In April, we asked our readers to share their biggest uncluttering and organizing hurdles and they responded. Now, we’re going through the comments to see what we can do to help.
Unclutterer reader nana2much asked:
I have also “inherited” my parents’ possessions. I have 5 siblings who have already taken what they want. They have helped some but they all live quite far away.
My mother lived with us so everything ended up here. It isn’t just sentimental objects, but very old photos, some books with family history, many old Bibles, (my father was a pastor) some with family obituaries pasted in or notes written in them. So many letters and “artifacts” saved since my parents’ childhoods…some 90 years old. Many “sermons” my father wrote for individual funerals and memorial services. It is overwhelming. Glass figurines, vases etc. etc.
My father died 5 years ago and my mom 2 years ago. I have given away, donated, sold and even threw out so much but I am finding it difficult to figure out what to do with what remains.
I feel like I’m supposed to be the caretaker of all this stuff. Very torn about it all. Any suggestions on how to continue this process?
Nana2much, I’m sorry to read about your loss. Dealing with a parent’s death is never easy, and you’ve had to cope with two in a short time.
But let me reassure you: You do not need to be the caretaker of all this stuff. It is not disrespectful to the memory of your parents to keep the things that you really want and dispose of the rest.
It sounds like you are ready to deal with the remaining stuff. But if you find some things you can’t quite cope with right now, that’s fine; set them aside and just work with the things that don’t make you upset.
How do you continue? Here are some suggestions:
Decide which things are the keepers
Of the many things you have from your parents, which ones do you really want to hold onto? These are very personal choices. Don’t worry about what you “should” want to keep, but focus on which items really speak to you. Ideally, most of these will be things that are either practical or decorative — things you’ll use, not things you’ll stash in the back of a closet.
How much family history do you want to retain? Again, this is a very personal decision, and only you will know what feels right. You didn’t mention whether or not you have children. If you do, saving items related to family history may be more important than if you don’t. But in any case, saving a sample of things like memorial sermons may work better for you than saving all of them.
When going through photos, you can make some easy choices to eliminate photos that are poor quality (out of focus, heads cut off, etc.) and photos of scenery, flowers, and such. Since going through photos can be very time-consuming, you may want to leave any detailed review to the end of this project, so you don’t get bogged down.
Save photos instead of things
You can take photos of anything you don’t really want to keep but which still has a sentimental pull. For example, that might include taking photos of selected pages of some of the bibles, if you don’t want to keep them all.
Consider who might appreciate receiving your parents’ things
Since you’ve already consulted with your siblings, consider who else might want some of these things. Would members of your father’s congregation want some things to remember him by? Would the church want anything? A local historical society? Any of your parents’ friends? A more distant relative who is into genealogy?
But please don’t feel like you need to put tremendous effort into this. Do as much as feels right to you. Some people really enjoy playing matchmaker between things and people, and can do it without getting bogged down. Others won’t want to bother. It’s yet another personal choice.
Decide whether to sell or donate the rest
Things like vases and figurines can be donated or sold. If they are donated to Goodwill, a charity thrift store, or some other worthwhile nonprofit, they are helping others. That might be something that would have pleased your parents.
Selling might be a bit traumatic — are you willing to listen to people barter over the price of your parents’ things? If not, go the donation route or find someone who can do the selling for you, for a commission. If your finances allow, you might like to donate some of the proceeds to a nonprofit in memory of your parents.