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Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 10:14 AM   #1
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Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Due to my sister's death, I have a lot of her things stored in my basement, along with a 10X20 storage unit in the city where she lived where the "big stuff" is.

My sister always bought very high quality stuff, and most of these things are almost brand new. DW is adamant about going through everything my sister had TOGETHER, and I am fighting it for a couple reasons:

1)I am a thrower/neatnik, and she is a hoarder.

2)I kept my nose out of it when her father died, and her brother and her decided what to keep, etc.

3)My wife has an idea of an informal "shrine area" where we would celebrate her memory with some of her favorite books, trinkets, favorite chair, etc. I think that's a little overboard.............

Thankfully, DW is giving me some space on this, but I feel it coming to a head, because I need to address the situation so I can move on in my head about her being gone......... :P :P :P

I think I know the answer, but would like any advice you guys can give. Thanks in advance for your help,

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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 10:23 AM   #2
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

I'm very sorry for the loss of your sister FD. It sounds like you two were close.

It is not clear in your post~ are you the executor of her estate? Are the items that are in storage considered yours or are there other siblings etc. that will share in the distribution of these items?
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 10:34 AM   #3
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Quote:
Originally Posted by mickeyd
I'm very sorry for the loss of your sister FD. It sounds like you two were close.

It is not clear in your post~ are you the executor of her estate? Are the items that are in storage considered yours or are there other siblings etc. that will share in the distribution of these items?
I am executor. My brother doesn't want any "stuff", nor does mom and dad. She has some dear friends that have inquired about purchasing some of her bigger furniture, which I will probably do. Any monies I receive from the sale is going into her Memorial Fund as a 501C3 donation.
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 10:35 AM   #4
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

I don't have much to offer except that my first rather crass thought was that your wife may want to get her hands on that nice new stuff. But I don't know your wife, so I may be way off-base.

Sadly I've seen this in my experience, too. People I never would have thought would do it are way too eager to get "the good stuff" after someone else's passing. While I'm on the topic, if someone wants a particular heirloom to go to a particular person they need to put it in writing in their will no matter how well they think the survivors get along together and respect each other.
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 10:44 AM   #5
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Your wife may think that later on you will regret disposing/selling all of her items. Perhaps your wife could get a small item and place it a cabinet so that it will be out of sight from you.

You might also consider having you and your wife take pictures of your sister's items and place them in a photo album. You could then look at them when you want.
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 10:45 AM   #6
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

How about this compromise with your wife: For each item of your sister's that you keep, you get rid of one item from your current household stuff.

When my mom goes (Update: she's been kicked out of hospice because she's doing better), I'm taking a strict "I don't want anything, thanks." approach.

Agree shrine idea is over top -- I like the photo album thought.

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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 10:48 AM   #7
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigMoneyJim
I don't have much to offer except that my first rather crass thought was that your wife may want to get her hands on that nice new stuff. But I don't know your wife, so I may be way off-base.

Sadly I've seen this in my experience, too. People I never would have thought would do it are way too eager to get "the good stuff" after someone else's passing. While I'm on the topic, if someone wants a particular heirloom to go to a particular person they need to put it in writing in their will no matter how well they think the survivors get along together and respect each other.
Therin lies the problem...........no will ( :P), even though I bugged her for many years to do it.

DW likes the newer stuff, and we have put some of it to use already (Delonghi toaster to replace the 10-year-old Proctor Silex that wasn't doing the job), etc. However, I don't need TWO of everything............ :P :P :P

We already had a small fight about the cookware/bakeware (I do 99% of the cooking), because I wanted to decide WHAT we needed and what we didn't need, and DW took a little offense to that........... :P :P

There is not answer...............just different roads...........if I had "total control", I would keep what I need (as little as possible), and hook up the local women's shelter or rescue mission with the kind of stuff they dream about..........
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 10:49 AM   #8
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
How about this compromise with your wife: For each item of your sister's that you keep, you get rid of one item from your current household stuff.

When my mom goes (Update: she's been kicked out of hospice because she's doing better), I'm taking a strict "I don't want anything, thanks." approach.

Agree shrine idea is over top -- I like the photo album thought.
Great idea...........that's how I was able to keep a 30-year old silver baritone bugle....................
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 11:25 AM   #9
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Sigh.

I'm a thrower and my wifes a hoarder. She has a hairball about keeping everything because its got "sentimental value" or might be "useful someday". I have a hairball about not being able to find things amidst the clutter when I need them...if it hasnt been used in 3 years and you cant forsee a clear use for it in the next 2 years, give it away to someone who needs/wants it. My problem is that after downsizing from 3000 square feet to 1800 and then adding her 1500 square feet of stuff, we've got so much crap packed into our storage sheds and garage that I cant find anything when I'm looking for it.

