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Transitions: Cleaning Out Parents’ Home is Emotional

Published: July 14, 2017

If one were writing a book on how to clear-out an estate, it could also be entitled “How to break up a family”.

Whether it is the family house that you were raised in, or their assisted-living apartment, emptying out your parents’ home is one of the most emotional times that a family will go through. The result can either leave pleasant memories or bitter feelings that some family members never get over.

How to break-up a family:

One person decides for everybody. They know how to do it “best” and so they do it their way.

Surely, you are aware that your siblings have different personalities.

Peter Practical. “We can’t afford to pay rent for even one extra day, so we have to get this stuff out.” He may rent a truck and get it all moved out in one day, probably benefiting Goodwill or his kids. But the job is done.

Suzy Sentimental. She can’t part with anything because it all has so much meaning. She wants every item to find the right home. She can’t move forward.

Swoopin’ Sarah. Just comes in and takes what she wants. She figures it is just stuff and isn’t worth anything anyway.

Too Busy Tyler. He is an important man and can’t get away from work. He is busy until September – or January. Meanwhile, every week the house sits, it costs money, work and worry for someone.

Debbie Denial. She is having a hard time accepting this. She has a myriad of excuses about why it can’t be done now.

Yes, it is just “stuff”, but it is also stuff that is infused with a lifetime of warm memories.

Many families have shared their “clean out” experiences with me, good and bad. The overriding theme of what worked best was that they worked together. As a family, they set goals. As a family, they decided what was fair. As a family, they got it done.

Peter Practical: You can be practical in more than one way. You were probably chosen as the financial person because you watch the money. Ask your siblings to set a reasonable timeframe to get the process completed, even if it means paying rent at Mom’s apartment a little longer. Isn’t family harmony worth the cost?

Suzy Sentimental : I get it. Mom and Dad’s items are special, but put emphasis on the items that have special meaning to you. Work on the cherished few, rather than the overwhelming many.

Swoopin’ Sarah: Whoa! Those items have significance to the others too. Wait your turn.

Too Busy Tyler – Yes, we are all busy. But are you saying that you are too busy to help your brothers and sisters with something that is a great burden to them, even if it isn’t to you? Make time.

It is about balance. Be respectful of all people involved – from the sentimental to the practical. It is also about getting it done in a timely fashion and allowing everyone to move forward. You can do this – together.

Jean Long Manteufel, senior move manager and CEO of Long's Senior Transitions in Appleton, can be reached at 920-734-3260 or Jean@TransitionsWithJean.com Manteufel’s book, “Transitions: Stories of how to help Mom and Dad with their stuff”, can be found at Atlas Coffee Mill, 425 W. Water St., Appleton or at www.TransitionsWithJean.com

Copied & printed with permission from Jean Long Manteufel.

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