Saying farewell to a family home

I once worked with a woman who has kept every single piece of clothing her children wore from birth until they went off to college — including underwear, torn jeans, stained t-shirts, and socks with failed elastic. The clothing is stored in a room in her basement and it lines the walls on custom designed clothing rods. The items are organized by child and then by size. The room looks like a boutique children’s clothing store, except, of course, the clothes are not for sale.

Whenever I read an article about downsizing, my mind always returns to this woman. I wonder what will happen to the early-1980’s infant sailor suits, the haphazardly created Halloween costumes, and the Bedazzled worn-out Keds when my former co-worker leaves her family home for an apartment in a retirement community. Will she take any of her collection with her? Or, will she try to give it away to her children, a new parent, or a charity?

We all have collections like this — albeit probably smaller — that have meaning to us and possibly no one else. Maybe you’ve kept every fortune cookie fortune that has crossed your path or never parted with your favorite childhood action figures? Whatever it is, you care about it and have made space for it in your home. But, when faced with the possibility of moving to a smaller place, you might decide to let it go.

Unfortunately, the reality is that not everyone gets to decide what makes it into a new place when they downsize. Instead of making the decision for yourself, you might be the person making this decision for someone else, such as an injured or ailing parent. If this is the case, you have to make choices about the things other people value — and this can be extremely difficult.

“Of all the people in human history who ever reached the age of 65, half are alive now.” — Fred Pearce in the article “The shock of the old: Welcome to the elderly age” in the April issue of New Scientist.

If you are preparing to downsize (either yourself or for a family member), keep the following thing in mind:

  • Emotions are strong during this time, even when the move is desired. Take the time to carefully sort through everything. Whomever is downsizing needs to be heavily involved in the process and have time to share stories about the items with others.
  • Snap digital photographs of anything you plan to throw out, donate to charity, give away, or recycle that has an emotional connection for you or your loved one. This might be the one time you want to print the photographs and stick them in an album for easy viewing (especially if an older person who doesn’t have a computer will want to look at the pictures).
  • Consider hiring a senior move manager to help with the process. Having a third party involved who isn’t emotionally tied to the situation can help significantly.
  • Measure the new place and know exactly how much stuff can be moved into it. You may need to go through the “taking with me” pile multiple times to ensure that the right amount of stuff will be transported.
  • If family and friends are interested in some of the personal items in the current home, only let the person or persons who are downsizing decide what pieces go to whom. Try your best not to let the person moving spaces be bullied into decisions. When financially valuable items are involved, you can contact an appraiser to provide information so the best decisions are made for the person downsizing.

Downsizing can be a wonderful experience, especially if emotions are respected throughout the entire process. It can be liberating to rid yourself of the responsibilities of caring for so many possessions — even the objects you spent years collecting and treasuring. Take the time and say farewell appropriately to your family home.

28 Comments for “Saying farewell to a family home”

  1. posted by Michele on

    You can’t take it with you — either to the retirement home or beyond. If you don’t make the decisions at some point ahead of time, then the decisions will be made for you.

    Cautionary tale: When we moved my grandmother to an assisted-living facility several years ago, it took three trips to her home to clear it out, downsize the amount of her belongings, and move her and her things. Since she lived a few hundred miles away, the trips were long and expensive. Her unwillingness to part with the things she had collected and stored for almost 50 years added even more stress to the situation.

    It was unpleasant for everybody. But if she had accepted the inevitable — the writing was on the wall about her frailty and the impossibility of her remaining in her house — then maybe we wouldn’t have had to make three trips. But even though we tried to “empower” her to make the decisions herself, in the end we were left with the chore of trashing/recycling/donating literally tons of belongings once she was finally (pardon the expression) out of the way at the retirement home.

    My point is twofold. First, if you don’t get rid of your things on your own, then the ultimate result is that you’re just leaving an unpleasant job for someone else. This is disrespectful, selfish, and inconsiderate. It cost my dad and me time, money, gas, and nearly a month away from our homes and families to deal with my grandmother’s move. Second, likely part of the issue is not wanting to lose control over the process. But the less you do by yourself ahead of time, the more will be done by someone else. Maybe they’ll be nice and treat your things with respect — for my grandmother’s things, we had an estate sale, recycled a lot of stuff, and donated clothes to charity — or maybe they’ll take everything to the dump. But whatever you don’t deal with won’t necessarily be taken care of nicely by the people who are stuck with the job later on.

