How did you handle all the personal "stuff"of your parent when they died?

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It meant so much to them but it compounds every generation? Most 80-90 year olds are children of the depression era and saved LOTS of stuff. My mother died 3 years ago and my dad recently moved to assisted living. Because of his wishes, I have no intention of clearing or selling the house while he is alive, but I wanted to get a head start.
OH MY! Just mom's stuff alone..boxes, drawers, old cedar chests full of letters and photos and cards....my mom was widowed in WWII after a brief marriage...while no members of that man's (not my dad) surviving family are known to me, there is his purple heart, letters from him, and letters from family members of other crew members when the plane went down and they were MIA for months. History, valuable and heart breaking. Letters from my grandfather who was a funny and articulate writer and letters from Mom's friends and relatives who shared deeply personal pieces of their souls with her. And now she's gone, anyone who knew her are mostly gone, and now what happens?
Many of the pIctures are most likely of historical value even though I don't know who they are. Scrapbooks my dad made of their past trips. Add this to the furniture, clothing, jewelry, kitchen stuff, a bazillion books, sewing stuff, garden stuff, etc etc etc. The task for just the general detritus of life is overwhelming. And I'm an only child. And I have my own crap...way too much. But it is that personal stuff that mom that just breaks my heart.
Picking just a few things? Donating? My kids live in tiny NY apartments. All the relatives and friends who would recognize these things are gone, and their kids..well, the chain gets too long. Cataloging, scrapbooks, publishing...maybe,but is that what I want to occupy my time with? Or maybe I can just read it all for a glimpse of my parents that I never knew and toss it? I even feel funny reading such personal stuff sometimes, but it draws me in every time. :-)
Not looking for solutions, just your own philosophy.

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Five years ago, we traveled to Mexico City to bring mom to live with the 2 of us. So... we had to do the job done with mom there, looking at us bagging and packaging all of her life............ I had warned/asked/mentioned that were there to help, since there's no one else. No grandchildren........went through the years of pictures and I would ask, mom who is this? I don't know. And this? No idea. Ongoing for hours till she got tired and said "just dump it all". I gasped and saved the important ones. I hope they're important. I recognized some people in those pictures. Anyway... I am guessing it was not as hard as it would be to clean out after she falls asleep in death. She had a lot of earrings, and a special place for them. We brought it back to the States, and she's using it to this day. Framed about 8 pictures, her parents, sister, my wedding. She looks at those every day.
Doilies, embroidered things she made, framed and on her bedroom wall. Very few and extremely selective since we came back in airplane.
Her clothes, she picked out and put them in the suitcase.
What did not fit, we called the professionals, and they took it all, except for the beds we were using.
I kept the best attitude I could muster, seeing my childhood stuff go in black garbage bags.
Not all stories are about after dying. We grieve our losses for a little while, or for a long time.
M88
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I've mailed photos of the old victorian home my mom grew up in to the family who now owns it. Tracked down the family of my MIL's high school friend and returned letters written by their mom. Sent an elderly relative her baby pictures. In one case I contacted a family and found out I had the only remaining self published book written by their father (the last taken from his nursing home) and given to my dad. And so on. In return I have learned much about my mom and MIL, had some wonderful visits, emails and phone calls from people we didn't know previously. It has been personally rewarding to me and a form of closure.
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I would definitly contact va about purple heart and any other memorobila from service i wish i knew where my dads medals were. Maybe check with historical society in your city. Imyself would hold to some of those super personal letters.
For urself once dad passes they are truly gone. I myself would be honored to receive any of her old jewelry or kitchen pieces good luck and god bless
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Also, donate items to museums, schools, etc. Please don't just throw away - they can't be replaced.
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Photos, Photos and more Photos!! Amazing how many! My brother didn't want any and I had room for only so many. My Mom with dementia came up with a great idea. Since many of the photos were of ages past Mom suggested that we go through them and send them to a current living relative of those in the picture. It took me days to go through them all and get them mailed off. But what a great idea it was. We got so many thank you notes and calls from family we had basically lost touch with. Many didn't have any pictures of their Moms or Dads or even of themselves when they were little. Doing this brought great joy to a lot of people. I saved a box of pictures for my brother of him and his family because even though he now says he doesn't want any he may change his mind. Even if he doesn't I'm sure his adult children would like them.
The rest of Moms' household belongings went to Goodwill and she was able to take a tax deduction for them. We had thought of doing a yard sale but opted against that. Under the circumstances it would have been just too great an endeavor.
I will say after taking care of Moms' stuff it has made me really start to look at downsizing my own belongings. One thing for sure, I won't be taking any more pictures! My son and his family will have enough of those to go through as it is.
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I was also going to suggest donating the WWII items to a military museum . My husband and I recently visited such a museum in Punta Gorda, Fl and talked to the staff about donating my dad's WWII items. They seemed to be happy for the donation.
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It is difficult and a lot of work. I moved mother 4 times in the past 6 years and got rid of (donated, tossed and stored) some things then but took too much back to my own home.

