a part of the activities.
Based on the worth of your father’s items, you might also want to bring in an appraiser. Now is not the time to make rash decisions. The more information you have, the less likely you’ll be to have regrets in years to come. Also, if the process goes well, it will help significantly with the grieving process.
If hiring a professional organizer and/or appraiser isn’t in the financial cards right now, I strongly recommend reading the book The Boomer Burden by Julie Hall. Julie has worked with many people in the same situation as you, and her book is full of valuable information and insights. I also recommend the book to anyone who is helping his or her parents downsize from a family home.
Thank you, John, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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