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In the 18 months of my mothers decline I often found my self wandering the house in the middle of the night looking at the house and all its possessions. I came to the conclusion that there are about ten things in the house I would consider keeping. Out of a lifetime together they have acquired thousands of things. Closets full of clothes that the haven't touched in years, possible decades. File cabinets of papers that have no discernible purpose. Vehicles that may still have the random M&M in them from the 1980's. So much stuff. How did they get this much stuff?

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I take issue with people explaining elders keeping all sorts of junk as being because they lived through the Depression. Of all the people I know who are over 80, I only know one hoarder, my Dad. He hoards lots of stuff, but especially food. No he has never gone hungry a day in his life.

And I fully admit I have hoarding tendencies, but have hired help to sort through my house.

Over Easter I will be at the family property where Dad has hoarded for many 30+ years. My brother was supposed to help 2 years ago, but it appears to be up to me. Dad 'allowed' me to go through one kitchen cupboard last year. Over the winter there was a 5+ day power outage, and I tossed everything from the fridge, bleached it and it was clean for the first time in years. Bleached the kitchen counters, and scrubbed everything I could.

Dad cannot reach the top shelves or bottom cupboards, so I will be tackling them. I am meeting a man with a big dumpster and will be seeing about hiring him to tackle the piles of garbage outside. There is a 12x20 shed that is full of junk and a 10x10 'tool' shed that has holes in the floor and more stuff than any one person can use.

I will take boxes, so I can take the dozens of coffee cups to the thrift shop. Dad has not see the mugs in years, as they are on a top shelf and he has not been able to access them for over 5 years.

Dad has 4 derelict vehicles on the property and has let a neighbour park a car there too. There is a boat trailer (no boat on it), boat motors, two very old travel trailers full of junk, both trailers leak too.

Oh and to make it even more fun, he lives on an island, so it is incredibly expensive to have junk removed from the Island.
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Reply to Tothill
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It is amazing how much stuff people can collected in a lifetime. You sound like me a few years back. When my BF and I moved in with my mother I would wander through the house at night wondering how did my parents and especially my mother get so much crap? Every corner, every closet, every space full, nice expensive things mixed in with cheap stuff. It was overwhelming, and I would try to talk to my mother on how there was no room at all to move around or for my BF and me (are stuff is in a storage unit). But there still really wasn't any room for the things that we needed. There wasn't any room for any food for us in the fridge or freezer. It was sad and unbelievable. But I always got push back from my mother. She would say, "I didn't want her to have anything," or "it is her things and she will take care of it." But it would never happen!

So one day I told my BF that we were going to make room in the basement. We cleaned it out! Then we cleaned out the garage. Little by little we just started to remove things, small things at first. Packed up 20 boxs of nik-naks, boxs on top of boxs of books. Somethings we sold, somethings we just gave away. I would love to say we are close to being done but we have away to go. Sigh:(

My argument with my mother was/is 'what is the point of having so much stuff that you can't take care of it and you don't even appreciate it.' My mother stays on the third floor most of the time!
She stills at time gives me a what for but I now pay most of the bills and I just can't live this way anymore!

One night as I was wandering through the house I thought to myself, "what do I really want and what can I live without?" I decided to keep about 3 pieces of furniture that came out of my dad's parents house, and our family holiday dishes and my mother's fur coat that she told me that I could do whatever I wanted to with it! Sad to say, she would rather keep the junk and get rid of the good stuff. Go figure!!

I would start to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of, make a list. If you have sibs ask what they would like. You have to start somewhere and if you can't get rid of things right now then start writing out who gets what and do research to find out what is worth selling and what can be given away! I know people may disagree with me about how I handle it, but like I said...you have to start somewhere! The sad part is as we got rid of things, my mother never even notice and when she did-she really didn't care...she gave up control because at the end that is What It Really Was About--Control!!!

"Our stuff, our houses, our cars are like the game of monopoly. We play the game and at the end everything goes back in the box for someone else to start it all over again." --Joyce Meyer

Sorry that I vented and probably wasn't much help!!!

God bless!
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Gremlin Apr 17, 2019
Nothing quite like those nighttime walks. I would stop and stare at things that I had never looked at before. Things that have been there 30 or 40 years and I never really noticed at them. Maybe that’s why people end up with house full of stuff. After a certain amount of time they just don’t see it anymore.

