I love working with what I refer to as “Inspired Seniors”. These are people who understand that none of us lives forever and, eventually, every house gets emptied. But instead of being passively resigned, they are willing to take action. Just as they might create “advanced care directives” regarding their future health care situations, they also are thinking about what might become of their personal possessions.I find it so sad when I hear of everything being thrown into a dumpster when a family has to gather in a hurry and are faced with decisions they are unprepared to make.
In my hometown I heard from the local historical society about a man who had been the local historian, gathering histories from older people for decades, but had made no provision for handing on all his records. A distant relative inherited his estate and threw all of that “worthless stuff” away. This happened several years before the historical society was formed and I’m sure they would have been designated as the recipients if the timing had been right, but still, we all grieve for what was lost and can’t be replaced.
I always encourage the seniors to tell the story of their stuff.
- Where did an item come from?
- If it was in your family, who owned it?
- How was it used?
- Does it have special sentimental value to some one?
- If no one in the family wants it, might an historical society be interested?
A favorite book I use is “Sell, Keep, or Toss? How to Downsize a Home, Settle an Estate, and Appraise Personal Property” by Harry L. Rinker. In it, he offers this tip: “When going through your things or those of an estate, set aside a box into which you put any objects that relate to any communities within a 50 mile radius.”