Everyone has the same concern: What if no-one wants my things?

Every client we work with shares a similar concern – What if nobody wants my things?

The family heirlooms elders have kept safe, polished, and close to their hearts are often not desired by children, grandchildren, or friends, much to the dismay of the elder. A recent article published by The Family Curator ( shared a list of the cherished possessions most often asked about:

  1. Photos and Photo Albums
  2. Yearbooks, Wedding Books Scrapbooks
  3. Journals, Diaries, and Letters
  4. Military or Career Memorabilia
  5. Unique and Vintage Treasures

Absent – dining rooms sets, fine china, furniture. The timing of the gift is also suggested – as presents or gifts during the giver’s lifetime.

Matching a gift and heirloom is key.  We recommend investing the time in matching interests with items, selecting the most appropriate platform for the item, and choosing what is a treasure and what is an object.

  • Scan or digitize family pictures, 16-mm films, or videotapes. It is difficult to share pictures. Often, old films or pictures decay. Digitizing your media offers longevity, opportunity to share, and experiences you can share and comment on in real time.
  • Children and grandchildren find old yearbooks as special occasion coffee books, display items, or special items to bring out at family events.
  • Elders and Baby Boomers complain millennial have lost the ability to write a note. Handwritten notes, cards, speeches, academic, business or hobby/interest items creates a living legacy and places thoughts into words for future generations.
  • Medals, service ribbons, uniforms and other pieces that speak to our ancestor’s military service are often welcome heirlooms. Burial flags tell a story and can be displayed.
  • A pin, bracelet, or collectable becomes a treasure because of the story that it tells. Sharing the story of the item – in writing, on video, or face-to-face, makes something small a true treasure.

The dining chest or flat wear purchased and treasured for a lifetime holds special memories for the owner. It brings back a moment in time that is cherished or an investment that became a milestone in a lifetime. We regularly remind our clients (and their families), that what is typically the most meaningful is a story to be shared for generations.

Safety Security Savings: Investing in Aging In Place

Banana seat bicycle, Swanson TV dinner, Silly Putty to copy the Sunday comics, Pet Rock and/or Mood Ring, View Master

Q: Do you, like me, remember all of the above fondly as parts of our youth? 

Q: Do you or a parent(s) still have all of the above, and they are in their original packaging, you need to consider liquidation.

Q: Do you or a parent(s) have all of the above in a box stashed somewhere in the basement, attic, or closet, then we need to talk.

If you answered yes to any of the above, you are definitely a baby boomer. This means you may be serving as a caregiver for aging parents, are in the midst of retirement, or planning the next chapter of your life.

Some things, like my Apollo commemorative glasses, hold amazing memories; the pet rock still makes little to no sense to me. Boxes of old pictures and cassette tapes have sentimental value – nothing to my adult children. The angel of death is not looming at our doorpost yet and the thought of downsizing isn’t top of mind. We
have reached a moment in time where decluttering makes sense, planning for the next (and yes, last) chapter of life is important, and maintaining family wealth for our end of life and something to leave children.

We speak with individuals between 58 and 66 all the time in a similar situation. The initial call may be to help transition, liquidate, or move a parent or elder in their life. When the project has been completed, the next words spoken are, “I really need to do this at my house.”

The primary reasons for investing time and dollars now is:

  1. Maintain the safety of your home.
  2. Maintain family wealth – the value of your home.
  3. Avoid leaving a mess for your children to clean up.

Unfortunately, the task is more difficult to complete on your own then one would think. A typical project includes:

  • Documentation: Retaining the last seven years and key documents; shredding the remainder.
  • Clothing: Clearing out what doesn’t fit, will never fit, or that isn’t worn any more; box and transport for donation.
  • Children’s Bedrooms and Artifacts: Return what the family wants to keep; Retain items with great memories; Repurpose the remainder and given someone else the opportunity to create new memories.
  • Kitchen: Discard, Declutter, Keep items you use and are in good condition.
  • Closets, Basement, Attic, Garage: Liquidate, discard; declutter to create a safe environment.

Investing time and dollars before an emergency occurs creates significant gain – emotional, physical, and financial.

Our T3 Transition team will lift the weight of aging off your shoulders by developing a project plan and working that plan efficiently and effectively. Our team has been trained by legal and accounting professionals to understand what should be retained, shredded, and protected. Our transition team is adept at working with you to honor and maintain memories while creating a safe, secure environment for the next chapter in your life.

What To Do With All My Stuff? What To Do With All My Parent’s Stuff?

All the furniture, crystal, and china sets our dear old folks have acquired may have suited their needs just fine, but the baby boomers and Gen-Xers who stand to inherit it may find themselves overwhelmed. There’s often just so much stuff, and in many cases its value has diminished.