I cleared out one of the filing cabinet drawer over the weekend and donated a box load of books, printer items and old tech. I donated a storage container of my own thing at the same time and I barely remember what was in it. It’s easy to loose perspective on the the amount of things we bury ourselves under but, as humans, we so easily recognize everyone else’s crap when we can’t smell our own.
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I just cleaned out the house that my brother and my mom lived in. I lost my brother 2 years ago so my mom stayed in the house until she passed. It was unexpected and after the funeral I winterized it and came home. Went back last month and started selling things that I didn't want/need. Sometimes it's easier if it's not your stuff. I kept a few things and got a uhaul box to ship it home. The house is on the market. I know if my mom had been in her own home there would have been more to disperse. I sold what I could, donated most of the clothes and gave friends some things they could use. As the executor and sole survivor it was all up to me. Many things can be donated to thrift shops and other charitable organizations. Take deep breaths, make lists, shred papers , recycle...you can do it.
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Reply to ladyval
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I had to get out of that Mom mode "someone may need it". She swore as soon as she finally got rid of something somebody needed it.

I had an Aunt that played Bingo and did very well. She would put money in books, albums...when she passed my cousin found $3000.

My boss was asked to get some clothes for a friend who had been placed in LTC. She checked pockets as she packed up some clothing. In the pocket of a coat she found $400. So make sure you open pocketbooks and check pockets.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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It was a tough job choosing what to keep and what to get rid of. I kept reminding myself that whatever I took home I'd have to find a place for it and then it would become a burden when I was already trying to downsize myself! I was astonished to find stacks and stacks of old magazines and useless stuff that had to be thrown away. I was sad to discover almost all the things I might have wanted to keep had been given away, thrown away or sold in a garage sale.

More than anything else, I was amazed to see how little they had of any real value. Made sure family members got to go through stuff and pick out what they wanted. I have no regrets for not taking much. Things cannot replace the people I remember. They are just things.
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Reply to CantDance
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I dread the day.....week...month that I have to go through MY stuff.
I know there is stuff that I have that no one will want.
I know I have stuff in my closet that I have not worn (Did ya know that clothing shrinks if it is kept in the dark for more than 3 months!?)
I am sure we are all in the same boat. So lesson learned, begin to clear out your stuff before your kids have to do it.
Now...
Slowly go through the closet. Either ask to "borrow" some things or say it looks like this needs to be cleaned can I take it for you...then """Poof""" gone. Truly old stuff or formal wear and suits might be welcomed by the school theater group.
Those treasured Precious Moments...the glass collection from QVC that looked so pretty on TV...The collection of cookie jars (guilty on that)...can all find a good home. At Goodwill...they will not bring much at a garage sale or an Estate Sale.
The dresser, the nightstands...all that stuff can be donated. The trick is to convince them that there is a "young family at church that lost a lot in a fire and they need to get "new" stuff to rebuild their home... (therapeutic lies go far in helping things along)
The vehicles can also be donated or you could call your local school or community college to see if they would take them so the shop class can work on them then they can sell them and keep the money for the program.

As far as papers go you really need to go through them before they are destroyed. Ya never know what you will find.
And leaf through all the books looking for money or other "valuable" papers.
Take it bit by bit. There is no need to rush.
The important thing
None of this is worth an argument so if it is stressful for your parents...let it go for now you can try again another time. Not worth stressing you out over it either.
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Abby2018 Apr 13, 2019
Oh yes....the books...and the paper in between....and an occasional ten or five dollar bill. My mom has paperwork stored everywhere. Nooks and crannies and drawers.....oh my!!! But unlike you grandma....I do feel rushed....and the anxiety of it all hanging over my head makes me crazy. I really don’t want to do this, but my sense of duty is strong.....and there is just SO much stuff. I feel as though I have lost control of MY life, so my mother can pretend she has control of hers.
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My mom moved to a nursing home in the middle of January and my brother & I just finished cleaning out her home & barn. Thankfully, my son owned the property so we weren’t rushed.

We knew that day was coming yet mom wouldn’t let us have yard sales or get rid of anything. A LOT of this stuff was pure junk...wasn’t even good enough to give away! We paid a guy to haul off six truck loads of broken down furniture & other junk. Plus another packed load for scrap metal (and it wasn’t even appliances). She had 5 wheelchairs, one was so wide it wouldn’t even fit through the door but she still wanted it! She had her mother’s clothes from years ago along with her old bank statements! We lost track of how many loads of clothes, purses, shoes, & decorations that we carried to Goodwill. Oh, and the bags of paperwork that we also hauled off to the dumpsters ourselves!

We were able to sell a few pieces of furniture & we came out $50 ahead after paying the junk guy. Most of her furniture ended up just being given away.
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Reply to mollymoose
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If I cleaned out our house there’d be so much empty space we’d have to move.
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Reply to qmnpxl
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Me, I don't do yardsales. A lot of work for the money you receive.