  2. posted by Dorothy on

    As someone who’s cared for elderly relatives, I sympathize with Michele’s POV, and I shudder for her grandmother whom the family expected to “accept the inevitable”. Here’s a woman being given a clear message: You cannot live independently. Your life is nearing its end. And, oh, yes, you have to relinquish most of your possessions.

    For me, that’s motivation to keep my house in order, literally. I was widowed in January at age 54 and I have no children. If something were to happen to me my in-laws and my sister would be responsible for winding up my affairs. And my belongings with a few exceptions my sister might like to have would be worthless to anyone else.

    Lesson learned

  3. posted by Joanne on

    Thank you for sharing your story, Michele.

    It was when we had to deal with my grandparent’s house after they passed away, that I came to realize the implications of having so many possessions. They lived pretty frugally, but had some nice old things, so we got off easy.

    Now at age 52, I am looking very critically at what we are hanging on to in our storage closets and basements (e.g. vinyl albums which we never play, dishes we never use). It may be 15-20 years before we leave this house, but it’s not too early start paring down, or have a plan for what we are holding on to.

  4. posted by Mara on

    when my aunt passed away, my cousin, who lived and worked 900 miles away, hired a local estate liquidator to have an auction. the liquidator literally brought every single box, item, memento, dish, clothing, shoe, towel, appliance, chair outside the house and out on the lawn and across many folding tables. a friend reported that it was so sad, all the masses of old family photos and toys and very personal items in cardboard boxes being auctioned off by lots. most of course did not sell and was taken to a dump. while this was brutal, i am not sure she had much of a choice (there was a family blowup when my aunt died so we were not given a chance to either help or take any old family things). now my father (my aunt’s brother) makes it very difficult for my mother to go through their equally massive possessions and downsize. whatever happens in the future, there’s a big job awaiting me.

    i am not in the best of health myself so there is much i will not have the stamina to do. however i have applied minimalism to my own possessions and keepsakes and it is an ongoing way of life for me. maybe it is a delusion, but i am hoping that this practice will enable me to someday dispatch my parents’ possessions with speed & efficiency, and yet with respect.

  5. posted by WilliamB on

    Michelle, you make and EXCELLENT point about how trying to keep control means having less of it in the end. I shall have to remember that, when I’m in your shoes.

    My parents own a great deal of stuff. OTOH it’s well organized and isn’t interfering with their ability to live their lives. Best of all, they realized what’s involved with shutting down someone’s house and have worked to make my job easier when the time comes.

    – The valuables have been professionally assessed.

    – We video’d them talking about the interesting and sentimental items, so we know what is interesting and why.

    – We wrote notes about each piece of sentimental jewelry (ex: bracelet made from Great-grandmother Bella’s hair), then took a pix of each item with the note.

    – These reports were distributed to the appropriate relatives.

    – The lawyers have copies of assessment, videos, pix, and legal docs. I know how to get in touch with the lawyers.

    When the time comes my parents would still, no doubt, be appalled at what I’ll do with their stuff. But I will be able to do my job with full knowledge of what I’m doing. I’d hate to ditch G’g’ma Bella’s bracelet because I didn’t know what it was!

  6. posted by infmom on

    My father-in-law stubbornly refused to move into an assisted-living complex the last few years of his life, even though my mother-in-law and all my husband’s siblings were all for it. He refused help of any kind (even went so far as to refuse to use a cane even though he had almost no feeling in his feet and kept falling down). The result was that my inlaws became ever more isolated and my mother-in-law’s Alzheimers progressed because she wasn’t getting much in the way of mental stimulation.

    My father-in-law believed in being frugal. Frugality is not a bad thing in itself, I hasten to say, as someone who tries hard to be frugal herself. But with my father-in-law it became a matter of never throwing out anything that might come in handy someday.

    Thus, after he died, and my mother-in-law moved to the assisted-living complex (where she’s doing just fine) my husband’s siblings had the unenviable job of cleaning out their parents’ homes in New York and Florida to prepare them for sale (we live in California, so we weren’t able to help).

