As my regular readers know, my Dad passed away April 15. My Mom died in 2007. It is time to go go through their stuff. The question is what to do with it. Some of it is easy--those 2008 Christmas cards can hit the trash. I want the dining room and my youngest wants the twin beds. The unwanted clothes, furniture, kitchen stuff etc can go to Goodwill or someplace similar--or maybe we can task the young adults with holding an estate sale (and let them keep the proceeds). But what about the other stuff? Genealogy was my Dad's retirement hobby and he had extensive files on all sorts of branches of the family. I know what to do with the files on his side of the family--they will be boxed up and sent to a first cousin of mine who is into genealogy. What about the stuff on my Mom's side? As far as I know none of my cousins have adopted that hobby. Dad was in contact with some folks from her side, but they are old and to send that stuff to them just means their kids will have to deal with it--and that if I want it back some day, it will be hard to find or not in existance. And then there are the family pictures. Some I recognize; some I don't. What do I keep? What do I pitch? What do I do with my Mom's college yearbook? My Dad's Air Force yearbook? Dad's Ph.D. diploma? Mom's college transcript? Today I found letters my parents exchanged while engaged. Do I keep them? Why? Will my kids care?
One of my brothers is getting the house. He lives behind it and therefore wants control over what happens to it (or more precisely, what type of neighbors he has). It is a 1950's ranch house that had two large rooms added to the back of it. It is close enough to the beach to have high insurance premiums and far enough away that it lacks the glamour of beach-front property (and there is plenty of empty beach-front property since Katrina since the insurance is so costly). In short, people who can afford to insure that house can afford nice houses, and it isn't. The kitchen cabinets and paneling are original to the house. The wood floors need refinishing. It has popcorn ceilings. The moldings were not professionally done after Katrina and you can tell. The house next door sold for $30,000, and like my brother said, there aren't too many people who would buy a $30,000 house that he wants to live next to. Right now, the option getting the most consideration is the bulldozer.
We are keeping the house as is until it clears probate--and maybe longer. I'm the only one who wants any major contents. Until my brother decides what to do, it is there for folks to use, and we are hoping extended family comes down, but the reality is that most of us have no desire to own that house and pay the bills associated with it. It is either going to be torn down, rented or sold. It is not going to become a family vacation home. It is going to be sad when we start taking apart the home in which we were raised but the day is coming.
Have you dealt with your parents' house? What did you do with the stuff? How did you decide what to keep and what to let go?