HELP! It has finally happened - my packrat parents are moving!

janetwilsonJune 27, 2005

It started with a simple phone call from mom, chatting about the kids, my grandmother, etc. Then she hones in on the kill - "your father and I have found this really cute house in your neighborhood and it's just perfect for us - in fact we put an offer on it last night and the owners accepted it this morning". I am speechless. I am thrilled they are moving closer to my family, but the prospect of moving them is a little overwhelming.

I decide to wait and let my DH (married 18 years) in on the news until the next morning at breakfast. "By the way, mom and dad bought a new house and they are moving in 3 months". The cereal spoon drops in the bowl and I get a glare to end all glares. "You couldn't wait until after breakfast to tell me this?" I smile sweetly. The grumbling from my significant other (who knows he'll bear the brunt of packing and moving) did not stop all weekend.

Mom and Dad live 5 miles away in the house I (and 3 siblings) grew up in. The house is a 2 story, 4 bedroom traditional house. If you walked into the house you would think it was just lovely. They have an eclectic style but the mix and match furniture and accessories work and it looks great.

What you WON'T see when you walk into the house is what I know lurks upstairs and in the garage. Three bedrooms, all with large walk in closets and all stuffed to the gills with memories of the childhood of their 4 children, 3 deceased parents and years and years of collecting things that might be useful someday. There is a large overhead attic and THREE smaller attics off of each of the bedrooms. The last time I glanced into one of the smaller attics it was like stepping back in time - my little kitchen set and doll furniture were set up just like my sister and I were still playing in there. The 2 car garage has a small path to get to a workbench in back. The box for anything purchased new in the last 15 years is in the garage.

DH has suggested that we get a large dumpster. I am afraid to hurt my parents with that suggestion. What I need is a plan to get through everything. I know that many of you have been through similar situations - can you give me any advice?

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skatiero is a great place to start!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 5:04PM
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well, if your parents are competent enough to buy a house on their own, they ought to be competent to PLAN and ORGANIZE their move on their own.

Surely they're not legally incompetent, so they ought to be able to cope w/ this (organizationally, at least). Or to bear the consequences if it turns out they can't.

Try to fix it so you provide ONLY the dumb labor--no brain power, no planning, nothing. THEY have done this to themselves, don't let them make it be YOUR problem.

If they asked me for advice, I think I'd tell them, "First walk through the new space. Think of what you need or want THERE (NOT of what you already have in the OLD house). Then, go get those things (and JUST those things) from the old house.

"once your NEW house is set up right, give yourself six more boxes you can fill w/ sentimental things--wedding pictures, stuff like that. ONLY six more boxes.

"now turn your back on the OLD house. Give your kids a week to take out of it any mementoes they might want. Then call a thrift shop, junk shop, whatever, to come get rid of the rest of the stuff."

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 5:38PM
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Agree with TS completely.

Maybe you can drag some boxes over there for the things you want and say...
Since the new house you bought is so much smaller, I thought I'd take the few things I want that were mine growing up out of your house. Then anything I leave, you can get rid of as you move. Oh and by the way... we'll be Dumb labor and nothing else.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 12:01AM
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I'm definately with Talley Sue. This is not your or your DH's problem.

I don't think it is fair to expect your DH to move all of that stuff. They need to hire someone.

We had a moving company move 2,600 square feet, 3 car garage. $1,600 well spent.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 1:35AM
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While I agree that they got themselves in this mess, you must understand that my family believes it's important to help each other out. My father works full time out of the house and my mother babysits my children and my brother's children while we work. They are the type of people that will always help anyone in need. If one of their children need help with a project, my folks are right there to pitch in. My father also helps the widows in our church with car repairs, household repairs and has moved many single moms into new apartments. In addition to the grandchildren, Mother always has my grandmother under her wing, taking her to doctor's appointments, etc. They are very giving people. Would you turn your back on them and say "this is not my problem?" I can't. So DH and I (and my siblings) will be in the thick of this move!

I like the suggestion to walk through the new house and figure out what will fit in the new place. My thought is that we should take large plastic bags and start emptying closets first. We'll have bags for donating usable items and bags for unusable items/trash.

Because we're trying to declutter the house for showings to potential buyers, I'm thinking that things going to the new house will be put into boxes and moved to a storage unit. Anything unusable at the new place will be donated.

DH and I have a large trailer and we'll use it for transporting things to donation spots, the dump or the storage unit. I don't know if the final move will be with a moving company or not. I'm hoping that the men in my family will all be able to pitch in and save them the expense of hiring a moving company.

