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Thread: Family stuff

  1. #1
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    Family stuff

    Okay, I'm hoping you all will help me think through a dilemma I am having. Since my parents went into assisted living 2.5 years ago, very unexpectedly and traumatically, I have made several trips to their house and each time have tried to take a couple of things of sentimental value, mostly pictures and letters. Because of sibling tension, I could not have cleared out much more than that over the years.

    Bro who is executor refuses to deal with the things in their house and is now proposing all contents be auctioned off. I am unwilling to accept that as I have not had a chance to go through and pull out some family heirlooms that remain. I also want to go through and get personal things out of there, although I have some of that over the two years.

    So I am looking at maybe going this summer and pulling out what is personal, burning papers that need to be burned--he did not take their personal papers, for example, and it's dangerous, they sit there--anyway, someone needs to deal with this stuff.

    Meanwhile, we are probably moving this summer to be closer to parents in assisted living and now I hav eto move stuff I have brought back. Again,it's mostly letters and photos. Right now, it takes up a dresser full of space, and I have put photos in albums. I have also copied photos for siblings, sent them letters from 40 years of letters my parents saved, sorted through and saved their things for them, mailed them at cost, have never received any thanks at all, and it has been a lot of work.

    So I have kind of had it with saving anything for them anymore. I guess if they want it, they can go to the house and pull out what they want?

    Second, I am feeling need to downsize the trove of family paper. My mom, for example, as at least 5 law certificate and diplomas, and I feel awful burning them, but I also don't want to drag all this stuff around, and my brothers have no interest in anything from her, that I can tell.

    I did burn the continuing legal education certificates, that's a start. But today I found her admission to the bar from 1949, and I realized she was only 23, and I thought about how hard it was for her to accomplish that, and then I start crying, and I feel awful, and I honestly do not know what to do with all this stuff but more to the point, all this emotion.

    Any suggestions? Please don't tell me to scan everything because I just won't and I hate having all those digital things in my life. I'm better with paper.

    And I kind of don't care about her other descendants having things from her since they don't care about her. So I don't feel obligated anymore to save things for family members who have been unkind to her.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tybee View Post
    Okay, I'm hoping you all will help me think through a dilemma I am having. Since my parents went into assisted living 2.5 years ago, very unexpectedly and traumatically, I have made several trips to their house and each time have tried to take a couple of things of sentimental value, mostly pictures and letters. Because of sibling tension, I could not have cleared out much more than that over the years.

    Bro who is executor refuses to deal with the things in their house and is now proposing all contents be auctioned off. I am unwilling to accept that as I have not had a chance to go through and pull out some family heirlooms that remain. I also want to go through and get personal things out of there, although I have some of that over the two years.

    So I am looking at maybe going this summer and pulling out what is personal, burning papers that need to be burned--he did not take their personal papers, for example, and it's dangerous, they sit there--anyway, someone needs to deal with this stuff.

    Meanwhile, we are probably moving this summer to be closer to parents in assisted living and now I hav eto move stuff I have brought back. Again,it's mostly letters and photos. Right now, it takes up a dresser full of space, and I have put photos in albums. I have also copied photos for siblings, sent them letters from 40 years of letters my parents saved, sorted through and saved their things for them, mailed them at cost, have never received any thanks at all, and it has been a lot of work.

    So I have kind of had it with saving anything for them anymore. I guess if they want it, they can go to the house and pull out what they want?

    Second, I am feeling need to downsize the trove of family paper. My mom, for example, as at least 5 law certificate and diplomas, and I feel awful burning them, but I also don't want to drag all this stuff around, and my brothers have no interest in anything from her, that I can tell.

    I did burn the continuing legal education certificates, that's a start. But today I found her admission to the bar from 1949, and I realized she was only 23, and I thought about how hard it was for her to accomplish that, and then I start crying, and I feel awful, and I honestly do not know what to do with all this stuff but more to the point, all this emotion.

    Any suggestions? Please don't tell me to scan everything because I just won't and I hate having all those digital things in my life. I'm better with paper.

