Most of us collect a bunch of stuff throughout our lifetime. What happens when we pass away? Be sure you have a plan in place to go through your parent's stuff, so you keep valuables and memories.
Sorting through your parent's belongings can be stressful as you mourn their passing. Almost every item you come across may bring out memories of your parents and thinking logically is not usually an option.
Be sure you locate all their belongings. Did your parents rent a storage unit? Perhaps they had belongings at the assisted living facility or nursing home, and they may have stored stuff at another family member's home. Gather all their belongings together to inventory and review them properly.
Dealing with Grief Isn’t Easy – Going Through Memories Can Help
Unfortunately, dealing with the death of a parent is never easy, but if they were the last one to go, you have the added stress of figuring out what to do with all their stuff. While it isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is just another item you need to handle when you may already have enough trouble simply handling your emotions.
Some families have discussed this well before their parent's death. You may want to talk to your parents about their belongings and find out what they think is important or just junk. Consider taking photos of the special items they want you to keep in the family. It may allow you the opportunity to discuss the background of items and the history behind them.
There is a difference between "things" and important documents. For documents, be sure to scan them to keep a digital record. The same thing for photographs and old movies as over time, they can deteriorate. Noting the names of people in these photographs while your parents are living will be helpful as you may not know yourself.
Give Yourself Time
You don't have to sort everything immediately, so give yourself time. If you must get the property out of a house or apartment right away, rent a storage unit that you can work out of, giving you the time to review everything over time without making quick decisions you may regret later.
You can place things in areas, garbage, donation, sale, and items that may have special meaning to one sibling but not another. The sorting will make the decision process much more manageable.
Ask your siblings and other family members to create a wish list of the items they'd wish to have from your parent's estate. You will want to divide the property equally by monetary value. Some things may need to be appraised.
You must ask the question - what will you do with any item you plan on keeping? Will you use or display the item? If not, but it has some sentimental value, how will you store the item?
Use The Items in Your Own Home
By far, the best thing you can do with the things that your parents have passed on to you is to use them in your own home. Maybe they left you a pop-up toaster, and you don't currently have one. You could even replace some of your furniture with theirs. Even if their things aren't as updated as yours, it may still feel good to use their stuff instead of your own. That way, a piece of them is still there with you.
Pack Them Away Somewhere Safe
Not everything they left behind will be things you can use daily. If some items are too sentimental to get rid of, but you don't want them sitting around your house, you're going to have to find an alternative.
A gun collection is an example of something you may want to keep but not have around the house if you are not going to use them. Maybe the first gun you ever shot was in his collection, and you just can't bring yourself to part with it. If you have no plans to use it, you'll need to know how to store it away for long periods of time. Proper storage applies to just about anything you want to hang onto but not use regularly.
Sell Them Online or Give Them to Someone in Need
There will be items that you and your family have no desire to keep but still have value. The choices are either to sell them and split the proceeds or donate them to charity.
Memories are great, but your parents may have just owned some junk that you will never use. Start this process by getting online and finding out if any of the items have any value. Remember, one person's junk is someone else's treasure, and don't throw away items that might sell.
If you don't want to deal with the hassle of selling and shipping items, you can always give the stuff away to people in need. Some churches and organizations will accept donations and even pick them up for you. Don't forget; there may be a tax deduction that is available even when you donate property.
Even though your parents are not with you anymore, knowing that their things are out there helping people who need them may make you feel better.
Check Value of Items
Before any item is donated, sold, or placed in storage, be sure to check pockets and drawers. Many people have found cash, jewelry, and other valuable items that were 'hidden' in places you might not expect.
Be sure costume jewelry is actually costume jewelry. The materials that the jewelry is made with will determine the value. The quality of the metals and the gemstones used will determine whether a piece of jewelry is considered fashion jewelry or fine jewelry. There is also a middle category called "semi-fine," for pieces made with gold vermeil or is gold-filled.
You can get the jewelry appraised before being sold. Be sure you have valuable jewelry insured. Costume jewelry may still have some sentimental value to you if your mom, for example, wore it often.
There are also estate appraisers that can value antiques, furniture, and jewelry.
Don’t Make Quick Decisions
It's not always that easy, though—even the most useless items might be hard to get rid of due to their sentimental value. Before making a final decision about any item, if you have problems deciding if they are worth keeping, set it aside and review it later. Make it a special moment where you say goodbye to it—and your parent.
When you have a plan to tackle your loved one's property, it will make the process easier and more memorable.
Don’t forget caregivers who may have taken care of your parents in their final years of life. Some families will give the caregiver something as they too have usually developed a relationship with your parent. A small item you have little use for could be very meaningful to one of the people who took care of their daily needs.
About the Author
Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.
Contributor since September 25th, 2020
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