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How to Get Rid of Our Parent's Stuff and Not Add to Our Clutter

04/07/20 | Dana LaRieal Morales

We have all encountered the awkward situation when a family member offers you something that you really don't want or need. To prevent hurt feelings, you begrudgingly accept the stuff into your home or worse yet get a storage facility to house said belongings, when what you really want to do is get rid of it.  I have done it myself and later was upset for accepting something I knew I didn't want. 

Yes, I know what some of you are saying...you'd rather sacrifice your space than hurt your family member's feelings.  I definitely understand that thought process, but I also think honesty is best for everyone.

Begin the "get rid of it" Conversation

I truly believe that there is a way to begin the conversation with your loved one(s) so you don't intentionally hurt their feelings. I also encourage you to start the conversation as early as possible, this gives them time to process what you are saying.

My parents and I have regularly discussed death in our family, but we are a military family so this is par for the course.  You are prepared to know things may change in the blink of an eye, although you pray it doesn't.  Well, once my father retired we continued these discussions and also began discussing how to handle their belongings upon their death.  

I used these discussions as an opportunity to ask what they want us to do with their stuff. I also made sure to mention specific pieces so we could have a focused discussion.  One such item that came up was the china cabinet that my parents had, which was older than me.  

It was beautiful, but I didn't feel it suited my decor and I also didn't have space for it in my home. After determining that no one wanted it, my mom decided to try and sell it so she could get something that better suited their current needs. [stay tuned for the final results of my parent's new dining room]

Use the Conversation Flip Technique

Using the conversation flip is a great tactic to use when your loved ones are trying to give or save something for you that you don't want.  Ask the question, "Why are you getting rid of it?", then use some of the same words they use to explain why you can't use it either.  

For example, your mom says, "I'm moving into a one-bedroom nursing facility so I can't take it with me, I want you to take it." Your response could be, "You know mom I definitely understand that, and as beautiful as I feel it is I just don't feel like we have the room in our home either.  Why don't you see if there is a nursing facility or other organization that could use and appreciate it as much as we do?" Then talk about the memories you have of the item.


How to Avoid Hurt Feelings

The key is to start the conversation before it is necessary. Mention it in passing so when the time comes it isn't a shock to your loved one. Over time, you will find a diplomatic way to not accept other people's stuff into your space (those things you don't want nor need) and no one will be left with a broken heart. 

I think many times we are assuming that is how the other person would feel when honestly they just want it out of their house. Now, there are some situations where you would be completely correct and the individual's feelings would be hurt...and I get it. So, if you have gotten suckered...I mean agree to take something you know you don't want or need, I suggest you set a time limit as to how long it will remain in your home or space out of guilt.

After Loved Ones Are Gone

Now, for those who had the unfortunate experience of inheriting a loved one's possessions after they have passed away, I can only imagine how difficult this may be for you.  I would suggest trying to select a few key pieces that mean the most to you and letting go of the rest, once you have mourned. To bring a house full of furniture to a home that is already packed to the hilt, or to get a storage facility to store it forever (because that is usually what happens) is not giving the items any more honor than if you sold them or donated them to a charity that could really use them.  

Stop and really look at the items and determine why you want to keep them. If it is for memory sake only, I encourage you to work towards giving them to a place or a person who could really use them...THIS will be honoring your loved ones in the best way possible. Identify an organization or cause that was important to your loved one and donate items to them.

All in all, I believe the key is starting the conversation before you need it. This will help set everyone's mindset (Stage 1 of my Organizational Roadmap), so when the time comes you are ready and willing to let go of those items that no longer serve a purpose in your life or the life of your loved one.