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The Boomer burden: Emotional housecleaning – Boomers now sifting through a lifetime of stuff

For Boomers, cleaning out a parent’s home can be full of memories, such as these old photos at Flood Plain Trading Company in Hardin. According to owner Lonny McIntyre, photos will stick with about three generations and then identification is lost. He stresses the importance of labeling photos with names, date and place. (Photo by Liz Johnson/Richmond News)

By Liz Johnson, Staff Writer

As a person over the age of 60, which makes me a certified baby boomer, I have found myself in the position of caring for older family members, watching them die and having to clean out an ancestral home.

Both my parents passed away a long time ago. Four years ago, my sister passed away, too. That meant I had to clean out her home, which she had inherited from our dad. The house was full of his and our mom’s lifetime of household items and collectibles, as well as my sister’s.

It has taken me four years to work on this project, and it is still ongoing.

How do we do it? How do we go through our childhood memories, our adult memories, the memories and heirlooms of our parents and siblings, and sort through possessions we love and value, even if those items have no value to anyone else?

It’s not an easy task. It’s emotional, it takes a lot of hard work, and it takes a certain mindset.

You absolutely should not take on the task until you are emotionally and physically ready to do so.

When do you have an auction?

When our dad died, my sister, who had been his caregiver for nine years, felt she needed to keep busy, so she went into a frenzy of sorting, cleaning and prepping his home for four months to get it ready for her to move in. The result was that she overtaxed herself and had a heart attack.

She was angry and frustrated, and that can be a sign of grief. I know because I went through the same thing when she died. Grief has a lot of forms to it, and anger is one of them.

In my own frenzy to clean out my sister’s home so we could move into it, I hired the first auctioneer I could think of, and it was the biggest mistake of my clean-up tasks. It was shortly after my sister had died, and I had quit a job I enjoyed. I was angry and grieving and wanted someone to take care of this monumental task of going through this household of stuff for me.

Choosing when and how to hire an auctioneer was my first hard-learned lesson. An article with a list of ideas for sorting through household items and different ways to parcel them out is on page 11.

What the auctioneers will tell you

Firstly, my bad experience with an auctioneer is not the norm. Most are honest and care very deeply about their customers and their buyers.

In interviews with several auctioneers and a person who attends a lot of auctions, I learned a number of tips for hiring an auctioneer, what to expect during an auction and when to choose an auction or have a garage/estate sale yourself.

The complete story is in the Friday, September 22, 2017 Richmond News.

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