So good luck. I havent found a solution to it yet. I tried the 'something comes in, something goes out' strategy. Unfortunately things keep coming in and theres always tense negotiation surrounding something NOT going out.

My mother in law has one of those homes thats fully populated with a few hundred little dolls, statues, and other various and sundry items. She's not exactly helping our clutter situation when she persistently drops a trunkload of similar stuff on us every christmas. I've politely asked her to stop and she just smiles and buys another load the following christmas. :grrr:

Its real easy for this to turn into a point of contention in your relationship. I'd recommend sitting down and working this out and developing a plan you both agree to stick with.

If you come up with a working answer, by all means let me know.
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 11:28 AM   #10
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

After Greg's father died he and his brother went down to his place in Florida to clean it up, take what they wanted, and sell. I sort of wanted to go to see if there was anything I wanted and also to help clean, but I didn't ask to go because it seemed like this was a Greg and his brother process to go through. I did ask Greg to bring back a couple of things that I wanted (two knick knack birds and a clock) that I am sure he and his brother would have thrown out. I like having stuff from my grandparents, parents and inlaws around. The things remind me of them. I am somewhat sentimental.

If my FIL would have had something nicer than what we had, I probably would have wanted it. But he didn't so it didn't matter.

If you do the cooking, you should call the shots on cookware. Greg does our cooking and uses pans that I find butt ugly but I keep my mouth shut. If your wife cares more about decorating, maybe she should call the shots on general decor.

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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 11:31 AM   #11
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute 'n Fuzzy Bunny
Sigh.

I'm a thrower and my wifes a hoarder. She has a hairball about keeping everything because its got "sentimental value" or might be "useful someday". I have a hairball about not being able to find things amidst the clutter when I need them...if it hasnt been used in 3 years and you cant forsee a clear use for it in the next 2 years, give it away to someone who needs/wants it. My problem is that after downsizing from 3000 square feet to 1800 and then adding her 1500 square feet of stuff, we've got so much crap packed into our storage sheds and garage that I cant find anything when I'm looking for it.

So good luck. I havent found a solution to it yet. I tried the 'something comes in, something goes out' strategy. Unfortunately things keep coming in and theres always tense negotiation surrounding something NOT going out.

My mother in law has one of those homes thats fully populated with a few hundred little dolls, statues, and other various and sundry items. She's not exactly helping our clutter situation when she persistently drops a trunkload of similar stuff on us every christmas. I've politely asked her to stop and she just smiles and buys another load the following christmas. :grrr:

Its real easy for this to turn into a point of contention in your relationship. I'd recommend sitting down and working this out and developing a plan you both agree to stick with.

If you come up with a working answer, by all means let me know.
I will.............BTW DW's solution is to buy a BIGGER HOUSE........... However, I may have an ally in this, my son's godparent who is one of my best friends. He finished his basement by himself, having never done it before, and did a great job. He has offered to help me do mine, so I would save mucho dollars.

DW is DESPERATE to have a finished basement, and I am willing to do the work. I told her we would have to get rid of all the clutter/stuff/crap out of that side of the basement, because you can't hang drywall tripping over stuff. She rolled her eyes. So when my buddy came over, she was home, and I was out doing errands. I came home, and she had a pained look on her face. I asked what was wrong........her answer? "I asked him about finishing off the basement, and he said "As soon as you get ALL THIS STUFF OUT OF HERE, we can start. Just let me know when you're ready"................ She thinks I put him up to it, but I didn't......................
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 11:39 AM   #12
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Yep, sounds familiar. We had the "lets buy a bigger house" and "lets rent a storage unit" conversations.

Its tough to get a compromise on this hairball. I think what i'm going to do is enlarge the access hole into the attic over the garage, put all of it up there, nail it shut, and if my guess is right, never open it back up until we move.

I'm sure as **** not spending a hundred thousand dollars on a new house plus a few grand a year on additional real estate taxes, or paying $300-500+ a year renting out a storage facility.

Its out of my way, she has the comfort of knowing its all still around, maybe that solves it.

And its a lot cheaper than a divorce
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 11:41 AM   #13
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute 'n Fuzzy Bunny
Yep, sounds familiar. We had the "lets buy a bigger house" and "lets rent a storage unit" conversations.

