Many of us were lucky to grow up with grandparents. For some, time spent at grandma's house was a special time to get loved and spoiled. I was young when my father's parents passed away, but I fondly remember my grandma's homemade white bread...it was the only bread I would ever eat with the crust left on. Both grandparents had a strong German background, and my nickname became "Kuchen,' meaning "cake." I remember fondly the lilacs that grew in their backyard, a scent that is a favorite.
My mother's parents were very much a part of our lives growing up. They lived right around the corner when I was very young. My Grandpa Mac was a wonderful storyteller. We heard how he lost half his thumb (he told kids it was from sticking it up his nose), how we was shot down in a bomber in WW2 (elephants pulled them out of the jungle), how my grandma waited on him in an Air Force base cafe, and he asked if she'd clean up after him for the rest of his life (she did!) My Grandma Mac was a lovely cook, seamstress, and gardener. She had a pelican cookie jar that sat on top of her refrigerator, always full of homemade cookies. Later in life, while working with her in her garden, I offered to do the majority of the weeding so she wouldn't get dirty. Her response stays with me to this day. "That's okay, I'm washable."
Along with fond memories of the time we spent with our grandparents, we probably have fond memories of some of the items in their house, too. That pelican cookie jar is one. The harmonica my grandfather used to play. The painting of my relative's farm.
What do we do, then, when faced with a lifetime of memories and belongings when it's time to move a loved one, or they have passed away?
I have played a small role in doing this with both my grandparents and my parents, in addition to many clients of NEST Home, LLC. Here are some handy suggestions:
Often times before loved ones pass, they have made a will. Honoring that will is the very first thing that should be done. After that, close family members and dear friends should be the first ones to be invited to take any items.
A clever idea I've seen after this first step is inviting relatives and close friends to an open house at the estate. Have simple beverages and a few snacks on hand, and empty boxes of various sizes. Stage all the available items, and while you visit, encourage each guest to take a few items that are useful, or perhaps hold special meaning to them. It is a wonderful way to keep your loved ones' memories alive, while respecting the role that people have had in their life.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with sentimental things, consider taking only two or three. Maybe it is a special vase, a piece of serving ware, or a blanket. The value of the item is what you give it, and holding onto just a few meaningful things honors the relationship you had for your loved one without it being a burden.
UNCLAIMED PERSONAL ITEMS
This is an area where a lot of people struggle, especially those charged with liquidating an estate. What should be done with pictures, letters, bills, and postcards that NO family member wants? Here are a few suggestions I've found helpful:
*If there is historical value, consider reaching out to a local historical society
*Have an official and ceremonial burning, where you show gratitude for the special
role these important pieces of your loved one's past has played, and how
you are respectfully letting them go
*Shred unnecessary paperwork, letters, and pictures to protect identity (and secrets!)
RELOCATE USABLE ITEMS
For any item that has value, there are numerous ways to find them a new home.
*Sell-either yourself, through consignment, or a liquidator
*Donate-there are a variety of local organizations that find good homes for items
while also profiting the community
There will be items left that no one can make heads or tails of, and can't seem to think of anything to do with them.
*Consider setting them in the front yard, for a limited time, with a "FREE" sign on them.
You'd be surprised how resourceful people can be with some of these items.
*If metal, many items can be hauled to a local scrap yard and sold!
*Rent a dumpster, the last resort. I don't like this option as a rule, because I'm always
amazed at how much life is left in so many items people deem trash, but in some
cases, it is necessary. Make sure, however, that you are following the guidelines
for what to put in a dumpster. Many household items like light bulbs, garden
sprays, and paint, for example, have requirements about disposal. Calling
your local waste removal services will generally land you in the right spot when
looking for information, after a few phone calls.
Of course, not any or all of this has to be done by friends and family. There are many companies that can assist. Look in your local yellow pages or online for businesses that do auctions, estate sales, or liquidations. There are also moving companies that can do a fair share of the work, for a price.
If you are looking for special care and attention during this process, please consider reaching out to NEST Home, LLC. I provide a free consultation and you will have answers to all of your questions before any work begins. You do not HAVE to do it alone.