Decluttering is very posh right now. Everyone is doing it. People are blogging about the “best way to clean out your closet.” There are books about “simplifying your space.” Everyone is clearing out their house, selling their stuff online and hoping that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” And hopefully said “man” will pay handsomely for that trash.
My parent’s house has been in need of decluttering for many years. But when my dad passed away and my mom moved into a memory care facility, my childhood home needed much more than just a few rooms and closets cleaned out.
I’m talking about the kind of stuff that accumulates over 55 years of marriage. That also includes stuff that came along with my parents when they merged their lives. My grandparent’s stuff that my parents inherited were also amongst the hundreds of boxes that filled the basement. Magazines that chronicled back to the 90’s, clothes from the 70’s, antiques, artwork, kitchen stuff, plus a 2 car garage full of equipment and tools. Our house consisted of 4 bedrooms (3 with walk-in closets), a cedar closet, a hallway closet, coat closet, kitchen, living room, laundry room, basement… FULL. OF. STUFF.
My mom never wanted me to get rid of my old toys... or anything, really. Being an only child, that meant a lot of old toys. There was still a bunch of my old stuff from grade school, high school, and college that I just “couldn’t part with”… so it stayed at my parent’s house. Obviously, I really needed it.
A sample of my once prized possessions.
Over and over again, I heard friends and family say, “Julie. What are you going to do with all of this?”
“I don’t have a fucking clue. But I gotta stay positive.”
Going into this situation, I was positive that we would be able to do everything on our own. I thought that I would take pictures of everything and then post them on some sort of selling platform. No estate sales would equal no middle-man. My thought was that we would be able to make enough extra money to be able to take care of my mom’s memory care facility bill for a few months.
Forty eight hours into this process, I knew that I just do not have the ability to do all of it on my own… emotionally, physically, or mentally.
On top of the magnitude of the situation, I just couldn’t fathom the thought of someone walking into my parent’s home, handing me money and then walking out the door with an item that once belonged to my parents. It was just too much to bare.
So, with help from a neighbor, we arranged for an estate sale expert to come check everything out. I was very hopeful that this person would be able to help us. Especially after hearing how much this person had helped others in similar situations. The thought of handing the job over to a professional gave me a sense of relief.
Until the day he arrived… toured the house… and told me the opposite of what I had hoped for…
Out of all the stuff in my parent’s house, this professional told me that it’s mainly just “clutter.”
Don’t get me wrong. I had done a lot of research on estate sales. I’m an active, online seller of vintage items. I wasn’t walking into the situation blindly.
But hearing that my parent’s cherished possessions are considered “clutter” really threw me for a loop.
But there’s no way that I could keep everything! Nor did I want it all! And I knew that I did not have the time or the mental capacity to do everything on our own.
I was already struggling with guilt over selling my parent’s stuff. Especially because I know how much my parents cherished so many things.
One item in particular is this deer head. Oh. My. Geez. I did not want this thing. It creeped me out as a kid. I don’t remember the story behind it but it’s been a part of our family since before I was born. My dad loved to put lights and a Rudolf nose on it during Christmas time.
I find the deer head repulsive. Yet, I felt guilty for selling it.
Not a fan of the deer head.
Anyway, there I was, sitting in my parent’s living room, listening to a stranger (with a thick Southern accent) explain to me that since many things aren’t “name brand,” he could not help me. I could not believe that there were just a handful of things that he considered “valuable.”
I felt lost and utterly overwhelmed.
Pretending to be strong in front of my family and loved ones, I went to work on another plan. I arranged two more appointments with estate sale companies, “interviewed” realtors and rental groups, hired a paper shredding company, and researched “junk removal” companies.
With the help of my husband, aunt, cousins, family friends and my two oldest/bestest friends, we began packing.
We went through everything. And it was the craziest emotional roller coaster that I’ve ever been on. There were many laughs over old things that used to be soooo cool. There were moments of “what the F— is this?” And countless times where I found myself sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom.
By far, the basement was the most tedious. Hours and hours were spent carrying these boxes to the garage, sorting, breaking boxes down, and sweating profusely (July in Southern Indiana is hotter than balls).
NKOTB super fans for life!!
Amongst the “clutter,” we discovered irreplaceable treasures worth far more than any estate seller could offer.
We found… blueprints of a subdivision that my grandpa designed in the 1950’s, letters my grandpa wrote to my grandma when they were dating, the first ever Father’s Day card my mom gave to my dad from me when I was just a baby, pictures that I drew for my dad as a little girl, scribbles from my kids to their Papaw and Gramma, and boxes and boxes and boxes of pictures that are valuable beyond words.
My cousins and I trying out Big Mama Blue… a treasured raft that provided hours of fun for us as children. The raft still inflated… but I swear, it used to be bigger!
After a collective 4 weeks of work on the house, I did find an auction group that will take one the rest of our stuff. They will be arriving in just a few days. I have arranged for my childhood friend (and realtor) to take care of this for me. I just cannot watch this happen.
So, no matter how much this stuff is actually worth, I discovered the most valuable thing… I have such an amazing family and friends (who love me like family). I have a lifetime full of precious memories of my parents who gave me everything a little girl (and grown woman) could ever need. This difficult process uncovered a deeper understanding of undying love that goes far beyond a house full of “clutter.”