    There were stacks of margarine tubs. A huge pile of styrofoam coolers in which insulin prescriptions had been shipped from the VA. A drawer full of ossified rubber bands. Jars full of screws and miscellaneous hardware. String. The plastic clips off bread wrappers. The bread wrappers themselves, turned inside out and folded and overflowing a drawer. And so forth and so on. It took weeks to get it all dealt with. My mother-in-law had no sentimental attachment to any of that junk, which made the job a lot easier, and the things she took with her to her new apartment were the things she wanted to have. She offered her children first pick of whatever of value was left, and the rest went to charities or into the trash.

    My husband and I plan to move somewhere else when I get old enough for Medicare (so I won’t have to worry about getting health insurance) and before that happens we definitely need to go through a lifetime of Stuff and deal with it all, one way or another. I’m thinking we should give the kids first pick and then donate whatever else there is that a library or a charity would consider worth having. It doesn’t have to be done all at once, thank goodness, and we’ve got about six years to get the job done.

  7. posted by Michele on

    @Dorothy: as for expecting the inevitable, it seems clear to me that there are two possibilities (I was going to say “options” or “choices” but they aren’t). Either you get hit by a bus some random day, or you spend your last, old-age days in a hospital-type setting. But whichever way you go, you’re gonna go. That’s what I meant by “inevitable.” And when you do, the choice is yours. You can have an ordered house and reasonable instructions in place for your family and friends to deal with your limited collection of things; or you can leave your loved ones with the disagreeable task of dealing with closets full of old clothes and linens and empty cat-litter buckets.

    Anyway, Grandma didn’t go from running marathons to needing the assisted-living facility overnight. She had been declining steadily for at least a decade, had fallen a couple of times in the last year before we had to move her, and had just turned a mentally sharp but physically frail 90. She knew she needed to go. But more to the point, even if she didn’t know she was going, or even if she’d never planned on it, the house was still going to need cleaning out at some point. And it was a h*ll of a job whether she helped us or not. It is a huge, huge gift to our friends and family not to leave them that job.

  8. posted by JustTheSort on

    Like WilliamB I’ve started photographing various possessions and noting on a household inventory master list where they came from and their “story.” That way my daughter will know what’s an heirloom and what was a thrift store find. I’ve given her the freedom to sell whatever she wants after I’m gone, but if something is a family piece, she is aware I’d like her to go to a little extra effort to find a family member who wants it to honor its history.

    Meanwhile, I’m an only child with parents in their 70s. They are “collectors” (an upscale way of saying “hoarders”) and the thought of clearing out their house and garage keeps me awake nights.

    re:Infmom I freely confess that, in an effort to deal with the ‘frugal pointless junk’ buildup, I throw away handfuls of rubber bands and bread ties whenever I house-sit during their vacations. (I respect them too much to shovel out anything more, though it is tempting.)

    They’ve had to clean out their own parents’ homes so you’d think they’d be a little more open minded when I try to talk to them about weeding out, but no. It’s almost as if they are proud to know they will eventually bequeath me with what they see as “so many nice things.” Many of their possessions ARE nice, or should I say WERE nice…over time stuff is starting to get lost or damaged because there is just so MUCH of it in their house.

    Whenever they show me their latest acquisitions, I shake my head and say “Yep, it’s going to be one heck of an estate sale someday.”

    The plus side? It’s potent motivation for me to stay organized, enjoy what I have and keep it all pared down.

  9. posted by Sky on

    My husband and I did it all when my parents went into assisted living and eventually passed away. They would not sell their house in case they went back home so we took care of it. It made them happy and they held on to their hopes and dreams but it was a big mess for me.

    I am uncluttering my own home so no one will have a mess to deal with when I die. I want everything organized and am making a list of what I want to go to each son. I like Dave Ramsey’s idea of a ‘legacy drawer’ for all important papers, etc. Easy for those left behind to carry out my wishes.

    I don’t really care what happens to my ‘stuff’ when I’m gone. If someone wants it and can enjoy it, good. If not, throw it away. I don’t expect anyone to want my life’s stuff.

  10. posted by chacha1 on

    @ Michele, “the less you do by yourself ahead of time, the more will be done by someone else,” SO TRUE and so tragic. And beautifully put.

    I wish there were more news stories about that scary statistic (that of all the people in human history to reach age 65, half are alive right now). Maybe people would really start to realize that every human life has an end point. Life may be sacred, but it’s also temporary.

    And I’m relieved to say that while I have plenty of collections, there is no collection that contains *every* item I once acquired.

