Have that itch to start Spring Cleaning? How about starting at your parents’ house? Here are some ideas to help sort the “treasures” of 70-80 years of living. Sorting through a household is a daunting task, especially one that has been collecting belongings for seven or eight decades! To help you get started, I suggest that as you evaluate the items, you sort them into 3-5 categories:
- Items that your parents will want to keep with them always
- Items that family members may want
- Items that can be sold at an estate sale, antique store or online
- Items to donate to charity
- Items to throw away
I like to use the colored dot stickers that you can purchase at the office supply store – one dot for each category (also one for each family member that will receive any of the items). For items in the first two categories, it is fun to sit down with your parents and family members to share the stories about each treasure. Ask your elders –
- When did you acquire this?
- How did you acquire it? Gift? From whom? Purchase? Where?
- Tell us about it. What are your favorite memories associated with it?
Then, write the information down. Capture the story. I like to use clear adhesive labels (again, from the office supply store). Summarize the story and the date acquired, write it on the label and place the label somewhere on the item (include furniture and photos too). I’ve heard too many regrets from families that didn’t capture the stories before their parent passed. These folks inherit items that they know are sentimental but they don’t know the stories or don’t know any details about it. Get it now! Plus, it’s fun to take a trip down memory lane with your parent(s) and it will preserve the memory for future generations. If your parent wants certain items to go to a particular individual, have your parent make a list in their own handwriting or type it out and sign it. Attach the list to their will or store with other important paperwork. For items to be sold or donated – this is like an onion – it gets peeled in layers and you may not do this just once. Your parent may be ready to part with some items now and want to hold on to others for longer. Get an estimate on the value of antiques, collections and sets of china/silver/crystal. Don’t assume that it is worthless and don’t assume it’s a Rembrandt. Get an expert opinion, search online or look for comparable items. You can take these items to an antique or consignment store, have an estate sale or sell them online. There are also professionals that handle estate sales and do the work for you. You may want to contact them if your parent is ready to move or agrees to start the process of clearing out the treasures now. For clothing, remember local charities like shelters need clothing for their clients. Dress for Success is a charity that helps ladies with interview clothing. For dressier clothes, this is a great choice for donation. Other options for vintage clothing and accessories are the drama departments of local schools. Some community theatres would appreciate some of these items as well. Just remember, starting now is a great way to spread out a daunting task but, also, comes with the rewards of sharing some great memories too. Happy Spring!