We started with the attic and most of that was trashed. When she moved in with me, I started cleaning out a room at a time. Found stuff Mom had bought and never opened. Gave that stuff to our Church auction. Cleaned out closets and got rid of old clothes. Gave away things I thought friend could use. Like a friend who bakes alot for some organizations. I gave her all the baking dishes. Brother picked what he wanted. Just had Habitat come and take what they wanted. Stuff went to a thrift shop of a Church School. Their profits go to scholarships. Most of Moms stuff went to places that help others.

The best yardsale I have seen was a friend's. She put no prices on anything. She let people give what they felt reasonable. She was collecting for a camp for children. Some of Mom's and mine went to that yardsale. My ministers wife was cleaning out her Moms and in the end, had a FREE yardsale. Another friend's Mom had passed. She collected Santa's. At her funeral we were allowed to take a Santa ornament in memory of her. I put mine out every Christmas and put on a shelf.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Not an easy task....been trying to convince mom to do so for the past few years. We finally made some progress after she developed compression fractures and was diagnosed with PMR. Mostly removing obstacles and tripping hazards and now after breaking her hip, this has intensified to some degree. After promising she would cooperate while in rehab, she has reneged and now is more obstinate than ever about getting rid of her “stuff”...... most of which has no real emotional attachment. She is a clean hoarder who loves beautiful items but everything is so cluttered you can’t appreciate most of her treasures. It is impossible to move anything to a safer location because there is NO room to do so. Same thing goes with clothes...closets packed with items she hasn’t worn in twenty years, but “might”still wear “someday”. And then...oh yes....the mounds of paperwork found everywhere. We can’t find the important papers that we need because they are buried somewhere she doesn’t remember. My dad wants the the home clutter free, mom digs in and resists. Impossible to please both, so we do what we can in the interim. Problem being I’m approaching 70 and am resentful of being in this position. When the time does come when we empty the home and sell it, it will be a six month project at best. Lesson learned, I’m a minimalist and refuse to put this burden on my children. Long story and not so short, you have a lot of company Gremlin....Hang in there!
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My sister and I live in the house where we grew up with my 92 year old mother who's near the end of her time here. We both moved back for different reasons, and neither of us ever imagined we would be sleeping in our childhood bedrooms. When we moved "home," we were told under no circumstances could we bring any stuff that wouldn't fit into said bedrooms. Yeah, so we both gave up almost every single thing we owned. And neither of us has the same decorating sense as our mother. We share the house with nine sets of dishes if you include the Spode Christmas ones and several sets of real silver--the kind that has to be polished and Hummels galore and four (count 'em four!) cedar chests full of all sizes and seasons of her clothes and you know what I'm talking about.

Everybody (children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren) have chosen what thing(s) they want. But I still dread going through all the stuff that's poked in closets and under her bed and thrown in the garage. Worse is the fact my nephew has taken over half the garage and most of the backyard. He has a lawn business, but he comes home with all kinds of junk his clients give him or that he finds on the road. Since he built himself a little shack out there, our yard looks like Sanford and his son live there.

My sister and I will be co-owners of this house, and neither of us can get out of here fast enough. We might have to call security when it comes to getting my nephew cleared out because, as the golden grandson, he believes the house and everything in it already belong to him. Good times.
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Stephanie4181 Apr 13, 2019
I realize how serious this is but THANK U FOR MAKING ME LAUGH! And u r not alone, our situation sounds a little similar.
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Can u post pics on here? I'm new here and u know the saying " a picture is worth a thousand words'- could not be more true in my case right now. My father is the most selfish, lazy, lying, hypocritical, manipulative person I've ever met, and now to my absolute disgusting horror, I've discovered he's also a hoarder from HELL. Im so embarrassed by this nasty, filthy, disgusting, packed with U FREAKIN NAME IT house. There is absolutely NO WAY anybody could ever clean this house at this point. And I'm not exaggerating. I tried to sweep when I first saw this house a few months ago, but there's just no way. It's totally WAY TO LATE for that! I can't even believe it. I can't even begin to think how does anyone let anything get this bad? How can ANYONE possibly live like this?!?! It's so unbelievable. Im just in shock. I'm mad, furious, disgusted. And what really infuriates me, is he's a pathological liar. And hypocrite. Constantly quoting the Bible. Wow. Just wow
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If you’re able to start some cleaning out now, do it!

