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I am sad to say that my sweet Mom passed away a few weeks ago. I have been working to empty her home of things people may need, particularly after the hurricane. I’ve given towels, sheets, blankets, clothing, toiletries (unopened) to goodwill... but my head is spinning and I feel disorganized, disoriented and like I just don’t know what to do with things. There is so MUCH. Some garbage, some very good long family history/memories.

There are three siblings, so the furniture, paintings/pictures, rugs and mementos must be distributed. I put together an excel spreadsheet of each room in the house and sent it to my brother and sister. My brother wants two things and my sister hasn’t replied yet. It’s too soon for her... but I know there will be things left over. What do I do? Is there a good process for deciding/dividing among ourselves how to take good care of the lovely things my dear Mom left?

Anyone who knows of good resources and good processes for this, I would appreciate hearing from you. I am doing the best I can, but I’m sure you know better and have some very good experiences for me about what works and what does not.

I’m looking forward to hearing your good ideas, your cautions and experiences so that I can learn from your wisdom. Right now I feel like I’m feeling around in the dark and I feel ill-equipped to complete this task. The one nice things is that I found old letters from my Mom to my Dad and they are very sweet and remind me how lucky we were to have them as parents.

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The spreadsheet sounds like a great idea with the prioritization if you have time and there are serious family members who would appreciate. In my situ, no one really wants anything. There are some old family photos that will be distributed among my brother and I; jewelry; furniture. My plan is to cash in jewelry (much of it good); distribute a few photos; and donate household goods/furniture to church to distribute to families in need or new settlement families. I thought about the yard sale; but too much work and I'd have to do everything and then split proceeds (doesn't sound fair).

One of you suggested all the old linens, towels, blankets, comforters, etc be donated to animal shelter...Fantastic idea and I endorse!! -- please do so if you can. A comforter can be cut up into large squares and re-sewn perfect for animals in need.

If you have old hats/purses/dresses/luggage, etc -- you may be able to take to vintage consignment shop. They will sort and send you checks as items sell. The other clothes, take to goodwill or pack for VA. They will sort and use what they can.
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When I had to place my mom into a room and board to her dementia, I was the on that had to go through the house and pack it up. It started with gettting rid of a lot of trash and furniture that the cat had ruined. I started basically the back den and packed up the books in the bookshalves and brought them to a used book store to have them buy mom moms books. I basically went from room to room, and set thing a side that my sister haas requested . My moms directive was to sell everything and spllt tjhe money. I got a dumpster for three days and filled it up with things that were too old to be sell., I had garage saids. And even stored thing in storage. My lawyer told me not to get rid of anthing valuable until after my mom is is dead, or the money of the sell of the house has been spent. I did it with the help of a handyman. I am still having nightmare about all the things and saw with no one to share it with. I was so stressed out and it was not healthy for me.
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Check for a furniture bank in your area. They supply furniture and household goods to help people start new lives. No pick up charge if you have at least one big piece. They are amazing and professional all the way. I'm in Central Ohio but there must be in other cities/states.
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One use we found for old linens (towels, bedding, etc) that was beyond real use (my mother never tossed anything) is your local animal shelter. We donated several bags of clean stuff. They are usually very happy to get it.
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Freecycle is a good option too if its available in your area.
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We had to do the estate sale thing once it was clear Mom could not go home again and we ran out of all other money for care...I rounded up what I could fit in my car of sentimental value, and let my heart break over selling all the good stuff...worst thing I ever had to do in my life. Write me privately if you want to hear any more details of what to expect/what to look for in estate sale professionals, but I'll just say make sure you keep anything that you really want to hold on to if you can because no single thing will get you very much dollar wise, and you may find the few things you pick out bring you a lot of comfort later on... they do leave the house more or less cleaned out so you can sell though.
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I don't know...I would do what you do - offer to family first. What no one wants, and you choose the option to sell it - I think you should keep the profit. Really, why do you have to do all the work? If family wanted the proceeds, then they should have chosen it when offered, and then sell it at their end. I mean, if you did all the work of caregiving, and now you're doing all the work of distributing her belongings, I think you should keep the proceeds. Enough is enough. If some siblings helped you (financial-wise), then they too should also share the proceeds. Because whatever income you make, I'm sure you can apply it for some bill of your mother's that will come to you later on a few weeks or months from now. If selling is going to cause an uproar, then go to donating to charity. Is there a caregiving service there that might know an elderly-in-need? Sooozi - I'm so sorry about your mom. HUGS!!!
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Sooozi, at least they were willing to pay something. My family seems to think everything is free and if we run out of money I can pay for her care. I can't, of course, but since they are mostly unemployed, pot heads, what we make seems like a fortune. I think I'd rather have family that didn't want to think about it, yet. At one point, one of my nephews actually said to me "Grandma says she has $200,000!" Like that was a lot. Paying for ALF, nursing, sitters and drugs will eat that up so fast. But I wasn't fast enough taking control. Over $60,000 went up in smoke with grandchildren 'borrowing' money.
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Galoshes59... when my mom was alive we would say we could see the vultures circling. It was mostly non-family members who could come to her house and ask for stuff. My dad landed a huge blue marlin and had it stuffed and mounted on the wall. A guy who was here painting asked her for it. Seemed crazy to me at the time. Also, the owner of her hair salon told her he would like to have her car! Seriously, it was like vultures waiting for her to die. She didn't act like she noticed, but it made me feel creepy ... (we have many stories like that...) so I feel like I know what you mean.