I'll let you know how this goes!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 10:55AM
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I like the suggestion to walk through the new house and figure out what will fit in the new place.

I know you need to help--I agree with you.

But it's not YOUR new house!! It's theirs! Don't stick your nose in there, let them do it themselves. They're not children, they don't need YOU to tell them how to plan THEIR move. They didn't need you to help them buy the new house, right? So why do you need to get past-elbow-deep in PLANNING their move?

It sounds like they help other people alot. Do they like giving up the control of this to you? It doesn't sound like they would. People who are very good at giving often aren't that good at taking. There's an element of having control inherent to "giving" that makes "receiving" uncomfortable. Espcially when other people are trying to do it FOR them.

If nothing else, bow out on the idea that you want them to feel like it's THEIR house, and not all their KIDS' house. Think of it--this will be the first house in years that will be all their OWN memories, and not the kids' memories. Try not to butt in so much.

It's one thing to help w/ the labor, packing, etc.--It's completely another thing to start planning "how to walk through the new house"--not THE new house, THEIR new house. Umm, not yours.

Let THEM figure out how to do it, and let THEM walk through their OWN place. if they ASK you to help, or ask you for ideas to plan, etc., by all means give it. But be careful about how much you're leading.

Just keep ASKING, "Mom and Dad, what would you like me to do?" Or, "Mom and Dad, would you like me to come take the heirloom stuff that I want, so you can feel free to get rid of the other stuff?" Or, even, "Mom would you like me to pack up the laundry room?" Or, "Dad, would you like us to set aside Saturday morning to take a load to the dump or donation?"

ASK. It's their home; let them take the lead. It sounds like they're perfectly competent to do so.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 11:06AM
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Family dynamics are different for everyone. In MY family, we work together and there is no "THEM" - there is only "US" - a very close-knit family that helps each other. My mother asked for help getting through the chaos and I will help her, because that's how we do things in MY family.

I was asking for suggestions from this ORGANIZING forum on packing and getting through the accumulation of things, not criticism for helping my parents.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 1:36PM
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In my mind, "organization" implies doing things the most efficient way. When I think of moving, efficiency means not moving things which don't have to move; having an idea of where the remaining "stuff" will go, how to prepare the destination and leave the origin, etc.

janet, it's admirable that you are willing to help your parents. But I don't think you should feel you need to take on all the effort of this move -- your parents sound quite capable of coordinating their lives. They can coordinate this move, too. They just need some of your help.

I like the idea of suggesting that they consider what should move to the new house. Decluttering their current house is a perfect "in" to getting them to toss or give away stuff they no longer use or have never needed in many "somedays." It will leave the house looking nicer for sale and will make it easier for the rest of the family when they move what actually will end up at the new house.

Rather than move everything to a storage unit, though (you know you'll be moving it all out of the storage unit at some point), I'd suggest the time-honored four-box plan: items to be tossed (trash not really usable by anyone else), items to be given away to family; items to be given away to the Goodwill/Salvation Army; and items to move to the new house. Mark stuff with colored tabs or those self-stick colored flags if putting them in boxes or bags is not possible. As soon as you have a trailer-load or the items are in the way, move 'it out.

You'll probably have to figure out from your parents whether they want to start with the items which definitely will move to the house or definitely want to give away, etc. You may have to switch that around some; if they say they want to start on the family heirlooms, but they don't seem to be comfortable with it, switch it and work on something else for a while. Your parents are leaving a home with a family's worth of memories. It probably won't be easy for them at times (though they've crossed the bridge psychologically even by buying a new house) and they want to move (they don't have to move).

Other suggestions: Make sure you have lots of large trash bags, appropriate boxes, packaging tape, old newspapers, packing peanuts, colored tabs, etc. around so you can pack things as soon as it's feasible. If it helps, schedule standing times when you can come over and help (every Tuesday and Thursday night, for instance). See if your siblings can set up other nights to come over and help. Try to set goals for a particular session (clean all clothes out of a bedroom; find all the items in one room which need to go to the trash, etc.). Make them achievable goals; something you can accomplish in that session, even if you have to come back to that area a few times for other goals.

Good luck! This sounds like a big project. But remembery -- you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. You just have to chew a lot. :-)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 2:27PM
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Sorry for that to come across as criticism. I meant it as a caution.

I'm just worried that in your enthusiasm to "grab the problem and wrestle it to the ground," you'll end up taking on more than is good for you, or for your parents.