My grandparents had lived in their house only 22 years or so, but they didn’t toss anything from their previous house, just hauled it all with them. It took months to clean it out. We found medication from the 1970s— so it was already 20 years old when they moved in! Tax forms from 1960. Old recipes, scribbled phone numbers on church bulletins. All closets stuffed full of clothes, 90% barely worn. Multiple sets of dishes. Half empty bottles of lotion, old makeup, broken Christmas items and about 10,000 blankets and bedding despite never having houseguests. Cleaned it out and had an estate sale.

My grandfather grew up poor, my grandmother not quite as poor but both from the Depression era. Couldn’t throw anything away. House wasn’t hoarded so much as way cluttered. I hate clutter and their house felt so suffocating. I’ve begged my folks to not leave us kids in the same predicament. They aren’t into saving everything so much as having lots of furniture and such.
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Reply to LoopyLoo
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When my father moved out of his house where he had lived for 54 years into a retirement village the amount of stuff was astounding and except for his workshop it was all junk

three large skip bins, all saved wood to a local carpenter countless trips to church op shop with all his ancient junk ( they smiled politely every time) a local council clean up where neighbours helped spread it around, gave away good tools and still he left things in garden shed eg lawnmower

when he moved in in to a nursing home there was still a huge amount of garbage
there were note pads that were so old the paper was yellow

i couldn’t face it again so I took $7K out of his money to pay someone to just take it all away to dump it. Luckily a friend was helping to set up a house for their new minister so they took the new furniture like bookcases desk and new printer. The dining table which looked like new even though it was from the 70’s was back in fashion and there was a good entertainment/display cabinet
The rest went straight to landfill
Then the horror of the filing cabinets
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Reply to Pandabear
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I was reading answers and replys on this.. I lost my dad 10 yrs ago and my mom has now started to try and downsize and give some of her belongings away. I can relate to the file cabinets full of papers that my parents felt they needed to hang on to and my mother continues to hang on to them also... Im trying to grasp things that need to be done and will have to be done.. Im struggling with the thought.. My parents have managed to hang on to stuff and their parents stuff... I just hate to think of tossing " their treasures" But most really doesnt have a purpose..
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Good afternoon, Gremlin,

Some great advice so far. We did this last year. My siblings and I rented a dumpster that took up almost the entire driveway. The worst part was the garage full of old rusty tools. We dreaded that for years, but my brother and BIL took care of that in the space of two days. The rest of it took a couple of weeks, culminating in a weekend estate sale. Goodwill hauled off with some and my sister stored a few pieces of furniture until she sold them on Facebook Marketplace.

I have always been a minimalist when it comes to possessions, but since that experience, I have been going through closets and drawers getting rid of more stuff. There is a greater awareness of how little I really need coupled with the desire to not leave my kids a lot of useless junk and papers to go through.
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Gremlin, clearing a parents home isn't easy. Oh how I wished they would have started downsizing decades earlier, but being teen-agers of the Great Depression every little knick knack had memories.

When the hospital had a rummage sale, I thought for sure my parents would have jumped at the chance to donate things as they had volunteered at the hospital for decades. Mom would hand over one knick-knack and that was it... [sigh].

After my Mom had passed and Dad decided he rather live in senior living, he gave me the ok to do whatever with the "stuff". It took me months since I was still working full-time. I did it all myself since I had no siblings, and my sig other would find a photo album and spend time looking at pictures or asking me over and over what to do with this or that... just easier to do it myself.... [sigh]. It was physically and emotionally exhausting.

Oh those filing cabinets. Dad kept every paycheck stub starting in the 1940's. And every IRS income tax report.

I even called an person to do an estate sale. If the house had antiques from the 1700's or 1800's or priceless art work, then the estate person would take the job. So my next step was Goodwill [they were booked out for 2 months] and Salvation Army [couldn't take the furniture on the 2nd floor due to the turn in the stairs]. I let a handyman have his pick of stuff in my Dad's workshop.

No yard sales. I was my senior myself, so no way to carry stuff out. I did find putting some smaller stuff out at the curb during trash day drew attention to those who would find the items handy. Rest of the stuff I had to call one of those 1-800-Junk type places.

One thing I did do, and got the recommendation right here on the forum, was to "swap out" items in my house with those items my parents had. Thus, I donated my lamps and replaced them with my parents lamps, etc.

Anyhow, that was over two years ago when I said good-bye to my parents house. A flipper bought it and he has been updating. And now my sig other and I are starting to downsize "stuff" in our own house.
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Gremlin Apr 12, 2019
I think that some of the dread comes from the realization that I'll be clearing out the house for the purpose of putting it on the market. The house itself is in terrible condition and will most likely have to be torn down by anyone buying it. It's like bluffing a car to a shine knowing it's heading to the compactor.