  11. posted by Dutiful Daughter on

    I’ve enjoyed reading the responses to this article, as my sister and I spent nearly 6 months going through our parents’ home after they passed away (both quite suddenly and unexpectedly 4 months apart from each other).

    They were polar opposites as far as keeping things: Mom kept things of value gave away items no longer useful or someone else could enjoy. She was so organized she had listings of everything in the cedar chests, jewerly boxes, etc. and things were filed and labeled. Dad-kept everything! Sometimes 4 or 5 copies, all in different folders, boxes, etc. Clothes, books, tools, letters, pills! Mom tolerated Dad’s stuff as long as it didn’t encroach on the living areas of the house. She let him keep his room as messy as he’d like. So, the basement, garage, and outdoor shed were packed! The paper alone was daunting. We contracted with a shredding company to come to the house to shred all the papers with personal info on it. And we were fortunate that the county I live in was having a prescription drug recycling drive. I pulled up and my trunk was packed full with garden trash bags full of prescription meds.

    We managed to get connected with a great estate company who helped clear out of the house what we didn’t want to keep (2 or 3 dumpters…I lost track). They had the sale and we donated the rest of the household items to shelters and a church. Mom would have been happy. And Dad would too. He knew he had a problem not being able to part with anything, but was unable to take the next steps to understand and work on his issues.

    The process of looking through everything (because of documents, securities, money, etc) was time consuming and stressful. But my sister shared many laughs and tears, some tense and angry moments, but we both came away from the process knowing more about our parents and their lives, our family history, and each other.

    And, after all that, we managed to fix the house, have it repaired, painted, and cleaned, and sold it in less than a week. Our parents would have been proud of what we accomplished.

  12. posted by Babs on

    An elderly couple passed away a few years ago. They had lived on their farm for 50+ years. They not only had a house full of stuff they also had a barn full of stuff. Every single crusty/moldy thing had to be examined because there were stock certificates in between pages of random books, currency rolled up and stuck in gloves, etc. One family member was in charge of cleaning it all up. It took a long time and other family members were very unhappy because they wanted to sell the valuable property.
    This story was a wake-up call to me. (not that I was ever that bad) The last thing I want to leave behind is a bunch of junk, bad memories and hard feelings.

  13. posted by KJ on

    My grandmother has made a list of the possessions that are meaningful to her and why. She distributed the list to family members, and we were asked to select items that we would like and highlight one special item in particular. She has compiled the lists, and made her decisions about where these items will go, and as time goes by, she is distributing the items. She still has a lot of crap, and when she dies or moves it will be a huge task cleaning things out. But she knows that the items that she cares about will go to family who want them, and we know which items we shouldn’t feel bad about pitching when the time comes.

  14. posted by E West on

    My parents are doing that now with my grandmother, who has gradually downsized several times in retirement.

    But goodness, when my parents are the age? Yikes. They still have toys stored from when I was a kid.

    My parents regularly say they plan to live in their house until they die. They make a joke about the fact someone else will have to take care of all the clutter. I don’t want it to be me, but I fear it will! 🙂

  15. posted by Another Deb on

    My sympathies to all of you who have had to deal with estates. I have a very smart mother-in-law who has gone minimal for this very reason. She also has moved several times in the past ten years and has decluttered each time.

    My own parents have been in the same house since the first Moon landing. In addition to the detritis of raising four children there, they have Dad’s population of hundreds of miniature trucks that fill about 14 boxes, and things from the estates of three elderly relatives. I live across the country and cannot imagine the job ahead on that place. They are 75 and in declining health.

    A friend had to take a year off when his mother died just to handle the estate and sale of the home.

  16. posted by Kari on

    I worked with my mom t downsize for about a year. First we were going to move her and my step-father; after he died, it was just her. The time frame made a huge difference. I went in several times to go through things with her and because my mother is a real “stuff” oriented person, we set up a revisit pile that things went in that she wasn’t ready to make a decision on. We’d go back to it at the start of each of my visits, and then begin work on new stuff. Some stuff would take a few passes. But by having this revisit pile, she felt a lot less stress about making the wrong decisions and pretty much got rid of everything in it by the time she needed to move. IT was a pretty large time investment due to the trips back for me (I lived about 8 hours away at the time), but it was worth fewer tears and regrets.