If you take charge of their move, will their new home feel like theirs? Will they feel bullied, belitted, treated like babies, or senile before their time? You'll know better, of course, but I mostly wanted you to consider it.

And remember, I didn't think you shouldn't help. I think you should--obviously. But that you should HELP, not decide things. "Letting mom and dad direct the move" is not turning them into "them." It's letting them be the head of their own household. And it's keeping you from being overwhelmed.

You sounded an awful lot like you were deciding on your own how to do this--you need a plan, and DH thinks you should get a Dumpster. You don't mention your mom and dad in any of that.

Do they have a plan? That's a good first place to start. Maybe they do (or don't, LOL!), and it just didn't work its way into your post. If so, my apologies.

Also a good thing to do early is to identify the places that the decluttered stuff will go:

*find the thrift-store, charity drop-off sites, rules, times, places

*find the consignment or auction sources that might take still-good furniture that won't fit in the new house

*find the bulk-garbage pickup rules, places, etc.

*find the historical society that might take grandma's yearbook, great-grandpa's clothes or tools; find out from them what they'd be interested in.

Once you know where those things are, it'll be easier to plan around it, and easier to identify which stuff goes where.

And if your mom and dad are sort of procrastinating on the decluttering, which is something most of us do, knowing that Saturday is drop-off day for big stuff at the charity might spur them to focus more sharply on those decisions.

Or, make appointments for them with YOU--"I'll come over Saturday morning to help go through the bedrooms, mom" might provide focus for the two of you (as well as the fun of company during the task).

You could find info on how long to keep paperwork, in case they want to weed out the filing cabinet before they move it. You could start rounding up boxes; you can almost never have too many.

They have 3 months--are they up to a garage sale? I personally can't do them, too much work. But maybe a big one, w/ family helping (an opportunity for them to sell stuff too), is possible.

Since they have to live in their house for 3 months, you don't want to pack the essentials until late in the game, so decluttering is a good start. It's generally easiest if you go first for the stuff you know you can toss (garbage first, then donate). Expect it to take at least 2 rounds: one for the easy stuff, another for the harder-to-decide stuff.

Knowing how much storage space is in the new house will help, too. If there's one linen closet instead of two, it'll be easy for your mom to tell that she'll need to cut linens in half. 3 bedrooms instead of 4, obviously one bedroom set will have to go away since there won't be room for it.

It's also energizing, sometimes, to tackle the big, obvious stuff first. Getting rid of the old cardboard boxes in the garage might be fast enough--an hour, maybe?--and yet may make a huge different in how daunting that area seems.

If they're having trouble parting w/ stuff (bcs "it might be useful someday"), maybe you can suggest that they first grab the stuff they KNOW they want, and then never look in that room again themselves; you'll deal w/ all the rest. And you can trash or donate, as you see fit. If they'll trust you for that, it could work. Lots of times, people will be OK w/ stuff disappearing never to be seen again, as long as THEY don't have to be the ones who threw it in the garbage. They get to hold on to the fantasy that it's being useful somewhere else.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 2:56PM
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If a local charity can pick things up, it might be good to set up a time for a pick up. That will force them to start thinking about what they can get rid of by that date. I would think that a dumpster (maybe later on after starting the process and going through some of the stuff) would do the same sort of thing - you see it there, you start throwing things in, it becomes contagious (I tend to get rid of things I wouldn't have thought of when I start getting a carload full. I also start thinking about if this thing that I was going to give to charity is really just trash after all that they will have to pay to get rid of later).

Can you and your siblings take the things that are (were) yours, to deal with as you see fit, later? Or is it more that Mom has trouble parting with those memories, even though you don't really want/need the things? Can you take pictures and make a photo album, then donate the things to kids who might actually use them now? Or if they are valuable, could you go on Ebay to find out how much they are worth, and find a collector? There are some services around that I have heard of (never used myself) that will sell your stuff on Ebay. Is that a possibility?

I guess it would help to know what kind of help you really need - finding time to help Mom & Dad go through a lifetime of sentimental stuff, what to do with the stuff, convincing them to get rid of stuff, etc.

