Don't want this to happen to me!

tre3May 4, 2007

Everyday on the way to taking my DD to school we pass a modest (1200 sq ft?) ranch house. For two successive weekends they had an estate auction firm selling items. Days before the last sale they covered the yard with long tables full of items. I guess they had someone guarding it at night. When I got back into town a HUGE industrial dumpster was parked in the driveway. Over the days it filled, mounding in the middle. Yesterday a new HUGE dumpster is in its place.

How sad. The story I tell myself as I drive by is about a couple. They built their house, lived in it all their lives. One proceeded the other. Whether they have no heirs or the heirs did not want all(some) of their things, it is clear they held onto lots of STUFF.

Hopefully I have a long time before my children have to deal with my "estate". I don't want to leave them this type of mess.

Getting ready to leave for school and will pass the house again.

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It is indeed sad!

Many times over the years my mum and dad would tell those kinds of stories -- and THEN my dad died -- and we took days and days just to clear out stuff from their house. Mum lived there for another two years -- and then moved into a gorgeous townhouse with my sister and BIL. Of course -- then they sent LOTS of things to auction, gave things away, held a garage sale and still had LOTS of things to donate too! It is amazing how much "stuff" came out of their house -- even after a major clear-out!!

Clearing out "stuff" is an on-going process -- and a very very hard balancing act (at least at my over-stuffed little house!)

Swinging between "gotta keep this" -- and "this HAS to go!" And the sheer physical effort to get rid of things that are currently stuffed into a closet (and therefore outta sight) seems huge.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 8:49AM
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Swinging between "gotta keep this" -- and "this HAS to go!" And the sheer physical effort to get rid of things that are currently stuffed into a closet (and therefore outta sight) seems huge.

Same here ...

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 9:40AM
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I've been sent into many a home to evaluate the situation and whether the hoarder, usually but not always elderly, has lost his/her capacity to function. Rooms piled high with narrow paths cutting through. Absolutely overwhelming. And so sad when the person has completely lost his/her ability to organize and execute any plan to deal with it.

Bad as your challenge maybe, know it can be much much worse. Get it under control. Keep it under control. Agree it is an ongoing process. Your life will flow better. And your heirs will thank you! It is worth it.

And best, the health department or court won't be sending somebody like me to knock on your door...

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 9:42AM
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oh, oh--this JUST happened to my next-door neighbor.

No kids, few friends. Not hoarders, but lots of assets, and now a houseful of stuff, much of it just not needed.

It's an apt. bldg, so some of us cleaned out the fridge and cabinets of foodstuffs, so as not to lure bugs or generate odors; it'll sit empty for more than a year.

One of the ladies working on it was making disparaging remarks about how old some of the stuff was, how long it had obviously sat undisturbed (dusty, etc.). I though, "lay off; she was OLD. She was 92 when she died, and she'd BEEN old for 20 years. Organizing and decluttering and reinventing your storage and surroundings takes ENERGY, and she really didn't have that much energy."

So you're right, it is important to keep it from getting out of hand when you're young enough to cope with it.

And it's important to try to keep a flexible mind as you age, so that if someone says, "maybe we could get rid of this," you CAN say yes.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 9:50AM
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Seven years ago my mother-in-law decided to sell her home so she could move into a retirement community. Her home was a large four bedroom split level with a family room (converted from a garage), a basement, and an attic -- the equivalent of five floors. She had kept everything. For the first six months, my husband, his sister, and I would go over on the weekends and help her sort through things. It was like pulling teeth. We eventually got a large dumpster and it got quite full. Unfortunately, my MIL passed away and never made the move. We were left with the huge task of figuring out what to do with everything. It took us a few months and was a horrible experience, grieving while having to deal with tons of stuff. You can be sure I won't ever leave anyone with such a task.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 10:36AM
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Unfortunately we don't know when we are going to either become senile or die. I have never had a client die who left everything spic and span with papers in order so we can figure out the location of assets and bills easily. It can be done, but I suspect that insurance companies know that a lot of policies are never collected. I would guess that other assets are likewise never collected.
When we do probate or trust administration I also check the unclaimed assets division of our State. It is surprising how often there are old checks which were never cashed. So I imagine older people tuck valuables away and forget about them.
I don't know what the solution is--sometimes well meaning relatives annoy old folks. Maybe that explains the story in the bible about the son who spent his inheritance but was welcomed back with a feast, and the son who stayed and was helpful really ended up with less inheritance as a result.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 6:32PM
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We went through this when my dad died. He had lived alone in the house for almost eight years after he and my mom were divorced. I found stuff in my old bedroom that had been there since I was a teenager! It took a lot of time to get rid of all the accumulated clutter, and I vowed then that I would never let my children have to go through that kind of experience. It has actually been the one driving force in my quest to simplify my life and my home.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 7:21PM
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I am curious as to what "stuff" you are talking about. Is it everyday household items that most people own or an excess of clutter?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 9:08PM
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I cleaned out MIL's house, it has certainly motivated me. Should have gotten DH to help, he might have learned something. I admit I am the hoarder but I have realised that he has contributed in more subtle ways. He certainly doesn't have a flexible mind and it's taken me a long time to understand how much that has affected us. I asked teenage DS the other day if he could remember DH ever being the driving force behind sorting through something or getting a new bookshelf or replacing a broken piece of equipment or anything at all. No. In fact we've ended up with bigger problems, and major arguments, because he never wants to do anything. Having a well-functioning organised comfortable home is an ongoing process. (Yes, and a hard balancing act.) DH doesn't get that.

