So what are you going to do with Aunt Emily’s hulking sideboard, the one you happily inherited 40 years ago when she died? It would be a kindness to your descendents if you gave this some consideration now. A time of loss is bad enough, but having to make hasty decisions about clearing out a home and disposing of a lifetime of cherished belongings can make it much worse. My mother-in-law in her late 80s put a piece of masking tape on the underside of most of her belongings with the name of one of her kin to whom she wanted it to go. When she died in her 90s, at least there was no squabbling, and each descendant got to make their own decision about whether to toss or keep.
We are so fortunate to have Mary Jane Finnegan’s quasi-Walmart right here in the valley and so lots of stuff goes to Twice Blessed and gets reused. But she cannot accommodate everything and everyone.
The Brattleboro Area Hospice has a storefront on Eliot Street and takes some things. Twice Upon a Time, also in Brat, is a place where you can sell stuff on consignment. It is not just big furniture pieces. You will have to either keep or find a place for china, crystal, flatware, kitchen equipment, linens and even artwork and jewelry. My generation venerated that stuff. How many kids are there today who want to polish silver or handle fragile crystal? Not many. If you don’t have, or long ago got rid of all those kinds of things, consider yourself lucky.
You should have up to date valuations of jewelry, art work and Oriental rugs if you possess them. Those items might have real value. Books can go to library book sales, if they will take them. Specialty items like art books and art supplies might be accepted at Marlboro College for their students’ use. But all this takes time to sort out, lots of time. There is an organization called the National Association of Senior Move Managers and on their website is a pamphlet called the “Rightsizing and Relocation Guide,” which could be helpful.
There are estate liquidators who may come, give you an assessment and a check for what they see as the value of your stuff, and then cart it all away. Unfortunately, much of the old stuff with only nostalgia value will end up in the landfill. I still cherish my Italian grandmother’s old, beat-up spaghetti colander. Whenever I use it I think of her. I just hate to see so much of the old stuff being tossed out.
Probably you have one or two things that one of your family has already put dibs on. I recently treated myself at Christmas to one of those huge ceramic outdoor jars from a potter in Brattleboro. The minute she heard about it my daughter said, “That goes to me!”
I find it eerie that the 1940s and ‘50s stuff I grew up with (Formica kitchen table, Naugahyde-covered metal chairs, etc.) are now the “in” thing and they have real value. Young folks are snapping them up and calling them “mid-century modern.” Just another signal that my time has really, really passed. Where ever did I put my lava lamp?