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Need tips for settling late grandfather's affairs

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  • Need tips for settling late grandfather's affairs

    I have a few weeks to start settling the affairs/estate of my late grandfather before returning to my own home over 1,000 miles away. I'm not the executor--my father is--but he is not computer literate, lives 2 hours away, and has to care for my ailing mother. So I'm trying to get things rolling.

    House is over 50 years old, has not been well cared for recently, and there's stuff EVERYWHERE--trash and treasure mixed together. There isn't much intrinsically valuable property, but lots of legal papers and a genealogical treasure trove of letters, photos, etc.--but all mixed in with absolute junk that no one would possibly want.

    I can use any ideas, tips, tricks so that I can do as much good as possible while I'm here and make things easier for my dad, while helping to preserve family harmony among the heirs (it ain't as harmonious as it could be, and I don't want that to get any worse).

    Thanks in advance,

    CMB from Omaha

  • #2
    Clean Sweep

    Have you ever seen the TV show "Cleen Sweep"? The premise is that a team of people come and organize two rooms of your house in two days. They start by emptying out the rooms and taking a half an hour to separate everything very roughly into three piles- "Keep", "Sell", and "Toss". Then the homeowners and a professional organizer go through the "Keep" pile in detail and purge even more of the stuff, as well as deciding what needs to be done with it and organizing it into its proper place.

    I did the same thing this weekend with my office. I just moved a few weeks ago, and all the papers just got piled on top of my desk. I started with four piles- "Needs Action", "File", "Memoribilia" (I'm an avid scrapbooker), and "Toss". I sorted through my entire desk (a 3' x 5' desk piled 18" deep) in less than half an hour. It took another hour to file the "File" and "Memoribilia" piles. Over the next few days I went through the "Needs Action" pile a little at a time.

    Best of Luck, the hardest part is going to be getting started!


    • #3

      For complete CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome), I recommend Some might find it hokey, but it really works if you are completely overwhelmed with the amount of "stuff" you have to process- i.e., the whole house is an in-box!
      Her premise is that if you start with one task- shining the kitchen sink, and do that regularly and with pride, all the other tasks don't seem so daunting. Then you pick a "sink" (i.e. a focal point) for each room in the house (i.e. some area that tends to pile up), and keep that clean, even if everything else around it is in shambles.

      For your problem of a lot of garbage, things to give away, things to put away, she suggests use of a timer - 15 minutes while you race around the house and find 27 things to ____ (i.e. throw away- i.e. a tissue, a broken pen, etc). She calls this the "27-fling boogie"- hokey like I said, but if you put on some music, set the timer- it's possible to get in the mood and dare I say have fun with it.

      She also suggests taking a break every hour for 15 min. and resting. Especially for marathon decluttering like you are going to be doing- it's essential. For example I use this when I study- on the one hand you only get 45 min of productive work out of each hour, but on the other hand you can get many more productive hours out of yourself than if you went straight through.

      What I like most about flylady (her real name is Marly Cilley) is that she herself has been there, and developed her systems, routines, etc through necessity of needing to learn the skills. Now she helps others who are in the same situation. She never judges people who have a problem like this (whether of their own or someone else's making), instead encourages "you are not behind. Jump in where you are"

      Best wishes with your cleanout job- it can be done!


      • #4
        I recently went through this with my mother's house and estate. My sister was the executor and my brother and I were in charge of cleaning out the house.

        We tossed and donated everything that did not have a sentimental or financial value (be very picky about this because the stuff you keep because it will no doubt come to clutter up your home). It took roughly 6 weekends and 3 gigantic dumpters.

        Salvation Army will pick up donations but they are annoyingly picky about what they take so I don't recommend them. Goodwill doesn't pick up but are very willing to take everyting that is in usable condition. Also, some local charities will pick up. You can contact your local National Association of Professional Organizers chapter ( to get more info on that.

        We were able to find a realtor who specialized in "Estate" properties and he found a buyer quickly, a (keyword) "Legitimate" builder who renovated properties for resale.

        Your father, the executor, HAS to be involved in all matters legal & financial. I would recommend boxing up ALL of your grandfathers paperwork, whether they seem important or not, and sending them to your father to sort through.

        Good Luck.


        • #5
          GTD and Estate Matters

          My father in law recently passed away. He had papers scattered all over his home; some important, others not. I got a tupperware bankers box from the local office supply store, an spiral notebook, manila file folders and a labeler. I created a file system per GTD for all the papers that I found plus I created a notebook with projects and next actions for the estate. Since my wife is also a GTD fan, we can keep track of where we are in the overall project of closing the estate and we can find what each other filed. The system has worked beautifully.

          As for cleaning out the house; my motto was, when it doubt, throw it out. I started by going through each room and deciding what was to be tossed - not donated or used by someone else. Once that was done, then I went through and gathered all the stuff for donation. Lastly came the items to sell in an estate sale or give to other family members. By getting the junk tossed first, it eliminated a great deal of clutter and really allowed me to focus on what items to donate or sell.


          • #6
            After my mother died, we were faced with not only her house, but my grandmother's house which we had kept relatively untouched as a getaway place.

            Here's what we did.
            We went through literally everything, and the decision was do I want this. All paperwork was boxed for sorting/shredding later. If I wanted it or couldn't decide what to do with it, I made a "guilt free" zone in a bedroom where I put it. Everything else was boxed -- garage included.

            I visited an estate auction place, and it was for antiques and fancy things. We didn't have that. Looking in the newspaper I found an auction house that handles estates of regular folks. They came and picked up all of our boxes at once and took them back to their warehouse. They held the auction about a month later and kept a percentage. I can't recommend this method enough. If you have a garage sale there's always going to be a lot of stuff left over, and we just didn't have the time or the emotional ability to handle that then.

            This enabled us to have the house empty in a relatively short period of time so we could paint and get them ready to sell.

            I am still going through the papers, and I can only do it for short periods before I hit overload. So I stop and do some more another day.


            • #7
              Don't do it by yourself. Have a partner with you as much as you can. Even if it is an older person who does not actually help. There is just something about being around all this stuff by yourself that can really make you feel overwhelmed.


              • #8
                If it is something that you can easily buy later when and if you need it, give it to a thrift store and let Kmart keep one for you untill you need it.