I know that I have too much stuff in my house. I have no idea what to get rid of and what to keep. My son and his wife joke with me that they are going to get a giant dumpster after I die. What steps can I take while I am alive and “still kicking”?!?
– Lightening Up on Liberty Lane
Dear Lightening Up on Liberty Lane:
Some clients have spent months clearing a home after a death. Two of my clients have moved in to the family home (sleeping in their old bedrooms!) to spend the time to clean it out diligently.
It is a huge undertaking to go through an entire house, especially if it is filled to the brim (e.g.: too many old tax returns, mislabeled files, unneeded receipts, three sets of china, 35 of pairs of shoes…)
First, you should pare down now. Get rid of things you don’t need. Think about it – if you have a mortgage, your estate pays it until the house has been cleared and ready for sale. Ouch!
If you have valuables, you should leave written notes identifying them as such. Valuables accidentally go to Goodwill every day. How frustrating!
Finally, consider an estate sale or a community garage sale. (You can even do an estate sale while you are living). A company can put together the entire sale for you, and will keep a “cut” of 30-40%.
Paring down takes a huge weight off of everybody’s shoulders. Give it a try.
As luck would have it, the New York Times published an article on this very topic the weekend I was drafting this column! It is a great read, entitled “Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It.” You can read it here.
In this video I talk about “To The Dump Or The Auction House?“.