Not only can our parents’ stuff be hard to let go of when they pass on or move in to an assisted living facility, it can be impossible to sell.

This was the beginning of a article I recently read describing experiences a writer had gone through following the death of his father at 94-years. Unfortunately, the story isn’t unique. At some point, when working with a client, family, or caregiver, the issue of what to do with all the household items attached to our elders.

The definition of value is central to this discussion. The generation that experienced the Great Depression grew up with ration coupons. The idea of wasting anything is abhorrent. Prize possessions – crystal, china, silver, and front room furniture are no longer carry far less meaning (and value) to Baby Boomers, Millennials, or Gen-Xers.

Antiques, artwork, or tchotchkes do, not move a generation uninterested in working a lifetime to purchase a home, or living in that home for a lifespan. The recognition of real value – financial and emotional, of household items often results in despair for the elder. It is the catalyst of guilt, or avoidance, for adult children.

There is no one solution. Our recommendations include:

  • Identify one or two household items that are the most meaningful to family and friends and share those pieces.
  • Look for documentation (ownership, purchase, licenses, etc.) supporting family stories about a piece of artwork, jewelry, vehicles, and other pieces.
  • Learn and understand what not for profits will accept. It is important to understand that if a couch, for example, is worn or in disrepair, most not for profit organizations will accept it. For someone starting over, the notion something is better than nothing isn’t true.
  • What is selling on the open market? A silver tea set, for example that was expensive at purchase may not have any resale value if there is not a market to purchase it!

The bottom line is having purposeful conversations in advance, creating a plan, and gathering data is the best way to avoid family discord, depression, avoidance, and being overwhelmed.

Creating Order Out of Chaos Following the Death of an Elder

The days and months following a death are filled with high emotion, chaos, and a laundry list of ‘to do’s.’ There is little time for family, friends, or caregivers to grieve.  The weight of these to-s on the survivor’s shoulders is significant.  At this moment in time, the most immediate need is creating order out of chaos.

It begins with listening – understand what’s important and necessary. It begins by listening and understanding what is necessary to be accomplished. This includes, but not limited to:

  • Declutter, sort, and liquidate a residence.
  • Search for specific legal documents, treasures, and memories.
  • Household inventory with financial or personal value – value family may not be aware of or value family is mistaken about.
  • Referral and coordination of property liquidation, sale, distribution.

Handling assets, inventory, and meeting  the needs of a surviving spouse, caregivers, 0r family members during the days and weeks following a death requires empowering decision makers and engaging family and caregivers.

Recognizing limitations and assessing the real needs of a situation are also essential.  If there are health issuers of a serving spouse, those needs must be met.  Sorting and liquidating physical assets easily can become a full time job for a family  member or caregiver.  If someone does assume the role, what happens to their work in the interim?  Assessing time required and the best way to efficiently invest that time cannot be done within a climate of emotion, grief, and chaos.

The team supporting the surviving spouse or family typically includes an attorney, CPA, financial consultant, and others.  The inclusion of an elder project manager who assumes the responsibility of project manager and coordinator of physical assets will enable family to concentrate on what is important at this moment in time; and, ensure family wealth and assets are preserved through an efficient liquidation process.

The single greatest error made by family, caregivers, or untrained professionals is quickly discarding all contents of the residence.  Elders who have been housebound or have had any physical or behavioral illness hide money, documents, and other important items within the residence. Knowing how and where to uncover hidden treasures is a primary task – not to be taken lightly.

Each family manages death in their own unique way.  Common among all cultures, faiths, and communities is the need to grieve.  Asking for help with the tasks at hand when a death occurs is a strength.  It is recognition that life continues to move forward concurrent with the need to grieve.

Talk To Your Parents About Aging Now. What Are You Waiting For?

My mother was ill for several weeks and hospitalized. The pulmonologist said she would require rehab before coming home. This meant a rehab facility. AKA nusing home.

We told mom. She looked directly at me and said “I wouldn’t do this to you.” There were no words to be said at that moment. All these years, my eyes still well up and a sinking feeling grows in the put of my stomach thinking about that moment.

The days and nights she spent in rehab were some of the worse either of us spent up to that moment in time. I had lived for years with the belief she would never leave home and the disbelief life would never change. In reality, aging is like any other stage of life; it is a series of changes concluding with death in the same way life begins with birth and then a series of changes occur.

I advocate with all clients to prepare and plan. Once a plan is in place, have not one, but two or three alternatives. Underlying the plans is simplicity and transparency.

This includes rightsizingpossessions, finances, passwords, clothing, and more. It also includes rightsizing plans.

