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  Newsletters March 2006

Helping Your Parents Get Rid of "Stuff"

Greetings to all!

Welcome to March - the month that brings us St. Patrick's Day, the First Day of Spring, and my birthday! A very special month indeed! Spring is also the time of new beginnings so a very special welcome to all the new AgeWiseLiving™ subscribers!

Spring is also the "traditional" time for cleaning, sorting . . . and getting rid of "stuff". So this month's newsletter is about how to get the Spring cleaning process started with your parents and help them get started getting rid of "stuff". Are you ready? Then read on!

Until next time, welcome to Spring!


Because of a crisis, my sisters and I had to move our mother into an assisted living which also meant emptying out her home. Unfortunately, as almost always happens when there's a crisis, the timing couldn't have been worse and, because of our work schedules, we had 1 week in which to do it!! While my parents were the most organized people you could imagine and my sister and I worked well together, one week wasn't nearly enough time to sort through the "stuff" my parents had accumulated throughout their 50 years of marriage and certainly not enough to make good decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. That was almost 7 years ago and to this day, I wonder what family "treasures" were lost in the rush.

How can you save yourself, your family, and your aging loved one the hassle, stress, and years of regrets over your lost treasures? By starting the process now!

Great . . . but how do you even begin such an overwhelming task? You begin with what professional organizers call an "initial sort" - better known to Vicky-D's (members of the Victorian/Depression-era generation) as the old fashioned ritual of "Spring cleaning"! By the way, if your aging loved one won't agree to even discussing Spring cleaning, call me to see how Generational Coaching can help. But if they will . . . . before you start:

1. Agree that everything will be sorted into 3 "classifications" - keep, sell/donate/give, or toss.

2. Agree that all decisions will be made by the owner - and only the owner. As hard as this will probably be on you, allowing the owner to make the decisions allows them to keep control over their possessions - a key element to the overall success.

3. Agree to a time-frame - ideally 30 minutes, but no more than 60 minutes per room - and stick to the time.

4. Agree that an item may be touched only once before deciding whether to keep, sell/donate/give, or toss. If they can't decide, then it should go into the keep pile. Even if ultimately they only get rid of 1 item, it's a start!

5. Start with a relatively "easy" room - one where of the most stuff has already sorted out of their daily life such as the garage, an extra bedroom, or a "junk room" (the out-of-control version of the junk drawer).

6. Agree that their entire home won't be completed in one day. Even though they're only allowed a maximum of one hour per room, it's a big job to sort and dispose or put back. (Don't worry . . . there are, after all, 3 months of Spring!)

Since the initial sort is done by the owner - and you have no say in their decisions - should you be there? YES!

This is a huge and, for most people, difficult, job. Just having you there for moral support and to cheer them on will keep them motivated, focused, and on track. You can also help set up the boxes, take out the garbage, etc, and do any "heavy lifting".

In addition, since "one man's trash is another man's treasure", you'll probably want to be there in case something about to be disposed of (in the sell/donate or toss piles only!) that you would like to have.

By the way, while you're there, if you have items of your own stored at your parent's house, this may be a good time to get it out. However, it could be an emotional stumbling block for your parent(s). They may want to hold onto your things to draw you home. If that's the case, rather than derail their Spring cleaning, at least do a "keep, sell/donate, toss" and reduce as much as you can.

Many people don't get rid of stuff because they've seen Antiques Roadshow and are sure they'll throw out something worth a million dollars! Although unlikely, it's not impossible! Therefore, if that's a concern, get an appraisal. (When we were cleaning out my parent's home, it was a lot easier knowing that there had been an appraisal done a couple of years before and we weren't getting rid of any priceless antiques!) For appraisers in your area, check out the American Society of Appraisers ( and the Appraisers Association of America (

Once everything is sorted, then clean and put back the "keeps". You may also want to suggest they get a storage unit for items they want to keep but have no place for. Storing it out of their daily life will allow them to keep what they want while at the same time making it easier to get rid of it in the future.

Dispose of the "tosses" - and do it immediately before "seller's remorse" sets in and they want to "un-toss"! And then, sell/donate/give the rest.

You may want to try selling the stuff and a tag sale is one way to do it. Unfortunately, that's not always an option - especially in a city. You might also see if a consignment shop will take anything or you may want to try selling on-line.

Some companies will buy whole "lots" of specific items such as books and silver and an appraiser may be able to make a referral. There's also a company called 1-(800) GOT-JUNK that will just buy everything. For more information, you can call them at 1-(800) GOT-JUNK or go to

While researching this article, I found a great website called "EHow" ( that has all kinds of useful information. For example, for how to get rid of what you don't want, go to; how to sell stuff on-line
(; and how to plan a garage sale

Or, you may want to donate it. When we were moving my mother, we were more than willing to give the stuff away to a religious or civic organization, library, senior center, school etc, as long as they would come and get it right away. Unfortunately, many organizations don't pick up, don't have the space to store things until they have a rummage sale, and most charities are very specific about what items they want. There are literally millions of charity websites but for a list of charities and what they will take, whether they will pick up, etc., go to JustGive (

If you can't be there to help with the sort, or you don't have the time to arrange the distribution, many professional organizers can handle it for you. For a list of professional organizers in your area, go to the National Association of Professional Organizers (

And finally, giving - as in giving to family members. In the next AgeWiseLiving™ newsletter, we'll look at, among other things, how to distribute items that more than one family member wants, what to do about items that are sentimental to the parent but that none of the family members want, etc. Stay tuned!

FYI . . . Juice+

Are you as confused as I am about what to eat for a healthy body and mind? Do you know you should be eating more fruits and veggies but your good intentions just aren't enough? Here's a really good product (that I've been taking for years) that enables you to "eat" the right amount of healthy fruits and vegetables called Juice+. Check it out at

Upcoming Seminars

For lots more information about this and many other important eldercare issues, attend an AgeWiseLiving™ seminar. For upcoming dates and locations, please go to Seminars. Space is filling fast, though, so reserve your space now!

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The AgeWiseLiving Newsletter is written by Barbara E. Friesner and AgeWiseLiving. If you have any questions or comments please send them to: .

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