Its tough to get a compromise on this hairball. I think what i'm going to do is enlarge the access hole into the attic over the garage, put all of it up there, nail it shut, and if my guess is right, never open it back up until we move.

I'm sure as **** not spending a hundred thousand dollars on a new house plus a few grand a year on additional real estate taxes, or paying $300-500+ a year renting out a storage facility.

Its out of my way, she has the comfort of knowing its all still around, maybe that solves it.

And its a lot cheaper than a divorce
One of my other friends said when it comes time to sell my house, he's going to tell DW we need to rent a storage unit, since our house won't sell with the clutter we have in it..........
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 12:03 PM   #14
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

I like the one-for-one idea.

If you really get desperate, have a grief breakdown for your wife and tell her that "all this" is too much for you and that you didn't know it would affect you this way. Even if you've been visibly unaffected so far, well... that is because it's all been repressed. Be seen looking at the phone book for some professional help.

Tell her that surrounding yourself with your sister's stuff is more than you can bear. The fall back position is that the most you can tolerate is your wife selecting a single momento item.
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 02:22 PM   #15
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

I am sorry about your loss. Losing anyone close to you causes ripples in many aspects of your life. Be easy on yourself and keep an open mind to those that knew her well that they may not be getting through her loss and are afraid to talk about it with you. The pain fades in time but the loss stays with you forever.

My late wife was a hoarder...had a Phd in the subject...her picture was in the dictionary next to the word...etc. you get the picture.

The house we moved into when we moved out west a few years ago was much larger than anything we (I) really wanted. But, the "stuff" had to have a home and so the rest was history. Now, I am faced with dealing with it all.

Then, two years ago I got remarried and my new wife drags her household goods, some furniture and clothes into the equation. Add to that my mother sold her house early last year and gave away much of what she owned as it would not fit in the tiny room she now has in the assisted living center. My two kids are still in school and live in tiny apartments so I still have their "stuff" too. I feel like a Stor and Lock facility.

Stuff can rule your life if you let it. Our goal this year is to get a plan on what to do with the "stuff" and then work on it. We will downsize in the next 3-5 years so the stuff has got to go. The hard part is doing the "right thing" with it. That is the roadblock and the stressor to us. Most of the remaining stuff has medium to high value. The stuff that has no emotional value to me or my late wife's family has already been given away. What is left is the "good" stuff. Diamond rings, collector plates, figurines, antiques etc. It will take time to "do the right thing" with this stuff as I cannot bring myself to just throw $$$ away. Ebay here we come!

Back on topic...
When my wife died I asked her closest friends and family (all live very far away) what they wanted. A few had some specific requests but most said nothing and left me holding the bag(s). A lot of it is still here stuffed away in forgotten closets and drawers until I have the time to really get to it.

Your wife is half of your partnership and should have a say in what goes into her house. Sure space is an issue but domestic tranquility is important. If you give away something she clearly wants she will stew over it for a loooooong time. Not worth the pain in my opinion. Maybe you can make a deal like the one I made with my wife. "You can buy something new if you get rid of at least one item first." This was warmly accepted for clothing but so much for other "stuff". It is worth a try anyway.

As for your sisters stuff...go through it and make three piles.
One for stuff and/or your wife truly want.
One for stuff you are not sure of.
One for stuff you and/or your wife do not want.

Box up the stuff you are not sure of. Put it away for 6 months. After six months open it up and do the same thing again with the three piles.. repeat until you keep the same items two times in a row. Most people end up with a very small number of items after a few rounds of this. This is from personal experience and shared experiences with other widowed folks I knew.

Good luck. Stuff is only stuff unless it has substantial $$ value or emotional content. Both are worth keeping, at least for a while. Don't be in too much of a hurry. You might regret it later. I know about this very well.
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 02:51 PM   #16
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

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If you come up with a working answer, by all means let me know.
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 03:12 PM   #17
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

often the family is so overwelmed with grief that they only consider family and so the friends of the deceased get left out. we invited all of mom's friends over & encouraged them to pick out something they might like to have.

i had lunch today with my mom's best friend and she came over after to see my garden. i gave her another item, a nice framed picture of herself and her daughter on the beach which my mother had kept in her den. she immediately took the picture and pressed it to her breast.

maybe offering some of your sister's friends some of her personal things might help them through their grief and give them a continuing sense of still being part of her family.
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 03:29 PM   #18
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Not being married, I don't have to 'compromise'.... but I like the ad for a new show on TV... the guy was talking about a problem with his wife... she wanted a cat, he didn't... they compromised and got a cat

OK, MY take... if you have so much stuff you have to RENT a place to store it... YOU GOT TOO MUCH STUFF... who actually goes to there storage unit to 'rotate' their funiture or whatever It does not happen... so, you don't need that stuff... get rid of it and save the rent money..

I do have a sister that is like your wife... there are trinkets along shelves on the wall that my BIL had to build... we didn't think she could stuff any more furniture in her house... well, we were wrong... it is amazing how some women can arrange stuff to take up less physical space than there actually is... defies physics..

FinanceDude... as for your wife... good luck.. but I would suggest to her in your way that this is something you need to do alone..

OH.. just forgot a suggestion for all you that have a lot of stuff OR parents that do... and from what the lawyer said, it is legal... There was this woman who wrote in her will that the property in her house would be given to the person who she designated with a 'sign' on the property. She put a piece of tape on everything with one of her kids or grandkids name (in the back... not up front).. if she got mad at one of them, she would rip off all their names and put someone else on those pieces... this was so she did NOT have to change the will every time she got mad at one of them... if they got back in her favor, she would put their name back on some stuff... simple..
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 03:35 PM   #19
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

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Not being married, I don't have to 'compromise'.... but I like the ad for a new show on TV... the guy was talking about a problem with his wife... she wanted a cat, he didn't... they compromised and got a cat ..
That's funny......... True Story: We had a cat that died almost 4 years ago. The cat LOVED DW, and put up with me. The last 3 years of his life, he had an intenstinal problem that cause him to "miss" the litter box quite often.......... :P :P Guess who did 99% of the "cleanup"?? ME................. :P

DW misses the cat, and wants another one. She got pretty foamed up about it a year ago, and asked my opinion. My reply sounded callous when it came out of my mouth, but I was being honest:

"If we get a cat, I want to make something very clear". I WILL NOT be the one taking care of it, and that includes any "accidents", problems, or any other work other than feeding.....no vet visits, etc. If you are willing to do that, I have no problems having another cat".

Haven't heard anything since...........
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............
Old 01-18-2007, 03:42 PM   #20
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Re: Need Help with Delicate Matter............

Geez, this is a tough one. Based on having lost my FIL a few months back, I'd imagine that there's a WHOLE lot more going on than a Stuff / No stuff discussion. You probably already know that, even if you aren't aware of the extent of it.

So much depends on what your wife's relationship was with your sister, what your relationship with her was like, how you as individuals deal with loss, how sentimental you are, and of course, how you feel about decision-making in the partnership as a whole.

Throughout my FIL's final illness I was included in some things and excluded from others. I made myself available if needed, but there were things -- very understandably -- that the "family of origin" wanted to deal with privately. Complicating matters, I have a five year history with DP, while his brother's wife has been in the family for 25 years. That said, I had a much better relationship with FIL, so SIL sometimes felt excluded, and probably rightly so. There were all sorts of levels of inclusion, exclusion, grief, relief, helping, etc. etc.

There were things that I tried to help with, and things that I fought to stay OUT of -- family dynamics and roles that I wanted no part of but which other actors tried to get me involved in despite my efforts.

Some or none of this might apply in your case. All I mean to say is that it's pretty tough to navigate these rough emotional seas with grace and goodwill. The effort takes a toll. When one of the actors in a system dies it brings up tremendous emotional issues for the ones left behind -- issues they don't even see or understand, but which are still affecting them. Everybody has to reshuffle themselves to take up new roles and responsibilities in the family dynamic.

Based on my own experience, I really liked SteveRs suggestions. Does any of this really HAVE to be considered right now? Is there any way to leave things in storage until you have a little more distance? Can you agree to a couple of major items, and leave the rest until you "see how these fit in" or "see how we feel in six months." I'm the non-stuff advocate around here, while my partner is the packrat. That said, the trouble with giving everything away is that it's a one-way street. Once you've done it, you cannot change your mind if your feelings change.

I know you must miss your sister terribly, and it's important that your needs are considered. I'm just not sure that either of you knows what your needs are right now. It's so important to be united during this time, rather than to add to the emotions you're already trying to deal with. If there's any way to delay the decision, it might be the best way to go.

One final thought...

Quote:
Any monies I receive from the sale is going into her Memorial Fund as a 501C3 donation.
I think this fund came up before, when you were selling your sister's car? Am I right on that? If so, it seems as though this is something very important to you.

This may be a completely crazy idea, but what would it be like if your wife contributed to that fund in exchange for some of the furniture? Would that allow you to increase the memorial fund to the level you'd like it to be at, while allowing your wife to feel that she'd had a voice in this family decision?

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