6 Helpful Tips When Clearing Out the Family Home
For those of us lucky enough to have a home that’s been in our family for a long time, it’s difficult to imagine letting it go. With just a look around, it’s easy to see how the family home is chocked full of memories. These are cherished memories, where we remember the laughs, the tears, the drama, and the joys of childhood. No wonder it tears at our heartstrings when we think about moving on.
I’ve had years of experience with this process and want to share a few ideas to make the transition easier for you and your family.
- Establish Your Timeline. There’s more than one way to say goodbye to a family home. If you have the luxury of time, then you can commemorate milestones. For example, if you know you are moving in a year or so, celebrate “the last Thanksgiving” and give yourself time for the “letting go process.”If you must move quickly because of a family circumstance, a great community with a rare apartment you love or even an unplanned move to a nursing home, you will need a different approach. It’s important to realize that emotions are heightened if the need to move is urgent and unexpected. Take some time in the home to look around and reflect on your memories.
Whether you need to move quickly or have more time, it’s important to establish milestones for your move plan. You’ll need to visit and revisit deadlines with family members, realizing that everyone has their own process for letting go.
- Get and Stay Organized. Decide who needs to be involved with the process. The fewer people, the easier it is to make decisions. Create a written inventory of items that will be distributed to family members and track what’s going where. This list will also provide you with a snapshot of items that you still need to make a decision about.
- Get Help. No single person can do a project like this alone, so it’s very helpful to identify a team of professionals to make the process go as quickly and smoothly as possible. Some categories of help to think about are: movers, junk haulers, resellers, shippers, and (hint, hint) a move manager.Get recommendations whenever possible and use only experienced professionals. It might seem like this is a time to rely on family and friends, but in many cases, that just adds complication and more emotion to the process. Be sure to talk with your family attorney who may have valuable advice to share about paperwork to be kept.
- Choose a Strategy. Decide if you are the type of person who likes the fast approach (“just point and it disappears”), or if you need longer (as in, you can’t bear to see things go into the trash). Come up with a dispersal plan for the items nobody wants (e.g. donations, tag sales, junk haulers, etc.).
- Capture Your Memories. Before the house is dismantled, take pictures of each room and the special furniture or objects that are there. If possible, include people in the photos. For example, snap your mom in the rocking chair, or your dad and brother holding that special trophy. In most cases, it’s the memory that makes us feel emotion, not the items themselves. Consider creating a photo album or digital archive to hold your images so you can look back on them with your family and friends. You can annotate the pages with stories to share and remember.
- Expect Emotions. There are a range of emotions you and your family members will feel during this process. They include frustration, anger, sadness, regret, relief, and even happiness. It’s probable that each family member will have different memories to process and different emotions to handle. It’s important that everyone be understanding and empathetic during this time. No matter what everyone is feeling, it’s a normal part of the process.
Leaving a family home behind is never easy, but if you’re thoughtful about the process and understanding of your family members’ feelings, this move can become a fond memory, as well. Be gentle with each other.