Years ago, my best friend’s parents passed away in an airplane accident. I vividly remember going to their house with my mother to bring food in the days following the incident. When we arrived, we saw four to six massive dumpsters outside of the house that were being filled and emptied on a very regular basis. A few weeks after our visit, I called my mom to check in on her. She made a comment that has always stuck with me—she could not believe that after years of collecting all those wonderful items, they all ended up in a dumpster. It was very eye opening for my mother to see what occurs after a death. In her mind, and I’m sure in many other people’s minds, those items have significant value to the family, and they will be forever cherished. The truth is most children don’t have the room to take those items and their perception of sentimental value is not the same as it was for previous generations. Almost immediately, my mother started cleaning out all of the things she had been collecting. She became very picky about what she would keep. I did not realize at the time what a huge project she had undertaken until years later when she died. It still did take my father a long time to go through everything that remained, but I have no doubt that he was thankful that he didn’t need the four to six dumpsters he would have needed, had my mom not started her own decluttering project years earlier.
We encourage you to talk to your loved ones about starting to declutter and sort their items now. You will be grateful after they are gone, and it will make your job as the executor of the estate much easier. Remember, however, that it may be very difficult for seniors to part with some of their things. Don’t push to the point of causing any type of conflict. Enjoy the time with your family while you are cleaning and downsizing, and hopefully, it will provide peace of mind for family members down the road.
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