Sunday, July 24, 2011

What to Keep and What to Toss

Here's another blooming lily from my Mother's Day garden that my husband and kids planted for me years ago. Don't you think that's a great idea to plant a garden for your mom? It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Speaking of moms, some of you mentioned that you too have experience settling your parents' estate after their passing. I have a question for you: How do you decide what to keep and what to throw out?

I removed everything from their house that was personal and had their names on it. My kids helped pack everything away in boxes, and I am just now going through it all. I don't have much room to store stuff. My house is already so cluttered. However, I have a friend who has been giving me a hard time for not being sentimental enough. He says I'm going to regret throwing out memorabilia. He actually took all of my and my brother's trophies because he cared more about our childhood than we do. He also took an antique secretary from 1893 that belonged to my great aunt and said he'll hold onto it for me, because he thinks I'll want it back someday.

Anyway, I'm throwing out trophies, plaques and awards, because they are bulky and take up too much space. I'm saving all pictures, with the exception of those long class pictures that are rolled up, cracked and yellowing. I'm saving anything that might possibly be valuable to a collector, such as play bills, stamps and coins. I'll hang onto their yearbooks for a while until I look through them, but I can't keep them. I might just cut out the pictures of my parents and throw the books away.

My father saved all these travel brochures from the places they've traveled. I think those can go in the trash. He took thousands of pictures from his travels and has the negatives, the slides, and the photos. Do I really need to hang onto the negatives?

All the scrapbooks are taking up half a closet, so I'm planning on scanning the photos into a computer and then burning them onto a CD. The job feels a bit overwhelming, though, because my new scanner takes about one minute per scan, and all of these scrapbooks have pages that are larger than my scanner, so I have to either take the pictures out or cut the albums up to fit. I might hire someone to do it for me. My only problem is that technology keeps changing and it seems that as soon as you transfer media to a new form, it is no longer supported. All of our family videos are on VCR tapes and all of our VCRs are broken, so we can't view them. Since photographs don't involve technology to view them, I'm probably safer keeping them, even though they do deteriorate over time.

I'm saving anything related to our family tree.  I really am not interested in my genealogy, but I'm the only one left in my blood line who is in the position to save this stuff and someday someone might be born who will actually care about it.

Do you hang onto baby shoes and teething rings that belonged to your relatives? What's the point? I've got wedding rings that belonged to all the women of my older generations, but it makes sense to keep them because they are worth money and my children or grandchildren might some day get married and prefer to recycle a family rock over buying a new one.

People keep giving me baby clothes and tablecloths that were handmade by relatives, but I have no use for them. Yes, the silk or the lace and the handiwork is lovely, but we've got a crappy little kitchen table and no dining room and I'm too old to have anymore babies. The clothes are too old fashioned for any grandchildren I might have. What do you do with all that stuff?


Reddunappy said...

Yeah its hard getting rid of stuff.
When my husbands folks passed, each brother (there are three of them) took what they wanted and they split everything 3 ways of value. All the clothes and stuff went to Goodwill.
Of course we live in the house my husband was born in, and still have much of their stuff! Most in the attic, but what the heck are our kids going to do with it???

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about the changing media. GRRR! Anyway, I'm scanning stuff and uploading to storage sites as well as burning to CD. There are some that are free but I backed that stuff up at another free one becasue I have experienced the "there one day, gone the next" problem with free sites. Anything that looks remotely valuable I would try to sell on eBay. It is time coinsuming, but I'm aa eBay seller anyway. Craigslist is a bit easier but you have to be comfy with strangers coming to your home. That's nomal business for me so not a big deal, but I am armed and have a nasty dog! I have even sold yearbooks I got from a garage sale free box, BTW. If I find something I think someone specific would want, I put it in a box with their name on it and have them make the decision.

At first I hated going through that kind of stuff, but I found if I relaxed and tried to enjoy the trip back through time it was kinda nice. I did set a time (begin and end) and worked a couple of hours each day.

Best of luck.

Laura said...

Going through stuff and deciding what to keep is pretty tough. Space is an issue, but even if I had alot of space, why keep stuff all packed away in boxes?

I'm not much into handmaid tablecloths and such - I might keep one that I knew someone special (mom, grandmother, etc.) had made, but I might try and sell the rest to an antique shop or at a garage sale. Same with with old clothes and baby stuff... Maybe I'm just not that sentimental... :-)

I don't have much of my childhood stuff anymore - we kept the important stuff and it is all in one box, stored at my Mom's house...

Breathe said...

I'd keep the photo albums because of technology and select the best of the travel photos. I'd keep a few examples of handiwork and baby clothes, I treasure those hand me towns even if they are old fashioned.

At the end of the day its about what you want to keep and what revives memories of people you care about. But they don't do that if they just live in a storage box, do they. Collectors will love some of the handiwork, but you have to let go. Not every memory needs a physical manifestation to be valued.

Or so says the queen of clutter castle, moi.

KarenTX said...

A friend of mine who is a power seller on ebay and says that old yearbooks are selling real well on ebay. There's a yearbook section. You can go on ebay and find a trading assistant who can assist you in letting you know what will sell. If you need the link, email me at Karen dot Bringol at and we'll get it to you.

Cheryl Ann said...