January is the time it is customary to make New Year’s resolutions. This December when the family comes together, you have an opportunity to create your family resolution early. This year’s resolution is to plan and have a conversation about aging.

It applies to everyone in the family – not just grandpa or grandma. The college family members soon have to think about life after college. Single family members need to make decisions – remain single or consider a family so that everyone will stop asking! Family members who will retire in the next year are planning what to do with their time.

Elders need to plan as well. If not, others will make decisions when elders are unable to speak for themselves. Some plans and decisions are easier than others. For instance, at 90, is an inheritance as important as it was at 60? Do 70-year old children have the same needs as 30-year olds? Do elders need access to greater of healthcare providers? Is it important for adult children to know an elders wishes concerning hospice?

Other issues are emotionally difficult at this moment in time because they require the elder to make decisions requiring giving up independence, a sense of who they are, and perhaps accepting the realization of their own mortality. Is it time to downsize? Am I ready to move into a senior community? Is it not safe to live alone any longer? Is my health failing?

Thinking through these questions independently or with family members, developing a plan of action, and carrying out the plan is the best way to start the New Year. It is an act of empowerment for the elder and family.

Engaging a third party to help with this conversation can often encourage honest dialogue. Our transition team often will mediate conversations, assist with planning, or carry-out plans for rightsizing, moving, or transitioning to senior living.







3 T’s of Fall Cleaning

There is a cycle in nature. This time of year leaves fall, days shorten, and animals migrate south or hibernate. We are  not immune from this cyclical change. For elders, November begins several months of cold and possibly being housebound. Instead of allowing this time of year to make you sleepy, make it productive.

Use this time to declutter and organize. Think of it as ‘fall cleaning’.  Follow our 3 T’s of fall friendly decluttering and organizing:

  1. Trade – Trade out summer for fall and winter
  2. Time – It’s decision time to use it or loose it
  3. Tripping – Avoid tripping and other household hazards

imagesTrade out summer for fall in closets and cabinets. Store summer clothing; replace it with fall and winter items.

  • Bring out winter gear and store raincoats.
  • Look through the linen closet and towel drawers – trade out the yellow and orange flowers with seasonal, warmer, and holiday items.
  • Kitchen cabinets don’t require grill and outdoor eating items. You will need the holiday items, baking, and other cookware. Always check expiration dates.

Decision time – after taking out the summer things, make a decision to keep and pack it away for next year, repurpose and donate it, or discard it.  


  • If something doesn’t fit, is in poor condition, hasn’t been worn in a year, or you just don’t like it — its time to repurpose and donate.
  • Plan your work. Prioritize the areas that need the most work, gauge if you need help lifting or carrying, and ensure you have the correct work supplies before getting started.
  • Piles! Make a pile for repurpose and donate, discard, and keep. This requires a decision, a pile, and a trip.

Avoid Tripping and Other Hazards in your home.  Household falls account for the #1 reason elders fall, are hospitalized, and require transitions to rehab or assisted living.

  • images-2Home safety is important. Clutter, cords, and piles of stacked mail, furniture – all of this leads to potential falls. Work the rooms that elder(s) spend the most time in and look for anything that could be a fall hazard.
  • Swap out any sharp-edged furniture for softer, safer items.
  • Remove throw rugs, area rugs, or floor mats.
  • Tape down or remove any exposed electrical cords; or move them higher off the floor.
  • Repurpose, donate, or discard furniture you don’t use, need, or like.
  • Declutter the space! Seriously, do you really need that?


What is the Value of? Liquidation Truths

The silver pattern you registered for when you got married has been polished each month for decades. Today, your children and grandchildren aren’t interested in and there is no room in the new apartment for it. Liquidate it! But, is there value?

Liquidation – Estate Sale, Consignment, Auction, Repurpose

The value your household inventory is based on what someone would purchase it for today and not what you paid for it or what you consider its value to be! This is difficult to understand for many. The truth is times have changed. When you were younger, what was exciting and chic to you was not what your parent’s thought was trendy. Millennials live differently then Baby Boomers or their parents. Technology makes a writing desk obsolete. The flat screen or laptop monitor makes an entertainment center merely furniture that takes up space. Millennials are more mobile then previous generations. They don’t want to accumulate as much stuff. Turn on HGTV sometime. Did you ever watch an episode of “Tiny Houses?”

China and Vintage Dishware

The china, dishwater and stemware you hand wash to keep it in good shape is difficult to liquidate. Our children entertain differently than their parents and grandparents. Delicate china is not part of eating at home. Family dinner are for smaller families — there is no need for enormous service for 10.

The prime directive for dishware: “If you can’t put it in the microwave or dishwasher, then don’t use it.”