    And I kind of don't care about her other descendants having things from her since they don't care about her. So I don't feel obligated anymore to save things for family members who have been unkind to her.
    Take pictures! Things that you don't want to keep but still may have sentimental value to you - take pictures of these things. Take a picture of her admission to the bar from 1949 and you can go back and look at it whenever you want.

    Edited to add: I know you say you don't want the digital things in your life but I'm thinking your choices are pretty much digital, paper or nothing. And, again, you don't need to scan all this stuff. Just take pictures - that includes of papers, certificates and actual objects/things you may want to remember but not necessarily own and store.
    To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer." Mahatma Gandhi

    Be nice whenever possible. It's always possible. - Dalai Lama

  3. #3
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Well, I cant advise on your emotional tie to stuff because Me.

    I do think your motherís admission to law school document is kind of cool, and hereís what I would do with that: give it context and a story. Type up that little bit that you told us plus something else about your motherís law career, no more than a paragraph. Preserve it in some way. One thing.This is not an all or nothing proposition. Pick the best thing from a group of things and preserve it. It represents all of the things that are going into the trash, so the law school admission document would represent her various degrees certificates etc.

    Your grandchildren are pretty young if I remember right. You dont know which ones are going to turn out to be history nerds and family genealogists. But thereís a chance that one of them will. A Nicely curated object from your mother, if they donít end up with anything else from that generation, could be welcome.

    In my immediate family we have no younger generation. My grandmotherís and grandfatherís stuff descended on my own mother because she was the daughter who stayed in the same town as them. But fortunately, they didnít have a lot of stuff. So when everyone died,grandparents, my mother etc. I gathered the small pool of stuff and copied photographs Ė only key ones Ė and made up a little packet for my cousinís children. I felt that was my responsibility, and I donít give a damn what they do with the stuff that I send to them, that is all on them.Once it is out of my sphere of responsibility my conscious is clean.

    Interestingly, I did save one packet of Photos for the eldest grandchild of that generation who is estranged from our family. I wrote about that here. Some years later I wrote directly to her to ask if she wanted the photographs and she replied that she did so I sent them on to her. She was easy to find because sheís an artist in the SF Bay area.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Simplemind's Avatar
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    Been there done that, so many emotions. There were three of us kids and it was surprising in the end (especially to my father who was the last to go) what was important to us and what was not. My mom would have loved to be buried with everything. My dad was under the impression that we would want everything down to the final matchstick. There was an uncomfortable feeling at our final meeting before things went to the estate sale that there would be hard and hurt feelings. There was not.
    Before we got to that point I took every bit of paper out of the house and went through it. I spent a great deal of time with a paper shredder and a roaring fire. I kept what I needed for future business and some interesting possible sentimental things. I went through the photos and made piles. Anything with a sibling in it went to their pile. The rest went in a basket. If there was a picture I was sure all three of us would want I scanned it. I had them over for a holiday dinner and gave them their photos. Then I had them go through the basket to pull out what they would like. Then I gave them a CD of the scans. One more going, going gone.... and they were gone. It saddened me that we didn't even know who many of the people were in my folks old photos. Nothing was written on the back. But so many photos where we did know the people, they didn't want. Photos are my thing since I'm pretty much the family historian. I already know my son isn't interested in what I have.
    I kept more than I should have but in the beginning I had so many plates spinning that I wasn't sure what was going to be important. I have now had a couple of times through the past few years to go through it again and toss more out. I'm down to very little since the estate finally closed after my dad's passing in '18. I had to keep some things because I wasn't sure if something would pop up legal or tax wise. Neither of my sibs has ever had a second thought and asked for something they had passed on. I have the remains in a plastic tub which I'm putting in the attic. I'll give myself a couple of more years before I purge the rest. It is more about emotionally letting go than anything else.
    Being home during this pandemic is allowing me time to look at my own stuff that I know my kid is not going to want and letting go of it now so that he doesn't have to later. I have boxes of plaques, awards and certificates that are of no interest to me in retirement without an office to display them.
    So.....… I would contact them and give them a date to decide what they are interested in. After that, start the purge process that you feel comfortable with.