Nuzz, it was HARD and very TEARFUL for me. I kept all photos and memos. I also kept my mom's divan (put it in storage) and some other antiques, until my aunt swooped in with a new power of attorney and scarfed off with everything that I didn't have in my own personal possession. The divan disappeared, as did other furniture and I, to this day, have no idea where it is. I would say...ANYTHING that you want to keep yourself, keep in your possession! Unfortunately, long ago, my mother tossed all my old LA Times newspapers from 1968 (RFK assassination and MLK), which I had been saving. Unfortunately, she also tossed...(horrors!) my little horse statue collection! I wanted to hand that down to my kids, but she tossed it when I went to college! ... I do have her wedding rings and her jade necklace and a box full of old slides and that's basically IT!

Cheryl Ann said...

I give (and gave) a LOT of stuff to the little thrift store up in the mountains because the people up there really appreciate old things and their prices are very reasonable for the folks who live there. I find GOODWILL's prices extremely high! My aunt DID send me a couple of scrapbooks, which I kept for the grandkid(s).

fernvalley01 said...

Keep what matters to you and your family , if others want the rest fine. But you can't exactly keep everything that matters to others , where would you sleep?

Ms Martyr said...

Antique stores might be interested in the tablecloths. Doll collectors could probably use the baby clothes for old fashioned life-sized baby dolls. I prefer selling on ebay to Craigslist just because I don't like strangers coming to my home. The downside is the hassle of shipping.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm not very sentimental. Heck! I didn't even save my wedding dress. It was a large wedding dress and I figured it would eventually turn yellow and get moth bitten, and I didn't want my future daughter to ever feel obligated to wear it, and I knew I would never wear it again. Like you, it's the photographs, personal letters, diaries, and artwork that my loved ones have created that give me a better connection to them, then furniture, clothing, and knick knacks. That's all just stuff to weigh you down and create clutter.

I feel for you, though. When my parents retired and moved to Florida, they had to greatly downsize, and at the time we were living in South Carolina...on the way down to their new home in Florida. So you can imagine all the junk they brought down and dropped off at our house, expecting us to keep it all and be appreciative. ugh! Most of it was junk and not of any particular real value...which is why they didn't want to keep it. I remember when I donated a big old wooden jewelry box (just lightweight pine, stained a fake mahogany....with some of the drawers falling apart) and my stepmother asked about it during a visit. She was so perturbed that I gave it away. I just told her, that if she wanted it so badly, then why didn't she just keep it?

I'm of the mind set if something doesn't bring me great joy when I see it, or isn't in some way useful, then out it goes.
I always donate to items to my favorite charity, which has been Walkin N Circles Horse Rescue, because I know just how the money will be spent.
Did your Mother have any special charities or organizations she supported?


Cut-N-Jump said...

It is a tough call to make. Sometimes though, like your friend said, you get rid of something now and later on decide you wished you hadn't. None of the rest of us can sort though it for you. What you hold dear, may mean nothing to us.

One of the things that they mention on 'Hoarders' is that you don't need to hold onto 'stuff' to hold onto the memories. Something a lot of us get hung up on too often.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...


My mother had dozens of charities she supported, The Humane Society being her favorite, but I have to go with the charities that pick up stuff on the driveway after I've left L.A. and have driven back to Nevada because of time constraints. Every time I go down, I donate hundreds to thousands of dollars in goods. However, I am not going to donate personal memorabilia. That's the stuff I'm sorting through now and there's a lot of it.

Jeni said...

I've been down that road - heck still walking it 2.5 years later. Please remember reading this - I am an only child - no siblings.

I kept all photo's that contained either my mom, myself, my dad, or step dad no matter how old.

I kept REALLY old pictures of my grandparents and aunts and uncles when they were children.

I threw away any negatives and duplicates I found.

Knick-knacks - I kept one or two pieces I really liked. Let my children pick a few they would like now and some day. I took digital pictures of what was left and asked my gramma (that's all that is left in my family) if she wanted anything. Sent her what she chose.

Collections - I kept tea pot collection. I also kept my great-great grandma's china, and table and chairs (from late 1800's)

My mom was into crafts. She had many finished products in storage. I took what I wanted. Made sure each of my children had a couple "made by grammie" items.

I sent each of my moms treasured friends, those who made a difference in her life and end of life care a "made by Millie" item.

I then waited almost a year then set everything that was left out (imagin garage sale) and invited immediate, extended family and friends over to "remember mom" and invited them to take items they would like.

What was left I sold at a flea market.

I still have an entire apartment size loft of stuff of holiday (all holidays) stuff to go through.

I feel for you and wish you the best as you go through this.

Leah Fry said...

I'm also on the side of not being terribly sentimental. It's just STUFF. That is awfully nice of your friend to look out for your feelings, but you know what you want and don't.

My mother (bless her heart) collects snow globes. I threatened to dance on her grave if she left me those dang things. That and her Thomas Kincaide paintings. No thanks, Mom!

I hope to have out stuff thinned out so my poor kid doesn't have to deal with it.

TeresaA said...

I am not one for collecting things so here's my perspective: keep a few things that have real value to you and find a way to redistribute the rest. IMO we, as a society, are too hung up on stuff. You have your memories and the love you had for your mom. Not keeping her stuff does not mean you don't love her.

My other rule is that if I can't put it where I can see it why am I keeping it?

darkhorse said...

I was overwhelmed at the time, and not as sentimental. My parents had accumulated over fifty years of stuff... I kept what I thought would be most sentimental. It turns out, over ten years later, that I miss some of the most insignificant things you just don't think about. One thing I wish that I had did, was at least take pictures of the items, before sending them away/throwing them out.

achieve1dream said...

Sadly I'm no help here. I've never had to go through stuff belonging to someone else. Good luck getting it all sorted out!