Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sorting a Lifetime of Accumulation

Since our dad passed away 2 1/2 years ago and our mom has been in a nursing home for 1 1/2 years, we've realized that we would need to sell our parent's home. However, we've been putting off cleaning out the house, because emotionally we didn't want to admit that our parents wouldn't be going back to their house.

Last week, we began clearing the house and hopefully sell it in the spring of 2009. It has been an interesting process, one in which I learned more about my parents and myself with respect to belongings.

Here are the insights I had:

  1. Most paperwork saved is not useful. My dad preferred having a paper trail for most of his activities. An great benefit was that we have been able to find all the important documents, such as trust papers, copies of deeds, and tax records. However, we sorted through at least a hundred times more paper that was shredded and discarded, e.g. old account statements, paid bills, and receipts.

    However, reviewing six years of documents did have a benefit. I was able to reconstruct and understand more about my dad's investment strategies and results. It was almost as if he were there explaining his investments to me.

  2. Even frugal people may have too much of some stuff. My parents were great savers and didn't spend money on many things. Even so, there were two areas that my parents had more than overstocked, clothing and health supplements. In these areas, we were giving away items that were used or unopened.

  3. Use treasured items during one's lifetime. Throughout our childhood, my parents saved and bought several things they treated with great care (i.e. used infrequently) including living room furniture, dining room furniture and fine china. We have rarely used any of these items and will need to sell or give away some of the items.

  4. Pass on heirlooms early. Over their lifetime, my parents were very good about passing along family heirlooms and their history. The only remaining items were pictures, a few pieces of jewelry and a piano, which we plan to keep.

  5. Sentimental is valuable. As we sorted through their belongings, we felt the most attachment to items with a memory related to our parents. We will keep their diplomas, awards, and other personal memorabilia.

These insights have caused me to rethink how I manage my belongings. Admittedly, I probably save too much documentation, and have too much of certain items such as supplies for new projects and books. I think it's time to reduce my saved documentation and complete projects or book before acquiring more.

For more on Crossing Generations, check back Thursdays for a new segment.

This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2008 Achievement Catalyst, LLC


frugal zeitgeist said...

Been there, done that; my dad died in March and it took a full week of heavily concerted effort to deal with his belongings. It's not easy, especially where so much sentimental value exists. My mom could never have done that on her own. As it is, we all miss my dad terribly.

JHS said...

Thanks for contributing this wonderful article to the Carnival of Family Life, hosted this week at Write from Karen! Be sure to visit Karen's site on Monday, August 25, 2008, and check out this week's other excellent submissions!