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What to Do When You're Stuck With Your Parents' Stuff

Minimalism is catching on, and I'm excited about streamlining. I'm sharing what I've learned about decluttering and simplifying our lives.

Your Parents' Treasures Could Become Your Burden.

Your Parents' Treasures Could Become Your Burden.

Coping With Your Parents' Possessions

Will your children want your treasured belongings when you die? Do you have space and the time to take your parents' possessions right now? These are issues that Baby Boomers and even the next generation down are having to deal with—what to do with their parents' stuff.

I love family history and come from a family of collectors, so it shocked me when someone asked in my minimalist group, "What should I do with dead people's stuff?"

It sounds insensitive, but she explained that "I loved those people, but I hate their stuff—souvenirs from trips I didn't take; mementos of a life I didn't live." She said only a few of those things actually make her smile, actually remind her of the people who owned them.

The rest of the things become a burden, especially for someone trying to achieve a simpler, more minimalistic lifestyle. She tried giving some of the stuff to other family members, but they also inherited masses of junk from the same people and complained about it.

Will Children or Grandchildren Want Your Collection?

Will Children or Grandchildren Want Your Collection?

What If Your Grandparents' and Parents' Taste Doesn't Match Yours?

One said she had a difficult situation. She has dishes, vases, clothes, etc., from her grandmother and mother that are not her taste. "I've gotten rid of some items, but even my niece does not want her great-grandmother's dishes or hope chest."

There comes a time when you need to let go. When the excess possessions become burdensome rather than comforting or precious, you need to find solutions.

Ways to Get Rid of Dead People's Stuff

  • Take a few pictures of anything that holds a memory, then let go of the object. Release it so that someone else gets some use from it.
  • Choose one or two objects that particularly remind you of the lost loved one. Get rid of the rest of the excess things.
  • Sell it on Amazon or eBay, or donate it and have a nice tax write-off.
  • Sell the item(s), and use the funds to buy something meaningful to you. Each time you use that, it will remind you of your grandparent.

Lisa had advice after spending years on inherited stuff. Get rid of it. I inherited my mother's entire household. It's taken me ten years to finally get down to the last few items. I tried to give the more cherished items to people I thought would appreciate or cherish them and simply gave away or sold the rest.

You'll feel better when you are not weighed down by stuff you feel obligated to keep! I have some small mementos that mean something.

Don't confuse loving your grandparent with loving all the things they left behind. Yes, an item can trigger memories of a special family member. That doesn't mean you must keep everything they owned or collected over the years.

Don't confuse loving your grandparent with loving all the things they left behind. Yes, an item can trigger memories of a special family member. That doesn't mean you must keep everything they owned or collected over the years.

What If Your Family Gives You a Hard Time About Getting Rid of Family Pieces?

Nan explored the idea of selling some things but got negative feedback from other members of the family. Here's what she is going to try this Christmas: "This year, Christmas is at my house. I'm going to put all this stuff in one room and tell everyone to take home whatever they want because the rest is going out the door by the new year."

One person explained what worked for her: "I learned to never let my mom know that I was planning to get rid of anything. They always give me a hard time and freak out about it." Keep in mind that all those things now belong to you. "Don't ask permission. Only you own them, therefore, in the most loving manner, do what you want with them."

If it doesn't bring you joy, let it go. We should never have to feel guilty for ridding ourselves of clutter or things that take up precious space (whether it's space/clutter in our living spaces or space/clutter in our minds/hearts/souls). If your family members don't like you getting rid of it, they can either take it or deal with it.

— Angela

Five Ways to Get Family Members to Take Some of It

  1. Another idea was to call the family members or start a private Facebook group with them. Post all the things you no longer want. First come, first serve.
  2. One recommendation was to send pictures to the rest of the family. Give them two weeks' notice to choose what they want and pick it up or arrange for sending it.
  3. One person felt it was important to explain that these items no longer mean what they once did to you, but you want to be sensitive to their feelings and allow them the chance to choose if they want anything. If they take it, don't feel guilty that you didn't want it any longer. Each person processes their grief in different ways. However, if they don't want anything, then get rid of it. Keep only what you feel a real attachment to.
  4. Mary explained her situation; the family got to choose to receive items or not first, then friends, then she consigned, donated, or trashed. Here's her method, "I picked up each item and said, "Is this your memory or mine?" We kept what meant the most to us and let the rest go. I'm mindful now of what I save, realizing that when I'm gone, I don't want my children to have the burden of the stuff of previous generations."
  5. Jenny sent pictures of her deceased parents'/grandparents' stuff on Facebook Messenger to her siblings. She told them whatever isn't claimed and picked up by May 1st goes in her rummage sale and then to charity.

Have You Had to Deal With a Parent or Grandparent's Possessions?

Vintage Glasses . . . Do You Need to Save Those?

Vintage Glasses . . . Do You Need to Save Those?

You Have Memories . . . You Don't Need Things!

You don't want to be like one fellow who still has his great-grandmother's broken eyeglasses. He said, "It's hard to hurt feelings, but I don't have space for this kind of stuff."

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Virginia Allain

Share Your Experience or Concerns about This Topic

MD Jackson MSIOP from Western United States on August 02, 2017:

You cant take it with you, sell it while you are alive and do something for you kids with the money. Ask them if there is anything they would want if you passed, then give that to them. No one wants strangers traipsing through their home digging in their sewing box, just get rid of anything you don't need.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on July 28, 2017:

I just kept a few treasures of my moms and with her having Alzheimer's while I cared for her in the last years she would try to give them away right in front of me!

Just another funny memory.