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Who Will Take Mom's Stuff?

By Debra King



If you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to get rid of a parent’s personal property after they move to a smaller home, relocate to a long-term care facility, or pass away, what will you do with the stuff you find crammed into every corner of their house and garage?


Times have changed, and so have the options available to get rid of these things.


If you were handling this task a decade or more ago, antique shops would have eagerly accepted many of the old furniture and houseware items. That’s not the case today. Many antique shops won’t take these things because they can’t resell them. Today’s buyers don’t want them.


Similarly, if you were handling this task a decade or more ago, you could have taken many of these items to Goodwill or another organization that accepts donations. That’s harder to do today because the consignment stores and thrift shops are being more selective.


So, what are your options?


If you’re serious about sorting this out quickly, your best bet is to work with a professional. Look for a move manager, a downsizing specialist, or an estate sale agent in your community, and then hire the one you like best. This small investment can pay off in a big way. These people are familiar with your community, and they can give you all the best disposition options for the items you don’t want to keep. Everything will move faster, and these people are skilled at diffusing the conflicts that often bubble up in these tense situations.


You’ll have to look hard for these professionals. There aren’t as many of them as there used to be. We used to have a wonderful resource right here in Sumner County, Connie Sue, who was kind of like a project manager for estates. She would value antiques and other items. She would help people identify what was valuable and what wasn’t. She would help them find resources to move their stuff. People like Connie Sue are still out there, but you’ll have to hunt for them.


If you’re dead set on handling things yourself, you’ll be your own project manager. After you’ve decided who in the family gets which items, you can have a garage or yard sale, or list the items on one of the many online marketplace and garage sale sites. Each town, county, and region seems to have its own page on Facebook.


For the items you plan to pitch, you can call a junk hauler to take them away. If all else fails, get a dumpster, park it in the yard, fill it up, and have a trash company come take it away.


I’ve watched a lot of client families navigate this process using a hybrid approach. The family usually convenes on the parents’ house. Everyone picks what they want. If there are conflicts, they draw straws or flip a coin. Next, they call an estate sale person or a professional organizer to go through what’s left. The professional decides what has value, what could sell, what is junk, and what can be donated. After the estate sale, the items earmarked for donation get sent to charity organizations and thrift shops. The rest ends up in the dump.


If you’re faced with a mountain of stuff to sell after a parent moves out of the family home, I send my blessings to you. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

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