I have given the silver away to a nephew and wife. No one else wanted it. I am putting some of my things e .g. china, framed prints in with the stored items and will auction all of that soon. I have burned a lot of documents and some photos. I have kept a very few for myself.My sis has the large photo albums already and, again, my kids are not interested. I gave some antique items to a museum. Grandkids took some WW! (yes not a typo - my father was in WW1) items. I am giving away some china - sending it to people who have expressed an interest. I tossed boxes of mother's slides that no one had looked at for years.

While dealing with my mother's stuff I am also downsizing mine. I agree taking photos of things or scanning items is a good way of keeping reminders. I don't have the energy to do that and no one is interested anyway. Once I have gotten the items in storage auctioned I will start selling stuff locally. We have a couple of face book pages that are good for that. I have donated here and in the larger city where mother is and will continue to.

I may rent a dumpster in the spring and get rid of more of my own things. Hanging onto stuff just makes for more work and I don't want to burden my kids with that. I'm 78 and less stuff means less work and that is good for me. I will within a few years be moving from this house, in which the kids grew up, into a smaller place and don't want to move too much into it.

Mother has gone from a large 2 bedroom apartment to a batchelor, to another 2 bedroom apartment, to a year in hospital when we stored everything, to a smaller one room unit in an ALF that also does LTC, where I hope she will stay. At least I know she will not need more furniture in future.

Selling this house will set me up nicely for either purchasing or renting on future. Here in Canada health care is not as expensive. Mother gets excellent care in a nice facility for less than $2000 a month. Her two bedroom unit is an very upscale ALF was less than $4000. It makes you think about your own situation.
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Lisacat, I am going through the same thing right now. This is advice I receives from another writer on this forum.... swap out things you already have with things that are your Moms.

I was overwhelming with my parents house, Mom recently passed and Dad decided to move into Independent Living and he wants the house sold..... while sorting through all the kitchenware I found some small custard bowls that I took home and am now using to hold paperclips as my old tin containers had no sentimental value at all. I found using that technique made going through my parent's house easier :)

I am also an only child, who had no children, but I wanted some of my cousins to have some things. Small things like jewelry, every gal loves that. A 40"x10" [yes, very long photo] of around 60 U.S. servicemen stationed in France back in 1919... as soon as I can get my Dad to identify which young man was his father, I plan to ship this framed photo to my cousin who can pass it along to one of her grown sons.

Oh gosh what to do with all the dollies, I have a lot from my grandmothers, and now my Mom has a lot of them. I am not a big dollies user, and I know some of these were handmade. I know some people have special dollies framed, but I not into a lot of pictures, even to swap out.

And yes, all these photo albums, and who in the world are these people? Some day I will sit down with Dad and see if remembers who they are. Some photos are so small, the ones that look like pinking shears were used around the edges.

Couple reasons for selling the house, to put the money into a Trust for Dad's care.... I never lived in that home so no real sentimental value for me.... and the added cost of having a "vacant home" rider on the insurance policy as typical homeowner's insurance wont' cover the house.
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Liza, you might want to do some research on WWII memorabilia and museums and consider donating it. I personally would find it fascinating. My father served in WWII and still continues to read and is very knowledgeable about many aspects.

Serving in WWII might have been a major life changing event for many people. It certainly was a mandatory different way of living. I think people today couldn't even conceive of gas rationing.
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I cleaned out my parents house the summer my mom had a stroke. I was brutal. I saved my grandmother's social security card, her address book ( she died in 1976), some photo albums and two sets of silverware. Everything else went to Goodwill, or out to the curb, where it was happily taken by folks who looked grateful for some nice tcotckes.

If there is stuff of larger historical significance, you might call your nearest historical society and ask their advice.
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