None of those people were there when she needed to be taken to the hospital or cared for on a daily basis. I bet when we have a garage sale, they will be back.
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Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and insight. I actually don't know what my siblings will want, but I'm pretty sure if I sell it later, they will want part of the cash. I'm OK with that at this point, but if I'm doing all the leg work, as with some of the questions care givers ask, do I get paid to do all of this? Right now we are switching from regular home owners insurance to vacant insurance for an LLC (where the house will now be owned by the 3 sibs). It is a pretty big job to find out when the roof was updated, how old the boiler and hot water heater are and if the electric have been updated. If I had known these would be the questions, I would have asked mom and would have kept records. Now I'm finding that I have to go on a hunt... kind of wish I had thought of asking this question a few years ago.

As someone said above, I bet it is a lot easier if parents decide which kid gets what big item, so that there are only small things to worry about later.... I feel like many of you do... it's a lot of work. I just want to do a good job and not blow it. Thanks again for your insights and stories. They are all very, very helpful and help me anticipate what is still to come. Thank you!!!
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So I guess the people like me are just not responding. You know what they say. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything. Well, my Mom is still alive and if I could keep family from stealing her things before I have a chance to sell them and pay for her care, I would do a little dance.
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((((Sooozi)))))))) my sympathies on your loss. It isn't easy.

geewhiz - I guess some do want stuff. I need a rant too. Mother left it all for me too. When she moved to an ALF she left most of her belongings for me to sort out. My sister took a small box worth of personal items and I had to deal with the rest. The grandkids and great grandkids wanted very little if anything. I sent some items to the Good Will shop and we hauled the rest to my home over 200 miles away, Sig other and I were still working so we couldn't do too much sorting then. Some of it is still in boxes, some I am using and some more has been given away. Fortunately one of the the grandchildren wants the family silver. He and his wife are in Britain. I have started sending it over, and have a few boxes to go yet. Mailing it is not cheap either. There are some nice sets of china, that a young couple I know would like -just have to get it to them. As famliy doesn't want it, I would rather it go to someone who would appreciate it. I also have some of my father's gear from the WW1, and will see if a museum wants it, and some older stuff from my mother's family. Mother set herself up with new furniture etc her 2nd ALF, so I will be doing it all over again one day :( sigh

sounds like there are some good ideas if family does want things, if not consider friends too, and giving away to a good cause. There are many who have needs, Kijiji might be a place to advertise, or your local newspaper once family have taken what they want, Good luck for sure!
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My plan for my mom is to have siblings pick up a few personal items they want. Then I will call an auction house to deal with the rest. The funds can be distributed to family or donated.
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WOW family members actually want things? Good for all of you! When I moved my Mom to assisted living last year, I asked my sibs to come and take what they wanted. One took some photos, another said she didn't want anything and the 3rd (with permission) took some things for his daughter's friend. That left EVERYTHING else. I took photos of pieces of furniture that were truly new (under 5 years) and in perfect condition. E-mailed them to cousins, especially since they had 2nd homes, kids/grandkids starting out in their own apts, etc. No one even took the time to respond. The non profit agencies couldn't send a truck until 6-8 weeks later. And victims of the 'Irene storm' didn't have any place to store the pieces while their homes were repaired. It was really disappointing to see perfect items that I couldn't give away. (I couldn't afford the fees to keep the apt another 2 months waiting for a furniture pick-up.) My hubby and I had to move so much, couldn't the family who came take some of the laundry detergent, paper towels, etc. They just left it all for me. SIGH

