If you missed my BlogTalkRadio show yesterday, you missed an information-packed session with a wonderful lady, Julie Hall (“The Estate Lady”). As an estate expert and certified personal property appraiser, Julie has spent her life helping families deal with their “parents’ lifetime accumulation of stuff”. At the end of this post are links to our interview, Julie’s book and her website.
The following are 10 tips Julie shared to help us be proactive and take action now to help de-clutter our parents’ home. Do not wait. Do this now for the sake of your parent(s), your family and you. I can tell you by personal experience, you do not want to have to do this in “crisis mode.”
- Have the important conversations with your parent. She advises us to approach our parents with love and talk with them about their wishes. Ask and gain an understanding about their financial situation. Be sure to know where all the important and legal documents are.
- Start to de-clutter your parent’s home. She shares that they won’t like this, but we can just say that we’re helping them “thin out” the stuff. The clutter can be both a fire and tripping hazard. Remove food that is expired. Also go through linens and kitchenware that are no longer used. On a personal note, my husband set out a table with 8 place settings of the best of my mother’s everyday china. Upon seeing that, she allowed us to give away the rest of her dishes and glassware.
- Discuss and document allocation of personal property and heirlooms. Create a wish list and have an appraiser assess value of the special items. The goal is to keep the tally equitable and fair. Better yet, suggest “gifting” of special items while your parents are still alive (to minimize fighting). Don’t let something like a Grandfather clock or a Civil War sword break your family apart.
- Tell Mom you are helping her “thin out” the house, and every time you leave the house, take a few bags of donation items with you. Julie has a great saying, “Dress the less fortunate”. On a personal note, my mother loved the idea of us giving bags of her clothing away to a charity that took it all to Appalachia. She would ride in the car with me as I dropped the bags off, so the receivers could thank her personally.
- If your parent has already moved out of the house or passed away, begin the process of clearing out the house by using 3 separate piles (or even rooms) for donation, sell and keep.
- When in doubt, always have a personal property appraiser evaluate antiques and items you’re unsure of. Julie shared a story about finding a $50,000 vase in a laundry basket that a family was going to toss. In her book, she talks about a painting the family considered ugly that was valued in the 6 figures.
- Continue to keep in touch with siblings and keep everyone on the same page. From my experience, this should be an guiding principle in all conversation and all decisions. It is the only way that the whole family will keep their relationships strong and healthy through it all.
- Always come from a place of love. As Julie says, in the end, life is much, much more than the things, the stuff. It’s about the wonderful deep and abiding relationships within our families. That is what is priceless!
I highly recommend Julie’s book. As I read it, I could tell it was a real labor of love. As Julie shares her lifetime of experiences and wonderful story vignettes, she provides an adult child with a roadmap for these later years with our parents. You’ll find guidance and inspiration to do the “right thing”. And, it will make all the difference!