Transitions With Jean Blog

Agree Ahead of Time

Sep 4, 2022

Here is a follow-up to the last column and some feedback from readers:

Dear Jean, I’ve always enjoyed your column but today when you were telling minimalist kids to take their parents’ stuff as a favor to the parents, I had to disagree with your advice. I only want my kids to take things if they are going to value them. Otherwise, I’ll find someone who does or sell things and get the money. I don’t want them to take something knowing they’re going to turn around and give it away immediately. I want more direct honesty than this. Signed, Straightforward Mom.

Dear Jean, in your recent column about children taking their parents’ items, just as important and perhaps more so, is that each and every item brings back a special memory and discarding an item is like discarding a memory that is precious.

In my sons’ rooms are what I call “debris from the little guys”. They are now 42 and 33 and not little anyone. So, these items are all I have left of some really wonderful days gone by. Signed, Sentimental Dad.

Dear Jean, I took a lot of my folks’ things because I felt I owed it to them to take care of their belongings. I didn’t like the idea of someone disrespecting items they had worked hard for, or cherished, or had been in the family for generations. Hopefully our kids will see the value in holding on to some of these treasures when it comes time! Thanks for another great read!

From Jean: Yes, indeed, this is a sensitive issue. Our parents’ items are infused with meaning and history. The point I was trying to get at is how kids can help their parents. I believe that if kids want to help, it is appreciated and needed. Based on the homes that I see every week, for the most part, your parents cannot clear out the house themselves. The job is absolutely overwhelming.

As I said, a great way to help is to agree in advance that once you take something it is up to you what you do with it. You can use it, gift it, donate it, or pass it on. The key is to discuss it and agree about it ahead of time.

You should also decide if children are allowed to take something and sell it . Again, it is better to agree on the answer before it is an issue. If the children are told to take anything they want, it isn’t fair to be angry with your brother if he takes the sterling silverware set and sells it for the spot price of silver.

If you want to get the most money from the sale of items to help Mom and Dad financially, say so.

It is all about clarity. There are no right answers. Talk. Set the ground-rules. Your parents need help. Work on a plan to make this work for everyone. Having an agreement ahead avoids hard feelings.

Jean Long Manteufel writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging. Send your questions to or call 920-734-3260.