Downsizing and Real Estate

11/10/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Adding to the grief left in the wake of a loved one’s passing are the responsibilities of tending to an estate. One overwhelmed reader reached out to advice columnist Amy Dickinson for guidance in cleaning out Mom’s condo.

by Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency

Dear Amy:

My mother recently passed away unexpectedly, and I have to clean out her condo.

My problem is that there are so many things that have such strong memories for me. I’m overwhelmed about what to do with all of it.

I live in a small one-bedroom apartment, so honestly, I would be cramming stuff in.

I really don’t know what to do.

I feel guilty if I just call someone in to sell it all off.

The memories these things bring up really make this hard.

Can you help?

– Overwhelmed

Dear Overwhelmed:

This sad task would be made much easier for you if you had even one person who would do it with you.

It is important that you feel supported; you also deserve to have a compassionate witness to your memories. If you can’t find a friend to help, you should call in a professional.

People who do this sort of elder “clean out” for a living often understand the complicated emotions that are brought up. Call your local office on aging for a referral.

This task will be made easier if you break it down into smaller categories. Start with the kitchen, and have four open boxes: Keep, Donate, Unsure, Trash.

Make sure to photograph items. These photos will help to keep your memories fresh, for a time in the future when you’re ready to revisit them.

If you are paralyzed, you might want to rent a small storage unit to house items until you are ready. Understand, however, that this can bring up its own set of challenges. If you rent a unit, set regular goals to continue to go through and pare down these possessions.

Updated with a response from a reader to Amy Dickinson:

Dear Amy:

Responding to “Overwhelmed,” who was struggling with cleaning out her mother’s apartment, when my father died, my sister and I took the things that were sentimental and/or useful.

Then the church ladies had a whole house sale.

It took three days and it was a happy event for them.

They kept all of the proceeds, and the only condition was that the house would be left TOTALLY empty.

– Downsized

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from cleaning out Mom’s condo to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

Read more Ask Amy columns curated for a boomer audience.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff