EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 4, 2012

Family dealing with clearing out mother's home

Elder Q&A Roseanne DeStefano
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Q: My widowed mother can no longer live alone and will be moving to an assisted living facility in the near future. We are going to be putting her house on the market but are overwhelmed by the process. The exterior of the house is in good shape and is located in a very nice neighborhood. The problem is hidden behind closed doors, she hasn’t thrown anything out since we were kids. How do we convince her something drastically needs to be done before the home can be sold?

A: You may or may not be met with resistance. Tread carefully but realize at the same time you have no option but to ...clean and declutter. Don’t blame her for the condition of the home, this will get you no where other than making her defensive and to feel guilty or ashamed. Perhaps approaching this from a financial point of view will help her to understand a clean and organized home will fetch a higher price.

First help her decide which furniture and accessories she will be taking to her new living environment. If available get a copy of the apartment floor plan so you both will know the exact square footage and have a good idea of how much can reasonably fit into the space. It will be important for her to feel comfortable when she moves and have some of her treasures surrounding her.

Next job is to tackle all that is left. Items that are valuable should be sold to bring in additional revenue for your mother’s expenses. There are many approaches you might take from listing items in the classified section of local newspapers. There are also companies that will handle estate sales for a fee or percentage of total profits. Consider donating items to non-profits to use as tax deductions at the end of the year. Clothing is always in high demand at numerous sites working with disadvantaged individuals. It actually might make your mother feel good to know someone less fortunate would be so appreciative of the items she can no longer use.

There will most likely be a lot of refuse that will just need to be thrown out. You may consider contacting a commercial waste removal company if the amount would exceed what you can put out for curbside pick-up. Be considerate of neighbors who may not appreciate the street being piled high with garbage bins.

Encourage your mother to speak with your siblings or other relatives she might want to include to ask if there is anything in the home they would like to have. Not everyone is especially sentimental but a few might like to have a reminder of their childhood or their mother.

If all of these tasks prove to be more than you can reasonably handle it might be in your best interest to hire a Move Specialist, a professional experienced in tackling projects such as the one you have mentioned. Contact the AgeInfo Department for a list of individuals to speak with.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries from our readers, direct comments to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843.