Oh, I didn't mention that my sister lives in another house that they rent to her through section 8. She has destroyed that house to the point that I do not want to step in the door. I will not UNDER ANY CONDITIONS be clearing out that house.
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I’ve done THREE homes, and this last time, we hired a very ethical firm that does house clearances, who did the sale, then cleared the whole house, handled ALL of the donations, and hired and filled the dumpster so that the house was ready to be shown THE NEXT DAY by a realtor.

There were very few items of any value, and another family member took most of that, so I wound up happily paying a fee to get the work done, but it was worth EVERY CENT I PAID.

The third house had been family property for over 130 years, so there were just tons of things to go through.

If you are legally responsible, think carefully about whether it will be better for you and for your LO for you to do the job yourself, or to hire someone to do it for you.
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Reply to AnnReid
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Probably children of the Depression when they were taught to use it up, made it do or do without. (Oddly, my gma who REALLY was poor, had very little 'junk'.)

Also a fear of not having what you 'need'--and the more, the better-Mother was never poor, but she acts like she was.

Mother has tons of garbage. We already downsized her from a 4000sf home to a 800 sf apartment which she has hoarded out so that nobody can even sit down to visit her.

She's kept the publisher's clearing house envelopes with inserts from the last 40 years. Every single pad of paper or return address sticker from charities---every catalog that comes. Sticky, old Tupperware with no lids. A commercial grade meat slicer. 15+ vases. My brother just keeps building more little rolling carts with storage in them.

I tried to get her to de-clutter (she saw how much I enjoyed my Marie Kondo de-cluttering!) and asked for help. 3 days in and she was going through the trash to redeem her garbage. EVERYTHING has some memory or feeling for her. She says she feels 'hugged' by all this junk.

I give up. All I can try to do is throw out the bathroom trash as it reeks of wet depends and she only wants the trash to go out weekly.

Sounds like you're in a position to de-junk? Just start with one cabinet, one cupboard. Go slow. It took us 3 years to empty the big house. It will take ONE DAY when she passes to clear out everything, as all she has is garbage. The very few things of value are marked for the recipient. I honestly don't want ANYTHING from mother's but her Fiesta Ware pitcher, which she never used and is stored in a cupboard, but she knows it's there.

On the flip side, my MIL has a basement that is completely empty. W&D, water heater, furnace. Nothing else. I am grateful to her for recognizing she had stuff she never used.

If your folks will let you--start this process now. And prepare to find some very weird stuff.

I made the mistake of referring to mother's possessions as junk and she blew up. I should have been more thoughtful. She is as attached to the $4 stuffed rabbit she bought after Easter as she is to a $500 Lladro statue.

My sis and I want to do a Spring clean and I am heading up there now to run past her the idea that she take a day and go to brother's house and Sis and I will minimally clean carpets, windows, curtains and bleach that bathroom. We already know we cannot throw anything away. Just freshen things up.

I kind of already know she won't let us, but we keep trying. (The definition of insanity)

What you are facing is very common. It's daunting and awful to go through. I did it for my FIL after he passed. I have no idea how much stuff I threw out, but I was hauling bags of garbage up and down the street to neighbors' home and asking them for some space in their garbage bins. I should have rented one of those dumpster things.

Good Luck. You sure aren't alone in this.
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Reply to Midkid58
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Possessions were the mark of the greatest generation. They also lived through the Depression and WW2, so they were conditioned to keep and reuse everything. It is overwhelming!

Start by donating all good clothing shoes and coats. Then attack the paperwork. I killed 3 shredders. I had income tax forms and all supporting receipts back to 1947. I am not kidding.

Then pick a room with the attack plan of trash, donate, sell and keep. Do one room at a time. Ask friends and relatives if they would like a special piece of furniture as a momento. Find a college kid to donate furniture to....the resale value is not much.

Our experience was so huge we sorted out a full yard sale every week for seven weeks. We had people coming back. We would say, the attic is in 2 weeks, the basement is next week.

Another idea is to find members of community in need. Check with churches, charity shops, etc if there is a special need.. We got rid of baby cribs, kitchen tables and recliners to folks that really needed them.

The memories are fun, but the job is huge. Break it up into bite size pieces..good luck to you.
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MyMom1965 Apr 12, 2019
Thank you... This helps take such a heartbreaking task and break down to "doable" .. I love the idea of donating to those in need,, and room to room and day to day... :)
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