I saw this post on Facebook the other day and decided to blog about it on my website.  In our team helping clients sell their homes over 20 years it becomes very apparent how difficult moving can be — whether a few blocks away or across country — especially if one is downsizing.

Many times family and friends help in the process and can grow impatient with how long it may take the owners (especially if they are elderly) to make decisions on what to keep, sell, donate and toss. 

Our advice — be gentle — listen to their stories.  If they are downsizing, especially for the last time, the process of reminiscing is very therapeutic.  Give them the time to remember their lives through their things.  Here’s the post:

When my mom was cleaning out her house over 23 years ago to sell it, I wasn’t very sympathetic over her attachments to things. I would go over on weekends to help her and we would go through things, things for a yard sale, things to donate, things to throw away.  I would usually get upset over how long it was taking her to decide. For instance,  we were going through kitchen cabinets and she spent 20 minutes looking at an iron kettle with a lid.  Finally I said, 

“Mom, at this rate it is going to take us another 2 years.” 

She told me that her mother used to make meals in that kettle and leave them at doorsteps of neighbors during the depression, mom would deliver them, and then they would reappear back to her with an apron, or a wood carving, something in return for the meal. I realized that everything that my mom was going through was really a reliving of her life.

If you are reading this and are young, you may not get it. You haven’t lived long enough. Many of you have not had to move your parents into a nursing home, or emptied their home.  You haven’t lived long enough to realize that the hours you spend picking out the right cabinets, or the perfect tile will not be what matters in the later years. It will be the handmade toothbrush holder, or a picture that you got on vacation. 

So, if your parents are downsizing, and moving to smaller places, or selling a home, give your mom and even your dad a break.  Those things that you don’t understand why they can’t just pitch, and why you think you know what needs to be tossed or saved, give them a little time to make their decisions.  They are saying goodbye to their past, and realizing that they are getting ready for their end of life, while you are in the midst of yours.  

As I have been going through things, it’s amazing just how hard it is to get rid of objects.  But, life goes on, and you realize they are just things, but sometimes things comfort us.  So give your parents or grandmparents a break. Listen to their stories,  because in 40 years, when you are going through those boxes and the memories come back, it will be hard to get rid of those plastic champagne flutes that you and your late husband used at a New Years party 40 years ago.  You will think nothing of the tile or the light fixtures that were so important then.

As happy as they are for you, and as much as they love you, you just don’t have a clue until it happens to you and then you will remember how you rushed them, and it will make you sad, especially if they are already gone and you can’t say I’m sorry, I didn’t get it.

   ~ Original Post Melissa Vaughan