    Funnily, every time I came back to my home, I tore into cleaning something out–I did not want to have to deal with this process at a later time.

  17. posted by schmei on

    We have family who are dealing with this from two different perspectives: My husband’s grandparents are declining in health, and their house is just not practical for their lifestyle any more. But they Will. Not. Move. Grandma has been sporadically giving away Stuff she doesn’t use, but they’ve lived in that house for 40 years, and we all know there’s going to be a painful time ahead of us of clearing out the house. Frankly it is up to them as to how painful it’s going to be.

    On the other hand, a cousin’s grandparents, both in their 80s (same age as hubs’ grandparents), were chatting with me last weekend about their plans to move into senior housing next year. They are spending this year sorting through things and preparing to move. They’re facing it as a positive transition – no more worries about caring for a house, and no worries about what the next generation will have to sift through. I really enjoyed their perspective on it.

    These two couples are the same age, they’re at similar socioeconomic levels, and similar levels of ability. The difference is their attitude about change – and it is a massive difference.

  18. posted by Sue on

    Whenever I go to an estate sale, it makes me think a lot about the stuff I own. Going through a house filled with someone’s prized possessions, which is mostly junk to everyone else, and which the heirs are merely trying to unload for a few bucks to complete strangers, is eye-opening.

    I am so glad my father, a hoarder, has already moved himself into an apartment in a senior facility. He had to clean out his own lifetime of stuff. My siblings came, and we picked out a few items, but most of it ended up on the curb for the trash pickers and then the trash men. I was amazed by how much of his precious stuff had become ruined. Everything from the basement was moldy. Much of what was upstairs had decayed if it wasn’t in daily use.

    His stuff is now confined to a single bedroom apartment, which is much more managable for him and will not be headache for the heirs.

    I did, however, pause at the comment about childhood action figures. I’m a reformed toy collector so when Dad moved I ended up with most of the toys from the basement. Most of which are now in my basement. Some, like my Star Wars toys, are valuable to me. Most are just junk and I don’t know why I can’t just get rid of it.

  19. posted by Beverly D on

    I have to mention that I’m kind of excited that half of the people living past 65 in history are alive right now. The point is that more of us are living longer and healthier, and I think this is a good thing. Just because we live longer doesn’t necessarily mean we have to accumulate more, although we have more opportunity to do so. And I also don’t want to spend my last days in a warehouse for the elderly just so my family doesn’t have to clear out what’s left of my possessions. Clearing out and cleaning up is part of the grieving process that has always been with us. I’m not advocating having to spend months and lots of money, but there is something gained from the process.

  20. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    Taking photos of sentimental items that you can’t or don’t want to keep is a great idea, whether you’re downsizing or not! My boys spent a lot of their childhoods playing and digging in our garden. When we had it “redone” years later, the workmen found all kinds of relics: G.I. Joe figures, matchbox cars and trucks, etc. I cleaned them up, arranged them on poster board and took a picture. They had so much fun reliving childhood memories via the photo.

  21. posted by Elaine on

    Thank you Erin and all subscribers to this site for your words of wisdom and advice. I have relied this and other purging sites and shows to keep me going through several months of cleaning my fathers house.
    My mother passed 5 years ago from ALS and none of us could face anything for awhile. Now he is getting married again and it all has to be done in a few months. But the dehumidifier shut down when my dad wasnt paying attention and well I no longer have a sense of smell.
    His neighbors now want me to do their houses- eek or yay I dont know.
    Mom was the acknowledged pack rat but I have the genes on both sides. The 150 boxes of paper and 9 filing cabinets are both of theirs. The same for the mounds of stuff. The books were hers though and I have been trying to salvage what I fondly refer to the 2nd library of congress (approx. 10,000 volumes).
    I have learned alot about the mental and physical blocks that happen in this type of sustained effort. How to organize and keep the process going. It has helped me get rid of much of my own clutter, fighting my own clutter and adhd tendencies.
    I do think the clearing and cleaning is part of the grieving process but more for sharing treasures and stories; a wrapping up of life not a clean sweep of crap. There has been alot of cursing at the heavens.
    Keep what is special in a special way.
    Thank you all again so much

  22. posted by dini on

    We are going through this right now with my mother. We are trying to get her house on the market ASAP but first we have had to sort through years of accumulations. She helps but also constantly comments that we are throwing her life away. Trying to remain understanding but still getting the work done is difficult for both my sister and me. But like everyone else, as soon as she is moved, I’m taking a good hard look at my house and clearing out a lot of stuff. Unfortunately, lots of her stuff has come to live at my house!

