4:44 PM EDT, April 18, 2013
I am not alone. The cyber mountain of emails I have received in response to my recent columns about going through my parents' home of 50 years proves it. The response has eclipsed reaction to any topic I have tackled in the nine years I have been writing this column.
That includes the time I called concrete cement (or was it cement concrete?) AND the time I ticked off all the picture framers in America by advising readers to frame art themselves.
Many of you wrote to say, thank you, sister. I am right there with you. Others of you shared your journeys, insider advice and sorting resolutions.
We universally agreed: Clearing out a parent's home is physically, mentally and emotionally overwhelming, and blindsides first timers.
As you know, I am not an expert. I'm just your humble columnist figuring things out — or not — as I go. The difference is I can call on some real experts to guide me and you along. This week, the experts are you.
From Ann Brothers, Denver: Like you, we had estate sales. Like you, some of the antiques and treasures got mixed up with the regular stuff. Like you, we found that everything sells. Some people bought old clothes pins. Also like you, we did not load ourselves down with a houseful of furniture and boxes. We went through and picked small items that had great sentimental meaning.
After reading all of your articles, I have come to the conclusion that it is really about the same for all of us. We all make mistakes in situations like these, and sometimes we wish we had taken another small item, but as long as we have our memories, those items are still with us.
From Debbie Williams, Orlando: I did this for my parents, and then again for my mother-in-law, who hadn't thrown a piece of paper away in years. I now think twice before buying any household stuff or decorative doo-dads. When I look at my grandmother's butter churn or tuck magazines in one of my parents' stone crocks, I think of them.
I hope my boys will someday take things for their own households that trigger good memories. Thus, I also vow to write down the family history that goes with special furnishings. It does matter.
As for my wedding dress, I donated it to a high-school drama department to use in plays. I wasn't going to see a size 10 again unless I was in a coma for a year, and because I have three boys, I have a better chance of seeing my dress on stage than coming down the aisle.
From Mary Leigh Howell, Greensboro: Easter Sunday I met my parents at a restaurant for lunch. My mom comes up to me and puts an envelope in my hand and says, "I need these back." In the envelope were two of your articles about cleaning out your parents' home! It's hit a chord with my mom, who is 72.
From Katherine Bell, Contra Costa: An estate sale does not have to be a do-it-yourself project. We hired a professional. It may seem counterintuitive to pay someone 35 to 50 percent of the proceeds of a sale, but emotional attachment to family treasures can make what should be a fairly straightforward task difficult for family members. And, if a professional prices Dad's beer stein at $5 and takes half the proceeds, that may be more than the dollar you were going to sell it for. The best part is family members can be elsewhere during the sale, and nobody has to watch treasured items go.
From Janine Payton, San Jose: Because your columns have run in both my paper and the paper my parents read, you have helped to start a conversation between us about their upcoming move to a senior facility.
From Pam Winans, Raleigh: I have cleaned out two homes for my grandmother and parents. They did some things that helped. They put tape on the back of any art or item with a name, if there was a particular person they wanted the art to go to. This was also done for the charms on my grandmother's bracelet. I am now 64 and we have been in our house 25 years. It's time for me to carry on the tradition.
From Bill and Carol Cox, Orlando: We were discussing your columns the other day at bridge, and we all resolved to start downsizing our clutter and our "treasures" now so that our children will not have the burden that you recently went through.
From Joyce Spoolstra, Indiana: In addition to dealing with my parents' stuff that I put in that "someday" pile, I am dealing with all of our things as we start to move from our home of 25 years. Having two adult non-sentimental children makes it easier to pitch items. No one cares about that old whatever from Aunt Whoseywhatsit.
I have weeded through things, saved our "someday" boxes. When we land in our new place, we plan to take the boxes, one at a time, and go through them together, share the memories, then get a bonfire going. The memories are what we hold onto and once the sharing is done, we are free.
Thanks to all who shared. We are in this together, my friends.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of "House of Havoc" and "The House Always Wins" (Da Capo Press).
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