Is It Downsizing Time?







A loved one has died and left you with a houseful of accumulation-of-years stuff... You (nearest of kin, let's say) take what you want, and there's still SO much left! Let's also say that you've decided that it's too much trouble to do eBay or wheel-and-deal with resellers and too much work for you to put on a yard sale. And anyway, you hate to give (or even sell) some of this memory-inhabited stuff to just anybody. What is there left to do? Here are some suggestions...

Donate where it will do good and would have been blessed by the former owner:

When my mother passed away, my aunt and I were in attendance from afar at my parents' house, and my father wished to make the most of our available time together by having us clear out her clothes, jewelry, and other only-Mother-related objects right away. My mother had been an avid rummager, and the church sale was coming up a few weeks later - so my father was delighted to have many boxes and bags going toward that cause. (We later learned that the church made much more at that sale than ever before, and my father felt so good about that!)

Distribute memories to special folks:

It was perfect that my aunt could have immediate choice of anything she'd like to remember her only sister by, and to advise in the selection of items for the rest of her family. But I knew of many old friends and other relatives, and I'd been meeting a number of local people in the community they retired to who were important to my parents and vice versa, and I wanted each of these to have something special. My father helped me to make a list of individuals, and to pick out jewels, scarves, books or the like that they might like and would remind them of my mother; and I wrote notes of explanation and thanks to go with each of them. Here was another layer of "wealth" siphoned off in a heartwarming way.

Donating to charitable sites where that wealth will do the most good:

A few months later, my father was gone also... and so on to a whole house full of stuff. I've done yard sales, but I couldn't price my parents' belongings - it took long enough to sift through it all and quickly sort out the prizes from the useful objects and the junk. I knew which of the local thrift stores was their favorite, the one that trained and hired developmentally disabled people to refurbish the resurrectable and work in the store... so off to that store I went a number of times - to be greeted by some absolutely lovely people who really made my day with their stress-free smiles.

Recycle the true recyclables:

Most of the actual junk, of course, was recyclable - and many trips were made to the most well-thought-out recycling center I'd ever been to, so I learned there, too.

Have a party - even, a "sales" party?:

This idea is from a woman in North Carolina named Clare Stone Altmann, from the July 2009 Guideposts magazine: Invite all of your loved one's local friends to a (birthday?) party to celebrate his or her life - and let them know that you'd like them to take whatever they'd like of what they see as a remembrance... in exchange for a donation to the loved one's favorite charity. Set up the houseful of objects like a boutique, with similar items stylishly grouped together as in a store - and have fun!

Or, just throw a giveaway party as a fun way to get rid of your excess stuff.  Let your friends "skim off the top" before you turn to other, less personalized options for downsizing your just-don't-need-them belongings.  (Probably better than a white elephant exchange, which could saddle you with more stuff!)

What other ways can you come up with to "recycle your inheritance" and make handling the physical aspects of an estate more love than labor?   




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