Sort, Pack, Move (Or "Coming in to my Inheritance a bit Early")

 Sorry about the prolonged silence here. Long, lazy (and unusually rainy) days of summer tend to zap all the industriousness right out of me, leaving me as indolent and listless as Sherlock Holmes without a case to solve (sorry, been catching up on my Arthur Conan Doyle). That, and I was out of town last week and neglected to take my laptop. The reason for my absence? No, not another vacation (though it was in a way), I was helping my parents begin the momentous process of readying themselves for a move.
My parents are now both officially retired and have decided that they are ready to begin the next chapter. If you know them at all you know that they have dreamed for years about one particular retirement plan: sell the house and most of their possessions, buy a truck and a fifth-wheel trailer, and travel the country, visiting far-flung friends and relations and doing God’s work along the way. It’s a beautiful dream, one that fits my parents to a tee, and this summer they’ve moved forward by finishing up a number of home improvement projects and listing their house for sale. There was a lot of interest right off the bat, and a few weeks ago they got a bona fide offer. My mom called me in a state of shock and a bit of consternation as the fact hit home that if all goes well in five short weeks they will be, well, homeless. I happily agreed to come help (and my wonderfully hubby less happily agreed to let me go), so C and I headed to Oklahoma for a few days. My parents had made a good start to the packing up process, but since they had simply filled boxes with their personal items and nicknacks to make the house more “showable” they still needed to go through most of it to decided what to keep. I helped with the sorting, and snagged several pieces to cart home and add to my collection of stuff keepsakes. Here are a few of my favorite new/old things, in no particular order: 
– An antique candy thermometer

This came with my great great (great?) grandfather when he immigrated from “the old country,” and was used in his bakery. This also explains my addiction to sugar and carbs – it’s in my genes. 🙂 I plan on mounting this above our dining room window.
– My mom’s jewelry box

I have such fond memories of playing with this box when I was a little girl, opening it up and trying on all Mom’s necklaces, bracelets, and rings. I can’t wait to put my own shiny baubles inside! I’m hoping this will sit on top of the new (old) bookcase I’m also getting from my parents, which we are putting in the master bedroom.
– a copper kettle

Sorry if you just got that song stuck in your head. It’s not bright anymore, but I can fix that. This sat on our wood-burning stove in Colorado for most of my growing up years. I think this will be an excellent addition to my seasonal decor…maybe part of my fall mantlescape?
– A Hummel figurine of a little girl feeding a deer

It’s such a sweet little tableau, aside from the danger of encouraging children to approach wildlife with food. This will be perfect on a (very high) shelf in Charlotte’s big girl room.
– A collection of blue and white decorative plates from Denmark

My grandparents bought one plate every Christmas for my mom, who once spent a year abroad studying in Copenhagen. Thankfully blue and white will always be a part of my decorative style. I’ll be able to display at least some of these plate in the china cabinet that we will be storing for my parents.
– An elephant-shaped milk pitcher

My mom used to serve our milk in this pitcher on occasion, and I remember feeling so grown up when I was finally trusted to pour my own milk! I look forward to giving C the same thrill. 🙂
– a little footstool

This belonged to my grandmother, and possibly her mother? I’m planning on re-covering it, maybe updating it with some paint, and giving it to C to use in her bedroom or bathroom
-antique books

Of course I couldn’t escape without at least one box of books…these were my grandfather’s and include classics like Kidnapped and The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn as well as some obscure but apparently valuable titles. These will get tucked among my current collection of old books, up out of the reach of inquisitive hands 🙂
– A box of letters

My grandmother saved every letter my mom wrote to her, back when my brother and I were growing up and long-distance phone calls were expensive. I’m so excited to be able to read the story of my mom’s life back when she was a young wife and mother, in the exact same season where I am now! I plan on saving at least a few of these letters and preserving them in a scrapbook to be passed down to my daughter.

My parents have been married for thirty-five years, and though this is not their first move it is definitely the most drastic in terms of the amount of purging needed. They have a long, lovely history, and deciding what momentos to keep and what to let go of is a tedious, tricky process that can feel completely overwhelming without some general guidelines. I think it helped to have me as a somewhat impartial third party to get them going, since the hardest part might be figuring out where to start.
Here are my tips and ideas for ways to make sorting/packing an easier process:
1. Designate three areas for the following categories: Keep, Sell, Give Away
My parents used one side of the garage for this, and it worked great. As we sorted through boxes we simply marked on the side and top of each box “sell” and stacked them in a corner. Any large items (printer, file cabinet, old sewing machine and table etc.) went in the same spot. “Keep” boxes were also marked (more on that in a minute) and put toward the front of the garage so they could be taken to storage a little at a time. We also kept a large, black trash bag handy for things that needed to be tossed.
2. Have a system for marking your “Keep” boxes so you know what’s in them
This is not a new concept, but it’s one I highly recommend. Even if you’re just moving across town, it makes the process go much smoother if you at least know generally which room each box belongs in. My mom took it a step further. She marked each box with a number, and on a notepad she wrote down the box number and a detailed list of everything inside that box. Later she transferred her notes to an Exel spreadsheet. We marked the box with its number on the top and the side, along with a short description of what was in there (books, photos, dishes, etc.). Since the boxes will be in storage for a while, this system should make it easy to find a particular item without having to guess which box it’s in.
3. For the sake of the relationship, the “Keeper” might need to win
I think that everyone has a different standard for what is meaningful and/or useful. My parents, for example, have very different ideas about what they should keep and what to get rid of. My mom (like me) tends toward the “why would we keep that, we’ll never want/need it” camp, while my dad has more the “I want to keep this if it may ever at all be useful to me again” philosophy. These opposing ideas can make for some tense moments, let me tell you. 🙂 We found that if an item’s keep/sell status was in question, it was best to keep it. It’s much better to open a box a few months or years from now and say “why in the world do we still have this?” than for a person to regret getting rid of something they can’t ever get back. That just leads to resentment, bitterness, and crumbling marriages (ok I’m being over-dramatic, but you get the picture).
4. If you can, go through your parents’ possessions while they are still with you
It may sound morbid, but I know most kids don’t look inside all those boxes, trunks, drawers and closets in their parents’ house until after their mom or dad (or both) are gone. I would think that would be very hard, since you would tend to want to hold on to things that you may not really need to save in order to help soften the grief or because you feel guilty for getting rid of the things your parents kept for so long. You may not know the stories behind the various items if mom or dad isn’t there to explain “That blanket was hand-knitted by your great grandmother,” or conversely, “I picked that picture up at a flea market and could care less about keeping it.” Even if your parents aren’t moving any time soon, take some time to look through some closets and the attic with them and take note of the items that should stay in the family. 🙂
5. If you are going to keep something, have a place in mind where you are going to put it
This rule applied to me rather than my parents, since everything they kept was going in storage for now. If you noticed on the list above I made a note of how I am planning on using each new item. I’m looking forward to sharing each piece over the next few months as I refresh, revamp, and find new homes for them all!

One thought on “Sort, Pack, Move (Or "Coming in to my Inheritance a bit Early")

  1. I am emptying a 300 sq ft craft room/sewing room and also emptying a garage. Moving it to a 100 sq ft bedroom, and 50 sq ft laundry room not all some is in storage but I want to get rid of all that does not fit in our living room, family room, laundry room, computer room, and bedroom. We have been in this home 29 yrs. married 43. I am inspired by your story, I will ask my daughters and sons to pick out what they want, let them know our favorites. We have 3 sons and 5 daughters. I just started, I have stuff all over the house, feel overwhelmed!


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