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Wednesday
Jan252017

Ruminations on Estates and Organizing

I recently had the opportunity to clear out a densely hoarded home. The home was sizable, about 3,250 square feet of living space, plus a two car-garage and large basement. With the exception of one room, everything was densely packed. I had to walk on 'stuff' just to make my way from the front door to the kitchen. This is the second such home I've cleared in the last 18 months.

In both cases, the deceased left behind a single (adult) child. In both cases, the kids were completely overwhelmed. Clearing an estate with even a more typical amount of stuff can be a daunting task. It's emotionally freighted. Simply put, it's just hard to let go of the things which once belonged to someone you loved. But when the house is hoarded, it's an open wound and a herculean task.

It was my job to do the heavy lifting. In both instances, the heirs trusted my judgment in sorting through tons of stuff.

In the most recent instance, I set to work, tossing obvious trash, recycling the things that could be recycled (plastics, paints, cardboard, glass, electronics and so on) and donating the things which could be donated (in hoarded houses, it's not much because things can be pretty funky, mildewed and possibly contain bedbugs or other critters). I was also tasked with finding certain financial and legal papers; and I also took it upon myself to find other personal papers (for instance, photographs and personal papers -- in this case there was a treasure trove of letters between the mom and dad from the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's).

What was left, after I cleared the house, amounted to eight boxes of those personal objects, plus four pieces of art (wall-hangings) and one small piece of furniture. Eight small to medium bins, four paintings and one small cabinet. That was all that the bereaved wanted to remember his parent.

It is an object lesson in what things are important and what things are not.

Go fearlessly into your own closets and basements. Remember which things are important and which are not. Think about the things that are really important to you -- the ones that you love and which are of use. Everything else can be put on the chopping block. And if you get stuck, call a professional.

 

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