If you've already gone thorough this I'd like to hear from you too.

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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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 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... :)
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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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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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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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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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 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.
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.
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 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.
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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If I cleaned out our house there’d be so much empty space we’d have to move.
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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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