Shop at IKEA, Restoration Hardware, or Target. You will not find floral designs on a lot of the china. Today, that is saved for estate sale. Slowly, there appears to be a growing market for vintage china and stemware in larger markets.

Solid Wood Furniture/Well Crafted Furniture

If your household furniture is midcentury modern, there are buyers. 50’s furniture is making a comeback in vintage shops. Well crafted, wood furniture has been replaced with IKEA or DIY plywood. Millennials purchase furniture they can use today. It doesn’t need to last for decades or even make it through one or two moves; trends will change and so do tastes. Home makeovers are the thing.

Value Suggestions

When selling household inventory through an estate sale, auction, or consignment, don’t expect large sums of money. Research other local sales in the market to understand what market value really means. Recognize who the buyers are — collectors? dealers? neighbors?
Everything has a value and a buyer. The smallest object was purchased once; it can be purchased again.
Before liquidating, look for original packing, boxes, or sales slips. Anything you can to return a piece to its original form will give it a vintage appeal and demonstrate its value.
Shop around. If you know how much it would cost to buy the same item new, use that to your advantage. Price below new and share the difference with the buyer. That is their savings!

We have learned from our clients disposal of household goods is painful. The idea of throwing away household inventory they have cared for and carries memories is often overwhelming. Our team includes a repurposing specialist. Her role is to find new life for household goods. For example, almost every high school has lost its budget for dram departments. A fir, china, or stemware that has minimal value on the open market has tremendous value to a school as a prop. The kitchen items that don’t match any longer and no one wants to purchase are treasures for a homeless individual that is getting a fresh start and new residence.

We avoid the term donation or charity. Many elders in the process of right-sizing or merely aging feel as if they no longer have a purpose in life. Discovering their household treasures lack value adds to one’s depression. Learning your treasures will have a new family, new stories around the table, or be honored as part of a right of passage offers hope!

The stage of life elders face is filled with endings. Every other life stage includes hope, new challenges, milestones to reach symbolizing passage to the next life stage. Aging goes from this moment in time through death. It is filled with closure and endings. When liquidating, consider each item has given you something. It could be a couch or stemware for 12. It has been part of your life. Hopefully, it has given you memories and its value enjoyed. When I took economics, there was no rule that everything appreciated in value. Consider your initial investment, how long you had it, and then what its current value could be. You might feel better.

How Do You Tell Someone It’s Time To Transition to Senior Living?


You know that it is that time.

Your elder is having difficulty caring for themselves. The house is getting too much to clean. The stairs and a walker do not go together. Or, there is a clinical condition that warrants consideration of a different living situation.

Psychologically, you understand the situation. Emotionally, the thought of telling a parent, a spouse, a friend that a new residence is warranted is terrifying! It all begins with having “that” conversation. At times, it is easier to have a mediator lead the conversation; for others, bringing the family together is needed. The most important rule to keep in mind is that your goal is for the elder to make the decision. Your role is to present information and empower.

Help Is Needed – Indicators to Recognize

  • Spoiled or out of date food in the kitchen.
  • Mail piled up or unopened.
  • Finances are not up to date.
  • Confusion.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Difficulty walking, mobility, balance.
  • Vehicle dented or scraped.
  • Clutter within the home,
  • Change in personal grooming.
  • Weight loss or weight gain.
  • Change in social habits.
  • Not taking prescribed medications.
  • Missing appointments.
  • An unexplained bruise, burns, cuts.

First Steps – Assess and Gather Facts

  • Physical and psychological evaluation by medical professionals.
  • Decluttering and organizing the residence.
  • Legal and Financial State
  • Home monitoring systems.

Pre-Planning for a Transition

  • Living Will, Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy.
  • Elder Empowerment to make life decisions before they are unable to.
  • Family meeting and agreement.
  • Home valuation, repair, cleanup.
  • What is/are the clinical need(s) of the elder(s).

Conversation Tips – Engage in Purposeful Conversation

  • Empower the elder – the ability to make independent decisions before family, friends, or care givers are forced to make decision of the elder’s behalf.
  • Understand the elder’s wants and needs – one goal is always safety. This requires understanding any current or potential physical and/or psychological changes. Engaging in a purposeful conversation about end of life is not death planning. It is a process designed to understand the elder’s desires when they are unable to communicate them.
  • Develop a transition GPS – know where legal, financial, and healthcare documents are kept. Are elder finances positioned to meet their needs; if not, what is the gap between assets and anticipated expenses?
  • One message – Ensure all family members understand the situation and the plan. It is not the time for one family member to be played off another.
  • The plan – Based on the facts or needs, what options are available? Discuss a limited set of options and be knowledgeable about each.
  • Timing – A decision can’t be made in a split-second. Have a time frame in mind providing sufficient time for decision-making.