  5. #5
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    Thank you, IL and Simplemind, I really appreciate your insights on this from folks who have done it and lived to tell the tale. Very helpful.

    I think I will send the pics of the Nebraska ancestors to my second cousin the family historian who will love them and put them on ancestry--another cousin of mine there put up a photo of my grandfather I had never seen, and neither had my dad, so we were both thrilled to see it.

    The photos are very cool because the houses were obviously built out on the prairie and there were no trees, but they are in-town houses, when Nebraska was in its infancy.

  6. #6
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    I am one of 6 kids. I emptied Mom's house in a single day as we had a full cash offer if they could take possession in 7 days-so empty and clean was required. (My brother lives in the same town so I had him rally 4 guys with pickups and a trailer and it all got hauled off to homes that needed the items or to the Thrift store-his daughter drove several loads there. The guys were all young newly marrieds so they were grateful for some of the big stuff.

    I designated 1 large box for "I just don't know". This was 2007. We had a 3 generation family reunion in 2010 and I put the box out for everyone to go through. My youngest sister doesn't want the rest tossed so I'll be taking it to her. Yes, that was 10y ago but it was tucked away in a corner so not annoying---until last month!

    These are not easy decisions to make. I'm glad for you that you've decided to close this chapter so you can move on. Whatever you decide, be at peace.

  7. #7
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    Wow, Gardner, you emptied your Mom's house in a single day--you are my hero! I wish I could empty it in a week; I've been trying to get down there for months but need permission from everyone, and now of course we can't travel there.

    How cool that you could all get together at a multi-generational family reunion and people could take what they wanted. What a lovely idea.

    I want to give some of her silver to my brother's children, just because she would have wanted that, before she became demented.

  8. #8
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    I always have a lot to say about this topic keeping in mind that I’m lucky because our family isn’t that big, we had no real trouble dividing up grandparents or parents stuff, and here’s a giggle – my cousin who I love to death but he is a hoarder bought my moms house and moved into it. We didn’t even have to clean it out totally!

    Anyway, I don’t feel much of a responsibility for the few things that belong to my parents because they have no grandchildren who might be interested in their letters or photos. I mean, who would I give this stuff to? My cousin has one daughter but she never knew my parents so why would she be interested? I imagine it will all go in the trash heap with my other stuff when I am dead.

    I suppose I could give it to my cousin, the hoarder, who is the family historian for that side of the family but I just think it’s one more burden that his descendants will have to clean out. He has no children. There’s really no reason to burden him with more crap.


    As far as devoting physical space to this stuff: I have always had a steamer trunk that was my “sentimental “stash. It represents things from my life for the most part, but I have lately been jamming family letters and a photo album or two in there.

    I now feel the need to clean that out because I don’t really care to keep all that crap from my own life.So maybe I will reduce it and sqeeze down sentimental junk to a smaller container. Or, thinking about our Hermann house, maybe I will keep my dad’s dresser for an upstairs bedroom and designate that the “sentiment” container and get rid of the trunk.Maybe I can jam all photograph albums in there and have them all nicely contained.

  9. #9
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Also Tybee I will make my plea: I don’t think there’s anything especially nice about photos in albums. My preference, today, would be to have photographs in a box with clearly penciled context of each one on the back that way it’s easy to turn the photograph over and see it. The context of each photo is far more important than having them laid out in the album.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Teacher Terry's Avatar
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    My Dad was the first blue collar worker to become a city councilman in our town. He was never defeated but had to retire after 16 years due to his health. My mom made a scrapbook which I kept. I also kept his badge and gavel from when he was council president. When my mom was dying she had us go through the pictures and take what we wanted. I took 5. When the 3 of us were done she walked outside and threw the rest in the dumpster. We all took a few items. The rest went to a auction house. She destroyed all personal letters, etc.

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