The Real Legacy You’ve Left Your Children Part IV

Written by Karen Jessee. Posted in Organizing.

The Real Legacy You’ve Left Your Children Part IVOh, Tidings of Comfort and Joy (Part IV – The Real Legacy You’ve Left Your Children)

"Jeez Dad, what are we supposed to do with all this crap when you die?"

Those charming words of endearment were uttered by Elliot's forty- something daughter, Trish, as she gazed around his basement. The pictures you see here were taken in Elliot's basement with his proud permission to set an example for all those granddads still in love with their man caves. This is a fraction of the joy in Elliot's basement.

The train set is expansive; the Pez collection hysterical. There is the office, one of three in the house, and the obligatory piles of papers. There are pictures and pinups. There are cars, trucks and fire engines. There are books and games, the old record player that plays only 45s, the lava lamp and an early Apple computer. There is a pinball machine. There is also a running fish tank still awaiting the new fish. There is the wood working shop that produced his daughter's dollhouse and many a bird house. There is, of course, the magazine collection: a variety of titles and 40 years of Time arranged in chronological order.
This is a tidy, miniature Smithsonian guaranteed to leave you filled with awe and giggles.

Elliot, now in his 70s, is also a man who continues to be active, well-respected, and loved in his community. He knows everyone and is greeted with hugs and handshakes wherever he goes. He continues to make a difference and has won numerous awards for doing so. His office walls are lined with plaques of recognition and gratitude. He keeps mementos, gifts, and bits of silly. He displays it all with delight and great amusement. His grandkids love it; his daughters...not so much.

Trish has only said out loud what many adults children have secretly lamented. This future task of downsizing and disposing has begun to secretly haunt them with every family visit. They see their parents' home with new eyes, visualizing a future filled with months of sorting and hauling away. That dear old dad is still enjoying his man cave and mom her crafting corner is not their focus.

Letting go and getting organized have been the New Hot Topics for several years now.

But getting seniors downsized to move and move on is the "New" New Hot Topic in numerous publications nationwide. All are testaments to our nesting abilities that have run amok over time: our shopping, storing and saving; our scooping and shoving.

In a September 2014 issue of The Seattle Times, writer Claudia Buck details the issues and problems of downsizing parents in her article, "Boomers Need Help Dealing With Their Parents' 'Stuff.'" It's a look at how people who had time, and some who didn't, approached this daunting situation. I'd recommend that you gain a bit of leverage by reading these personal accounts that reflect a growing concern.

But I also would like to recommend some services that can help you. I assured Trish that I could give her four phone numbers and she wouldn't have to touch a thing if she didn't want to. While that may have seemed highly optimistic, there is no reason for anyone to think they have to go this alone.

Clean Out Companies: Though often followed with the words "buy out" they charge to bring in the men and trucks to haul away. If they see value in what they are taking and know they can sell it in their warehouses, the cost for their services is less. You may be able to make some money but it depends, again, on what is being removed.

You can start here, you can end here, but know that this is money well spent whether time is of the essence or not. Take the "clean out" part seriously.

Estate Sales: Professionals can come in, mark everything, establish sale dates, and send the message that the sale is starting through their extensive client list. They rely on social media and are very successful. The house must be empty of occupants.

Charities: If time matters, find the ones that send out trucks. If you have time, find the charity closest to you and continue to make a beeline for it. Habitat for Humanity would love to have Dad's tools and hardware as well as household items and furniture. You might have to have items at curb level. Ask about this.
Auction Houses: There are probably several in your area and it's worth a few phone calls or a Google search to see how they operate in regards to sending out trucks or any fees that may be involved. Think of paying someone to have that garage sale for you.

Antique Dealers: If you grew up in that same house, you might have an idea of what would be considered valuable. A Google or E-bay search may be helpful to find specific collectors as well as values. Dealers may have different opinions on what they feel is worthy and what might sell.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize: If your parents are still in the house and plan on staying there, you want to see that it is safe and comfortable; that the stairways are clear and that trash is not accumulating. Know where the important papers are. If your parents are leaving, or have left, then you want to get the house on the market. Don't get weighed down in the little stuff.
If you are the parent, start now, start small. Even if you are just getting rid of old papers and magazines and cleaning out a drawer here and there, you are doing something helpful.

If you're the adult child, look into these services in your parents' area now. Have a few strategies in place so that when the time comes, you can handle this with some level of grace and assurance. It will still be challenging, but maybe less so if you've done a little homework.

Bringing everything that belonged to your parents across your own threshold to "go through later" is not always a good idea. You may have no other choice, but it can mean compromising your own home and discovering those things being ruined with time and dampness in your basement.

Want more help? Try this:
There are numerous websites with tips and suggestions. Don't read everything all at once. Take baby steps and tiny bites.

So, Elliott, why not give away some lovely memories now? Go through the pictures, the memorabilia and wrap them up for any gift-giving opportunities this coming year. You get a few things out of the basement, and your grown kids get to choose if they want to immortalize them or toss them.

Trish, now you have these resources to investigate that can help you in the future. Not to worry. Just don't be surprised if you get old family photos for Christmas...and some Time magazines on your birthday.
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