OK that was my rant. Now for a suggestion. My library has a listing on their website, called "who takes what'. They list contact info for used clothes, eyeglasses, hearing aids, furniture, etc. This might be a place to start. Good luck and so sorry for your loss.
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Soozi- they did several rounds. So the first time, you picked 3 items, prioritized 1-2-3. Someone else might have picked one of your items in their list. Then it went to who prioritized higher. I am sure there were some judgement calls. Once items from the first round were identified, they were scratched off the list, and the list was sent back around. We did have people distributed around the country. And, as Littletonway said, people value different things. It was interesting to see what people chose. I thought it was very efficient and it minimized the fighting. When my other grandmother passed away, it was a grabfest with lots of hurt feelings. When my own mother passed away, my Dad gave us her cosmetic jewelry. We put it on display like it was a jewelry show and had rounds where each person chose something. It was lots of fun.
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littletonway... what a great example of a loving family! Very, very nice! Thank you for sharing. I think a key was the work that was done ahead of time... the furniture and antiques.... my mom and dad didn't do any of that, so we are starting from scratch. We also are a family where I feel that the siblings are closer with their in-laws than they are with each other, so this family is separating a bit, with very different perspectives... some are conservative, others liberal, others don't want to take sides. Just very, very different ways of thinking. I am going to hold my breath and hope for a peaceful experience, and also I'm looking for things that will help us through the process. Your example really helps to set the right direction...

Thank you!
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My grandmother had a family of 5 children. One son had died a few years earlier. Aunts and Uncles decided to get together one weekend and clear the house. It was aunts and uncles, their spouses and the 3 children of the deceased brother. This is a wonderful loving family and they felt this would keep more within the family. This was 30 years ago (no computer spreadsheets ;).

They started with jewelry, watches and such. Anyone who wanted an item put their name tag in a hat. A neighbor who volunteered to help did the picking from the hat. They just went room to room following the same process. Oh, the one who got the jewelry boxes shared everthing in them with the others.

Who wants this lamp, who wants this desk...on and on it went all day long. They had lunch catered for an afternoon break. There was some trading of things. One aunt really wanted an old watch of her Mother's that a dil won and dil really liked the tourqoise broach the aunt had gotten. So they traded.

The next morning after church the grandkids came in and took the few things they wanted. The rest was sold at a garage sale and the money donated to their church.

The big stuff like furniture and antiques had already been distributed by the grandparents. This was understood by everyone. This couple was way ahead of their time for making serious decisions. It was a weekend of laughter, tears, stories and a real tribute to wonderful parents as the family lovingly shared memories. It also turned what could have been a sad and feudie (sp) kind of event into something we all still talk about at reunions and Christmas!

Good luck!
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MyWitsEnd, Thank you! I did that spread sheet, but the key that you added was to include priority 1, 2, 3... I need to resend to my sibs and ask them to prioritize their choices. Can you tell me more about how that part was done? Did they rate things 1-3 or prioritize the whole list? These kinds of things... sharing, is so helpful to me. Thank you.
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When my grandmother died, she left a large house of stuff. Some of it was trash, but there were also alot of furniture and family mementos. My aunt and uncle did an inventory and put it in a spreadsheet. Then they came up with a process where the list would be emailed to the 5 siblings. Each one had to identify what they wanted out of that round. I think in the beginning they started with multiple items per round. You had to prioritize them. I cannot remember the tie breaker if two people had something as a priority 1. I honestly don't think this happened much. After each round, items were scratched off the list. The only disagreement was the inclusion of grandchildren. All siblings except 1 wanted to include them after a certain round. There was A LOT of stuff. However, they kept it at siblings only, and we just told our Dad what we wanted. Everyone had to pick up by a certain date or arrange for shipment. It worked pretty well, as I recall.
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Sooozi: My Mom died right around the same time as yours. Right now I can't even begin to think about what to do with her clothes and personal belongings. Interested in hearing from others about their experiences though.

The first thing I wanted to tackle was the clutter of medical equipment and medical supplies. We have so much that could be donated to folks in need. Mom was brought communion on a weekly basis by a church deacon. We plan on asking him if he knows anyone that's homebound, elderly or ill who can't afford it. Also, I had thought about contacting the VNA since they were so good to us and they serve a huge portion of the elderly population in our county.
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Dear Snoozi,
These are great questions. But I do not have any answers for you because I am in the exact same situation, and so far, I haven't done anything about it; you've done more than I have and Daddy passed just this past May and Mom is in hospice right now. Can't handle it just yet. So, like you, I will wait for advice from fellow CG for advice OK? God Bless you.
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