  23. posted by Moving – Downsizing from the family home « Home Staging, Home Organizing and Family Solutions – Stagetecture, LLC on

    […] Unclutterer has a great article on ‘Saying farewell to the family home’.  I found the article especially interesting because I love talking about moving, and helping families stage their homes to move. In the same breath I often realize, moving isn’t always enjoyable. For those who struggle with the concept of moving, read these tips below.  I believe it will help. […]

  24. posted by Erin on

    This post reminds me why it is incredibly selfish to hoard things. You often say on here to only keep things you use or you love. And if you love them, they should be displayed (not in storage) so that you can get enjoyment out of them. All of that clothing, in a basement – that’s creepy. And if my mother gave me every piece of clothing I’d ever owned – I would find and keep two things – at most – and send it all to Goodwill. And this is why it is selfish, very selfish to hoard.
    Downsizing is inevitable, and it is selfish to make your children do it for you. And that is what happens when you hold onto 2000 sqft of stuff up until the very moment you need to downsize. It is incredibly difficult for children to get rid of things their parent’s treasured – what an incredible burden you are giving to your kids.

    My mother and father have always lived in ridiculously sized homes (7000+ sqft, oh suburbia!) and she used to have a very large (and organized) storage room dedicated just to xmas decorations. And then her mother got sick and she realized the burden of basements and storage rooms and storage units and Stuff. And so my mother went through her Christmas decorations and got rid of 90%. She knew she loved them, and she knew that it would be hard on us to get rid of them because she loved them. And so she took on the burden herself, as they were her things, instead of passing the burden onto her children.
    Parents – downsize your belongings long before you downsize your home. It is selfish to burden your children with your crap.

  25. posted by Changing Spaces on

    Thank you so much for this post, and for mentioning senior move managers, as well as providing the link to the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) site. We are a local company of senior move managers based in Lincoln, NE and we have experienced the joy of helping so many seniors ease the transition out of a home they may have lived in for 50 years, into a smaller and more manageable space for their lives during this stage. We encourage seniors to critically evaluate their environment and their current lifestyle needs to ensure that they are truly living their best life. Oftentimes that means moving out of a multi-story large home with lots of upkeep, inside and out. Many seniors would be shocked at the beautiful facilities available for both independent and assisted living. Our clients are almost unanimously happier in their new home, and many don’t feel as though they are living in a “retirement community” at all – the new space has truly become their home.

    Senior move managers have the experience to ease both the physical and emotional stress that comes along with moving out of a family home. It can be a trying time for parents and their adult children. A senior move manager can help ease the transition with their expertise, experience and advice. Plus, they can take care of all the logistics like finding packing supplies, boxes, and tape! Because we have a streamlined process, we are able to help a client get completely packed and ready for a move in 1-2 weeks, and completely unpacked and settled in their new home in less than one week. All of this without rushing them into any decisions, but rather guiding them through the thought process to make decisions that are best for them. If seniors and their families attempt to make the transition on their own, it can often take weeks or even months, adding stress and strain to their family relationship. Hiring a senior move manager means letting them take care of the logistics while seniors and their children can focus on their own well-being during this time of change.

    Thanks for this great article – we reference often in our business!

  26. posted by Its never too late… continued — Mama's Keeper — A work at home caregiver's journey. on

    […] stumbled upon a post from Uncluttered titled “Saying farewell to a family home” and it really hit […]

  27. posted by Moving – Downsizing from the family home on

    […] Unclutterer has a great article on ‘Saying farewell to the family home’.  I found the article especially interesting because I love talking about moving, and helping families stage their homes to move. In the same breath I often realize, moving isn’t always enjoyable. For those who struggle with the concept of moving, read these tips below.  I believe it will help. […]

  28. posted by Home Organizer on

    You’ve got a lot of really good tips in this article. I especially like the photo album concept you’ve described, this is a great way to remove the clutter and still retain the sentimental value of whatever you may be holding on to. I have faced a similar situation with the all of the clutter in my grandparents when they downsized. Having all members of the family present is definitely key when attempting to fairly decide who gets what. Bringing in a third party/appraiser is also a very helpful idea.

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