Good luck! This is probably not the way you were planning on spending your summer!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 10:30AM
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Definitely the first thing I'd recommend doing is going to your parents and saying (after being supportive and excited) "So now this new house is of course smaller than your current home. Have you started to think about what it is going to mean to downsize?" - just to see how far they have already gotten here. I'd ask this in front of both of them together, if you can, and maybe get a little conversation going. You may be able to just guide them toward making a plan on their own, and just be there to help.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 12:24PM
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a note about the boxes--I have a friend who keeps hers (she's got the space under an eave), and when she moves, she puts stuff back in the original box. It's safe, and packed. So if those boxes are there, you might suggest they locate the ones they'll use for the move (stereo, TV, mixer come to mind), and ask them to let you discard of the other ones.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 5:31PM
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I enlisted the guys in our mailroom to save boxes for us. Today they brought me 20 of those nice boxes that reams of paper come in - you can pack a lot into them but they are still small enough to carry. I dropped them off at my parent's house on my way home from work and was pleased to see that they have successfully tackled decluttering their closet, a good portion of the kitchen and one bathroom. They also rented a storage space to store some things until they move. They want to move some stuff into the storage space until they can have a garage sale. Sure wish they would just donate it all, but I don't want to push them on that issue. They have already thrown out more than I expected them to. I keep reminding mom that she doesn't need all that clutter in her pretty new house...

This weekend I'll go over and help empty out the bedrooms and closets. They need to get the house in good enough shape to get it listed on the market. Thanks for your advice on this, I'm passing all of your ideas on to my parents in hopes that it will help them make the move a little easier.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 11:40PM
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Janet -
See if you can get them to do one "de-trashing" pass:

You go through a collection of stuff and just decide "trash or not trash" ... if it's trash, it gets dropped into the trash bag right then. Old magazines, broken stuff, unwearable clothes, crusted paint cans, outdated foods and meds ... it's all trash.

That can clear out an amazing amount of stuff to make room for the next pass, which is "NEEDED in new house for our DAILY lives" which gets packed for the move.

Third pass is "priceless memorabilia" versus "old stuff we've been hanging onto". Just take what is really capable of producing fond memories, not everything you ancestors once owned. At this point, kids and friends can get their pick of the stuff your parents don't want. When packing up my parents house, I let my nieces and nephews take one box of stuff they really liked or had fond memories of.

If you can talk them into having the garage sale from the house, with leftovers going to charity, and not move anything into storage, you can save quite a bit of effort. Consider it a pre-listing publicity stunt, and have a sale sheet for the house visible.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 9:41AM
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how smart you are to value boxes that "you can pack a lot into ... but they are still small enough to carry!"

If your folks happen to have old record albums, LPs, check out paint boxes (the kind 4 gallons of paint are shipped in) at the hardware store. They're the perfect size to hold the LPs (a bit bigger than necessary one dimension), which can be SO heavy if they're packed into something bigger like a copier-paper box or milk crate. (lots of times we used to move them in milk crates, but that left them exposed, hard to stack, and vulnerable to damage in ADDITION to being too hard to pick up).

W/ all that family to help on moving day, smaller, lighter boxes are a great idea, bcs even the little kids can help then!

I bet your packrat folks aren't that out of control, esp. compared to tohers. If they've kept their living areas tidy and controlled, and packed the other stuff into now-unused bedrooms, and are capable of decluttering lots of the kitchen in a week, they're in GREAT shape. I bet they kept most of that stuff just because they could, and now that they can't, they'll be able to ditch a lot of it.

If they want to rent a storage space, maybe you could glean how much they're paying for it, and sorta ask the, "would you pay $45 to buy that right now? That's what you're paying to store it, so it's the same thing." Sometimes people don't think of things in quite those terms; you can be that voice, perhaps.

Sounds like they're really making progress, and have a good handle on the start of the whole process!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 9:59AM
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There are two stages of "decluttering and re-organizing" in this case -- moving out AND moving in. Its no surprise that many people who insist on keeping lots of stuff -- change their minds as they move into a new and often smaller place!!! Just the way of the world ........ :)

O.K. Been through this -- so ----

1) Walk through every room -- make separate lists for each room to remind everyone of what needs to be done -- and what has been already packed and stashed. Too easy to forget where the linen for THIS bed is -- so make a list. Put yellow "stickies" on items that need to be donated!

2) Place "alike" items together -- Gather up all the dining room linen or tablelinens -- gather all the bedstuffs etc. Then place into Well-Marked Boxes!!! (this step is KEY!! to a happy move)

3) Sad times and Memories will happen during a move from a family home. Let the person have a moment or two (or ten ....) to themselves to work it out AND make sure everyone's energy is kept up with food at regular times. (too easy to work way past the point of dinner ....!) Tempers may flare over silly items ----- yep! it happens to the best of us ------ so remember to take a moment -- and breathe deeply.

