• By Susan Kranberg, Simple Solutions NY

    As a professional organizer, talking about and organizing stuff – what to keep, what to sell or donate;  and what to toss – is my stock and trade.

    Recently, I’m finding more and more of my older clients worrying about what to do with their precious things and wanting to share their memories of them with me.  The memories embodied in their possessions that they just can’t seem to talk to their family about.

    So I’ve become the stand-in family member.
    I started wondering if others who work with elders are encountering a similar situation.

    So I asked a colleague who heads programming at the Sephardic Community Center in Brooklyn, if she thought the people she serves would find this topic interesting.

    Together we came up with a program “Stuff; What to Do With It”. There were about fifteen women present ranging in age from the mid-50’s to the 80’s. The flyer asked people to bring something they had difficulty parting with and encouraged them to come with a family member. One mother came with her two adult daughters.

    I expected to find people that were burdened with boxes of stuff in the back of their closets and basements they hadn’t looked at in years.  But to my surprise many had started planning ahead and already had conversations with family members.

    “I have all my things labeled with the name of the person getting it, so there will be no mistakes; no fighting after I’m gone.”

    A widow with a valuable art collection had designated where the artwork will go with the help of a curator.  She now enjoys living with it.

    Several came with boxes of photographs.  Where to start?

    One person I never will forget came with a small plastic coin case filled with old subway tokens.  It had been her husband’s.  She just couldn’t throw it out.

    “What should I do with it”, she asks.

    I told her she could give it to me.  She handed it to me and was relieved to finally be rid of it.  I felt happy I could help her.

    The funny thing is that I can’t seem to put the coin case in the trash either.  It’s now in a drawer in my apartment.  I see it occasionally and wonder why I just don’t toss it.

    The case with the subway tokens has become a memory of the person who gave it to me.  It’s precious to me.  That’s the experience family members can have with each other.  That’s why working with elders or just talking to them, whether they are family or not, is so meaningful.

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    This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 at 4:14 pm and is filed under Communication & Planning. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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