I'm heading off to Gloucester this afternoon to finish - hopefully! - cleaning out Mom's house. She's settled into the nursing home now and it's time to do something with the house. Last time I came home with a truckload of stuff - nothing that I needed but how can you leave ALL the pieces of your childhood behind?
Other than Mom's sewing machine - the one I learned to sew on - there isn't too much that I will be bringing home. Although my older brother seems to think there is and the message came to bring the truck. (He's in for a rude awakening!) Most of what I brought home last time is still in the garage in the boxes they came home in.
Which leads me to the advice - start to sort through your "stuff" now. Label pictures, put notes in with jewelry of who it belonged to and why you kept it. I found a baggie with an old Beverly High School pin from the 1920's, a pocket watch and a ring. If Mom hadn't put a note in that baggie, I wouldn't have known it was my grandfather's things. I have a Rubbermaid tub, one of the big ones, with photographs that I need to sort through and hopefully I can figure out who is who. I remember a large box of photographs that my Mom and Aunt took our of my grandmother's house and couldn't figure out who any of the people were. (I'm hoping that box went home with Aunt Margie and it's Ralph and Stevie's problem now and not coming home with me!)
I knew the stories of so many things but there were so many other items that I looked at and thought, where the heck did this come from? Grandchildren wanted certain things and it's really nice to know that Jennifer has Mom's nativity set, Sara's family is eating off the kitchen set and Arthur has the bowl Mom made cookies in. I can look at ceramic dishes now in my china closet and know that Grammy Lint made it or this was Nana's silver ladle. I just need to let my children know the stories behind them so they can pass them on.
Cleaning out Mom's lead to a cleaning out of my house with a HUGE amount of stuff - an almost embarrassing amount of stuff - being donated for a Big Brothers/Big Sisters pick up. Next time they come around, I'll be doing it again.
Sort and label now, especially things that are heirlooms. How will anyone know if you don't tell them? Sorting through your childhood home is a gut wrenching experience. Make it easier on your kids/family and start to sort, label and clear out your "memories" now. Just a bit of advice from someone in the know now.