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May 29, 2007


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I would strongly urge them to find places for the expensive items and heirlooms while still alive. If no one is interested, then auction if off and gain the best price they can. Leaving it for heirs to determine it's value and what to do with it is hopeless. They won't have the time and knowledge and the cost of liquidation will be high.

This really hit my family hard after my grandmother passed away. My grandmother was living in the same house (with attached family store) where she'd been raised and my mother had been raised -- 100 full years of occupation by a whole family full of depression-trained packrats.

It took my mom and dad close to TWO YEARS to sort through and dispose of all the stuff that had never been cleaned out. My parents also took nearly a year to clean out my great-aunt's house down the block from grandma's house.

It was insane and heartbreaking. And yes, my parents found money stashed in the strangest places. (They found thousands of dollars in cash tucked around in various hidey-holes in my aunt's house.) Not to mention a wide variety of scattered financial documents. (For example, they found that my grandmother had boxes filled with every cancelled check from the late 1940s on.)

CAVEAT: My parents live about 100 miles away and were making one or two 3-5 day trips each month to do all this sorting and purging, and they were the only ones close enough to do this.

My mom and dad have always tended to be packrats themselves, but after this experience they started organizing and purging their own stuff. Hopefully when we get to that unhappy moment I won't find nearly the same mess.


I've personally done two of these homes thus far--my mother's accumulation of 50 years when she moved into assisted living, and my mother-in-law's 50-year stash when she also needed to be in a one-room apartment.

They are BOTH horrible packrats--then and now. Even in tiny apartments, every time I go I have to throw away junk mail, etc, to be able to sit down. They are completely overrun with it. But it's not just old age and senility--they were always like this!! My MIL always has and still does save thousands of packets of saltines from restaurants (now her facility dining room). All crushed, but she can't throw them away. She might go hungry! :) My mother? 28 pairs of manicure scissors, and counting. Money everywhere, important documents scattered in with clipped obits from 40 years ago. Green stamps, anyone?

I do have a friend who performed this function for three maiden aunts upon their respective deaths. She and her hubby ended up inheriting $660,000 for their trouble! Most folks aren't so fortunate! We're getting saltines and manicure scissors! :)

My mother and father cleaned out my grandfather's house after he passed and found money in some of the strangest places. My grandfather told my father before he died "Check all the pockets," meaning to check all of the coats in the closet. They had a yard sale afterward and up for sale was a blanket. Someone was looking at it, unfolded it, and out fell 5 $100 bills. Boy, what a bargain that could have been, huh? Luckily, after that, they organized their documents all in one place and are not "rat holers" with their money.

My mother and I also went thru this process and in return we started a new business to assist families in both elder transition to new housing and cleaning out houses upon a death.

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What is the time limit I have to clean a deceased parents apartment? Landlord changed locks 5 days after death before I could obtain all personal effects.

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