Marie, in MIL's case some of the stuff was just things she needed that we didn't. We all have plenty of dishes, nobody needed hers as well. She had an excess of some things. A huge amount of old blankets. That surprised me as she'd lived most of her life in warm climates.

Some things hadn't been looked after properly. I didn't want more stuff cluttering up my house just because it had the potential to be cleaned or fixed. I took a box of deteriorating photos though and knowing I'll have to deal with that sometime is causing me stress.

Some things she hoarded. Sheet sets still in their packaging, which I suspect were bingo winnings. Pantyhose still in its packaging, which DH bought her for every birthday and Mother's Day and Christmas. He used to choose a main present but he always added a few bits and pieces as well, including the pantyhose. Finding it all in the drawers in the second bedroom unopened was probably the biggest shock.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2007 at 2:44AM
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Marge727 - Here's the link to an excellent post from Alisande which addresses the paperwork issue perfectly.

Here is a link that might be useful: Look Here First

    Bookmark   May 5, 2007 at 10:07AM
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Thanks wantoretire (do you have a nickname) thats a good idea I think I will suggest it to clients. Maybe we could give them an already labeled file.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 8:43PM
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Marge - The last law firm where I worked as a legal secretary gave all clients who had wills and POA docs prepared a bound binder, which included all original documents and tabbed labels for each: "Last Will and Testament", "Power of Attorney", "Health Care Proxy" and "Advanced Medical Directive". I think your idea of giving clients the labeled file of "LOOK HERE FIRST" is excellent and just another client-friendly gesture. Might I suggest that you also include a form which includes most common items (as in Alisande's post) with a long line after each subject to fill in account numbers and other info. They could all be included in one file. People making these decisions are generally confused enough as it is. Anything to make it easier would be most welcomed.

I commend you for taking the time to offer your expert opinions on the various legal quandries that come up on the GW.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 6:24PM
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My dad was really organized with his paperwork and when he died I only had to pull out the old tool box where he kept everything. I set my mom up with a plastic box with all of the documents needed if something happens to her. I know she hasn't touched it or kept anything current. A system only works if the people will use it and keep it where someone can find the thing. I'm sure we'll have to dig through a bunch to even find the insurance policy.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 6:56PM
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Just thought I'd mention how important it is to make arrangements to be able to get into the house in the first place. When FIL died MIL got an alarm system, the sort with a panel in the bedroom that can arm the rest of the house when you go to bed. Reassuring for an elderly lady on her own. DH meant to get the code for it, just in case. He didn't quite get around to it. I'm sure the ambulancemen still remember that night.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 4:42AM
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This thread reminds me that I'm in dire need of taking care of my paper stack (maybe 7 inches high, about 4 years old) and weed through and straighten my file drawers (2 of them almost full, 2 empty). I think that my plan will be this: Take each file folder, weed and straighten it, move the tab to the opposite side than it is now and put back in drawer. When I'm finished with that process I can think if I need to break some files in two or consolidate some files (eliminating files will happen as I weed through). Then I can go through my paper stack, the first time trashing what needs to be trashed and filing what can go into existing folders and the second time creating whatever new file folders are needed.
With a baby and a toddler this will take some time, although it is less than what many of you have tackled, I just need to stick to it and do it...

Part of my problem is that I don't really have an office. The pc is in the living room and this is mostly DHs desk. I use it but I don't have my staff there, my file drawers are in the livingroom but my books and binders are in the entrance hall, in the kitchen and in our bedroom where are also my writing and craft supplies. The one thing that gets out of hand the most is current stuff - papers that I want to hold onto a little longer, or need to act upon (these are not bills) that tend to just pile on my nightstand. I've tried a folder that closes and a binder with sheet protectors - neither worked. Perhaps I should try an accordion file...

(once again I hijacked a thread... sorry folks)


    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 9:40AM
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Maria, when I went through my filing cabinet recently, I did it while watching movies and TV shows in the living room. Can you do this at night when the kids are in bed?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 10:59PM
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My husband's cousin's wife's elderly mother (follow that?) became ill and had to go into a nursing home. They took everythinmg from her home, stored it in their attic, basement and garage, and now they have no storage room for their own stuff!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 3:18PM
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I agree that it can be a real "wake up call." My mother had a stroke last month and we moved her into a nursing home after she got out of the hospital. Sis is the trustee, and we thought mom's place would be tidy. What a shock! It looked like five bag ladies lived there. Will take quite a while to clean it out.

Made me even more resolved to clean my house. Seems the more hobbies we have, the more "stuff" we have. Not trash, but supplies, etc. I do like the idea of a "Look here First" folder. Will start on that this weekend. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 10:23PM
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