My clients often ask me “What does your home look like?” and “Have you downsized your parent’s residence yet?” Well…with three teenage sons, three cats and two dogs, keeping up with clutter has become a daily chore for my wife and I.
My Mom sadly passed away this past May at the age of 85. She had been diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s several years ago. Although my sister and I had already started liquidating the contents of our family home after my father’s death ten years prior, it still became a monumental task and was an important reminder to me of how difficult it is to sort through and dispose of one’s own family possessions. To add to our challenge, the family home was in Virginia, mine in Pennsylvania and my sister’s in Connecticut. In order to simplify the process, we decided to divide and conquer. I focused on handling the physical downsizing of the house while my sister worked on preparing my mother to move into a retirement community closer to both our families. After this initial move there was a sense of relief in knowing that the bulk of the family’s downsizing had been accomplished. It felt good to know that we were able to successfully find new “homes” for our family’s possessions. Although many of the larger pieces were sold at auction it was also nice to be able to donate many of the items or rehome them with friends who found special meaning in being able to have a keepsake of ours. My mother was also able to keep those pieces that meant the most to her. A few months after the move, however, the downsizing process continued as my Mom’s health rapidly declined. Over the course of the next two years we moved her three more times within two different facilities in order for her to receive the proper care. Every move required another purge and each time we found ourselves selling, donating and giving away more unneeded items. With each piece that left there were mixed emotions. We felt sad to lose these objects with so many memories attached to them, but at the same time happy that they would find a good home with someone else. Surprisingly, my sister and I were both good about letting go. Perhaps this was because we had several years to go through the process. I felt fortunate that as the owner/operator of a home downsizing business I had the knowledge and resources to find new homes for all her unwanted “stuff”. I can honestly say that I could never have prepared myself mentally for the long road of “letting go” without the support of my loving family.