How To Deal With Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation

Most baby boomers are unprepared to face the reality of disposing of their family belongings. Further complicating this already difficult task, there are now often two generations of accumulated belongings that need to be simultaneously downsized.

Elderly parents want to give all their stuff to their adult children, who may already be of retirement age and downsizing themselves.  Where does one start with the daunting task of dividing and dispersing residential content, family heirlooms and just plain accumulated junk.  This boomer burden includes the often difficult family interactions and feuds that accompany the process.

Here are some tips to help avoid the emotional stress and strain of dealing with family content.


  1. Be Proactive
    Start the process now while your parents are around.  Making decisions with them, on what will happen to their treasured furniture, china, jewellery and artwork will help to put them at ease.
  2. Family Comes First – A good mantra
    When it comes to your parent’s belongings, have the siblings create a written wish list of items they would like from the estate and work out any duplicate wishes. Divide assets equally by sentimental and monetary value. Our parents take comfort knowing that their children’s relationships are preserved and their treasures remain in the family.
  3. Start Decluttering & Purging Now
    Schedule family time or hire a professional to help your parents go through all their closets, drawers and containers while they are able. This can be an enjoyable time to reminisce and lighten the load for future changes.
  4. Be Thorough
    Check clothing pockets, books, junk drawers, etc., for hidden treasures, documents and cash. We are all guilty of squirreling things away and forgetting about them. Be diligent and check every nook and cranny imaginable. News Story: Recycling Worker Finds $100K Cash in Old TV –
  5. Locate Key Documents
    Consolidate your parent’s Wills & POAs, medical records, insurance policies, property deeds, bank statements, investment certificates and tax returns in one place for easy access.
  6. Appraise Valuable Items 
    Hire a professional appraiser to determine the value of everything in the estate, before anything is removed. That sets the foundation for an equitable division of property, and ensures the family won t pitch something they mistakenly think is junk. The appraiser will provide a written report with an estimated value of each item..
  7. Preserve sentimental photos and memorabilia
    These items are irreplaceable. This may include family ancestors arriving in Canada during the late 1800s, your father’s war medals, poems your mother wrote for special occasions or newspaper clippings of your parents as newly weds. Mementos, or pictures of them, are great content for your family history book.
  8. Lower your expectations 
    You will quickly learn that most of your parent’s belongings have little resale value or no one wants them. Consider how much effort it takes to sell something and compare that to financial gain. Remember that even appraised value does not guarantee the same dollar amount at time of sale.
  9. Strategic donation & selling 
    Thoroughly compare selling options such as auctions, consignment, Kijiji or other private buyers to the real return of such sales.Very often, the time, effort and fees do not provide the value you may be hoping for. Consider donation of various items to specific charities, especially those that provide charitable tax receipts.
  10. Best Advice 
    Start now! Encourage your parents and siblings to have open dialogue about what each person wants. Know your parents’ final wishes. Understand emotional trigger points. Do everything in your power to keep peace. Honour your parents with care and compassion.