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Organizing my grandmother's house

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  • Organizing my grandmother's house

    I am in the process of buying my grandmother's house as she transitions into an assisted living facility. She is taking a very limited number of her things with her when she moves. She and my grandfather inherited 100% of 5 estates and kept EVERYTHING. In addition, both grew up in the Depression and are packrats. There are 6 bedrooms, some so full you can barely walk through them. Though we spent a weekend going through the garage last summer, the house is still full of six decades of stuff.

    We plan to carefully inventory items, provide a list to the rest of the family, and they can take anything they like. After July 4, we reserve the right to hold an estate sale with any unwanted items. (I don't want to hold on to clutter for years while I wait for relatives to pick it up.)

    I've been doing GTD for at least a year now, and I love it, but I think this will be a challenge for even the most organized of people. I'd love your input.

    I'd like to put together a binder to help me organize.

    It would include a section for each room with a checklist:

    - Remove unwanted furniture and items, throw away obvious garbage
    - Inventory the unwanted items and move them to the attic
    - Do minor repairs and maintenance within the room
    - Clean the room, top to bottom
    - Note any future improvements we'd like to make (lighting, flooring, etc)

    As we sweep through each room, I can email the inventory to all my relatives.
    I'd like to start with the most-used rooms and move on to the least-used (extra bedrooms etc).

    What do you think? Am I leaving anything out? Any advice from someone who has done this before?

  • #2
    I have a similar effort with my parents somewhere on the horizon. It looks like you have organized things very reasonably. Please share any lessons learned, as this is a daunting project for me. One problem we have had in trying to clean up the tremendous clutter is the lack of a staging area to do triage on 50+ years of stuff.

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    • #3
      Grandmother's House

      You may want to get some software for doing your inventory (sounds like there is a lot!!), or at least take some pictures (before/after plus pictures of the stuff that folks may want).

      Also, if there is anything that more than one relative might want, you may want to figure out (and get buy in on) a process for deciding who gets what.

      I am sure that your project list will grow from this and that your checklist will develop as you go on. You may want to start with a smaller, easier room just to get the kinks out of your system.

      Good luck!!

      Randy

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      • #4
        I second the advice about getting buy-in on a way to divide up items that more than one person might want. You might also think about getting items professionally appraised before just letting relatives haul them away. There *will* be family arguments down the road if it turns out that Cousin Madge jumped all over that ratty old china, then sold it on ebay for big money.

        Be sure to talk to your grandmother about any items that she wants certain people to have. If the proceeds of the estate sale are to be used for her care, make sure she has a current will. If they're to be divided among the relatives, make sure you have buy-in on that division.

        Katherine

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        • #5
          [QUOTE=cojo;62761]
          - Remove unwanted furniture and items, throw away obvious garbage
          - Inventory the unwanted items and move them to the attic
          - Do minor repairs and maintenance within the room
          - Clean the room, top to bottom
          - Note any future improvements we'd like to make (lighting, flooring, etc)
          QUOTE]

          Moving all the unwanted items to the attic sounds like a lot of extra work. If I understand you correctly, these are the items you are offering to other family members. If your time schedule allows, why not keep those items in their respective rooms, hold the inventory until you have documented them all, and then send everyone the complete list, complete with deadline for picking up? Let the others do the heavy lifting. After they have come and gone, you can move the leftovers into the attic, and then proceed with the repairs, maintenance, and cleaning. Much less physical work, and it sounds as though you will need all your energy for this huge task.

          Comment


          • #6
            You might want to check out Julie Morgenstern's Organizing from the Inside Out. Even though the book is geared more towards organizing a space that you will continue to live in than clearing out someone else's stuff, there're a lot of really helpful tips in there. I'm thinking especially of her "No-Brainer toss lists" for each area of the home, which would probably come in handy as you move through your grandmother's home. Plus it just provides some general ideas about how to attack a full house, purge clutter, etc.

            I second the idea of photos/inventory software. You could even set up a photo web page with Picasa or the like and your relatives could just be directed to the website to look at the things they might want.

            And don't forget to take before/after photos to motivate yourself! It's helpful to be able to look back and realize what a big mess you started with when you're still staring at a small mess two days later.

            Comment


            • #7
              [QUOTE=Day Owl;62766]
              Originally posted by cojo View Post
              - Remove unwanted furniture and items, throw away obvious garbage
              - Inventory the unwanted items and move them to the attic
              - Do minor repairs and maintenance within the room
              - Clean the room, top to bottom
              - Note any future improvements we'd like to make (lighting, flooring, etc)
              QUOTE]

              Moving all the unwanted items to the attic sounds like a lot of extra work. If I understand you correctly, these are the items you are offering to other family members. If your time schedule allows, why not keep those items in their respective rooms, hold the inventory until you have documented them all, and then send everyone the complete list, complete with deadline for picking up? Let the others do the heavy lifting. After they have come and gone, you can move the leftovers into the attic, and then proceed with the repairs, maintenance, and cleaning. Much less physical work, and it sounds as though you will need all your energy for this huge task.
              Yes, but that means we have to live with all that furniture - AND the furniture we already own and are keeping - until July. (My relatives are procrastinators and I can nearly guarantee they'll wait until the last minute to haul things away.) I'd rather have to lug things up a floor or two in order to have an uncluttered living space.

              Fortunately another relative is going to mediate any conflicts. She already agreed to it. I completely agree that this situation is rife for family conflict. (Our buying the house wasn't devoid of family conflict, believe me!!) I don't need to keep anything that's in the house, so I'd rather keep my hands out of it. If people want it, they can have it!

              All we're doing is storing and inventorying. Grandma has already given away the things she wants specific people to have.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by cojo View Post
                Yes, but that means we have to live with all that furniture - AND the furniture we already own and are keeping - until July. (My relatives are procrastinators and I can nearly guarantee they'll wait until the last minute to haul things away.) I'd rather have to lug things up a floor or two in order to have an uncluttered living space.
                Have you considered renting an off-site storage unit? The disadvantage is that it costs money. The advantage is that they usually have freight elevators, big wide doors, and are generally easier to get into than the average attic. Plus it's off-site and therefore less disruptive to your home when people come wandering through.

                Katherine

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by cojo View Post
                  IWhat do you think? Am I leaving anything out? Any advice from someone who has done this before?
                  I know a binder is tempting because you can add pages but I'd suggest a bound book, use a moleskin hack to make sections for each room and be sure to keep all appraisals and data on every item each individual takes and the value. It will be needed eventually. Take pictures of everything too. The idea of a shared web site with pictures is a good one but you also need a legal hard copy for use when settling the estate or to prove the disposition of assets before applying for federal assistance.

                  It's esp. important to be sure that either grandmother has the authority to do all this and approves or that you have power of atty to do it and get family buy-in to your authority.

                  That's where the bound book is important. You can get pages signed by the person taking the items. I'd have a page with a picture of the item and the value and who took it listed.

                  If your grandmother is applying for any federal aid then you have to document the value of stuff and get her the cash from it and prove you have spent it on her behalf to meet minimum income requirements for assistance.

                  I'd really ask an estate atty first before doing anything because it can be a minefield of things that you didn't realize would cause a problem for her future.

                  I second the idea of a storage unit rather than attic. Much easier to deal with and no way for anyone to take any of your stuff "by accident"

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