4) Make sure that any items that go to family members are set aside for that person to pick up -- or stash it in a central location.

5) HIRE MOVERS for the big stuff! Believe me -- there will be LOADS and loads of small stuff to be shifted and moved by family members!!!

Just some thoughts!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 1:59PM
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liquor boxes are also small, very strong, easy to handle, and free!


    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 2:06PM
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Wow, GREAT ideas! Thanks so much!

Forgot to mention that DH is in the business of moving things and we own several moving trucks, cargo vans and trailers. This is going to be a do-it-yourself move with several hired hands and family members. Which is one of the reasons DH was groaning about it so much last weekend!

Carol - I just giggled when I read about the liquor boxes. I can just imagine my Dad (the Baptist Deacon, Senior Gideon and Church Trustee) loading up a bunch of liquor boxes!! Even if I picked them up and brought them to him, I can imagine his face if I walked in with them! Ha!!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 10:31PM
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I think TS and the others have given you a lot of support and advice. I don't think anyone once said not to help your parents. I think rather we just feel you need to rethink the way you are viewing this... change your filter if you will.

Your original post gave me the impression that you felt you had to organize it FOR them, do the work FOR them, and do it all by yourself with help from DH. My thought right away was rather than doing it FOR them it should be WITH them.
Maybe I just didn't understand what you were trying to get across?

I agree with TS. And what you wrote in a later post indicates she is right. Your parents are very capable of taking care of themselves and of moving themselves. That comes across when you point out how much they have already thrown away and packed up by themselves. They have done more than you expected.

While I think this is has the potential of being overwhelming, it really isn't your job. By that I mean, it is not your job to 'wrestle it to the ground' by yourself. Your parents will be the ones to direct this and decide what they are going to ultimately keep and not keep etc. It sounds like they are doing a great job and don't need you worrying about planning it all by yourself. In fact, I imagine they would be hurt to think that you don't think they can organize it themselves with some manual labor help from you.

I guess what I'm getting at here is not a critique of what you are doing but rather a thought along the lines of - take care of yourself. Don't take more on than you have to or can take on. Allow your parents the luxery of your faith that they are adults and will do fine without your organizing FOR them.

It seems that maybe you and your family, parents, sisters, etc who are helping need to have a pow wow of sorts. Sit down and tell your parents that you are worried about lots of stuff/smaller house and what can you do to help them. I imagine they know exactly what they need from you. And during this discussion would be a great time to provide your advice- a dumpster, no garage sale, etc. whatever.

But as you said- every family is different. What would work with my parents will NEVER work with my inlaws. Each of us can merely offer some thoughts for you to take or not as you will.

I think the idea of you and your siblings taking stuff that used to be yours back to your home is a brilliant idea. My mother in law can't throw anything away. Every year we go there we pull home several boxes of stuff to PRESUMABLY throw away. However, DH doesn't and that is another story. When I was a adult in my own home, my parents requested that I take all of my stuff out of their home. I think it is just respectful that if I want to keep it, I store it in my home. Maybe by you and your siblings taking back ownership of some of your old things would help.

I also agree with much of what Steve O and Lazygarden wrote- be as efficient as possible. They had some very useful advice.

When we moved my hsuband into this house and he is a saver to the extreme - we split up the rooms. I moved one room and he packed up the other. This gave me the opportunity to toss stuff and hm the opportunity to keep stuff. It cut the clutter we would have moved in half. Maybe you can do something like this? OF course, he trusted me then to know I wouldn't throw away anything he truly needed or wanted to keep.

Whatever. It's late and I'm sure this won't come across nearly like I think it is. Good luck.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 2:10AM
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I didn't notice anyone mentioning the other sibling's stuff. Maybe because I just skimmed thru or maybe because everyone thought it was YOUR hell to work through. Get all the siblings involved.

WOW.. this is like a "Clean Sweep" for the real people!! Put up tents and tarps and have "keep" "donate" "sell" areas, then make them ditch half of the "keep" section.

Siblings could take what they want (shows parents what they've been saving for nothing), and everyone could participate in the yard sale.

I wish I could have done it like that. Dad died, she wouldn't turn loose of anything. I sold lots behind her back (tools and such), but there are still so many things in house #2 to be gotten rid of ... all her stuff is a couple bags of clothes. I've got at least a ton of scrap metal of Dad's that I'm finally willing to say that "I can't Use!)

Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2005 at 1:05AM
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