Cleaning Out a Parent’s Home

After months of my two sisters and I photographing every item in my mother’s house of 38 years and doing round robins to divide up all the things, we are finally down to moving everything distributed out.

Along the way there were so many questions I wish I had asked my mom: what something meant, how she got it, and what was its attachment to her.

What remains are things nobody wants in a “take it or leave it” room and boxes of slides, photographs, my mother’s art work rolled up in bins, and boxes of unsorted file drawers of papers, letters, and printed out emails, and repair receipts.

One nephew has been hired to scan all the photo albums and loose photos. I agreed to do the slides and sort through the papers.

There is still enough stuff for a good garage sale, but first we are having a potluck and letting my mom’s friends come and take what they want.

I have flown from Madison, Wisconsin to Phoenix, Arizona for 5 days every month for 7 months. So has my older sister who is the trustee. My little sister, the only one of us three who is not retired, has only come a few times to identify what she wants. And we are almost done. The house is about to go on the market.

Unlike my sisters, I have lived in this house since 2015 three to five months at a time caring for both my parents before they passed away. It is now 2024. Several of my friends from Phoenix, as well as the wonderful friends I inherited from my mother, came and hung out with me each time I visited.

It is great to get this job almost done and I’m starting to do it in my own house for my kids. Not just to downsize, but to enjoy our beautiful memories one more time.

It feels bittersweet. I learned a lot about my mom going through all her stuff.

Tip: Go slowly. Don’t let a sibling just dump it in a dumpster. Make a “no disposal” agreement: no taking anything distributed to you out of the house until it is all done.

Lynet U.

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