Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Helping Elderly Parents Decide What To Keep And What To Toss

Organizing Your Mom And Dad's Keepsakes Into Plastic Storage Boxes ...It's A Start

Plastics...plastics are on my mind again. This time I am thinking about plastic storage boxes and wondering how many older adults keep their keepsakes in plastic boxes?  If your mom or dad is in their eighties or nineties, chances are they are not storing their photos, documents, memorabilia etc. in plastic boxes. I picture shoe boxes, yellowed envelopes, wooden boxes, shopping bags, cardboard cartons etc.

Saving Fifty Years Of Bakery Receipts  

Recently, I relocated my dad from Florida to the Northeast. I am still airing out his damp and smelly file folders which seem to be casualties of poor climate control  (dad never used his air conditioner....in FLORIDA!

A friend of mine confided in me that her mom had saved  50-60 years of old bakery, drugstore and deli store receipts stored in old shoe boxes that were tied with saved bakery twine. These receipts which now could be considered ephemera are from shops long gone from neighborhoods which are now filled with young professionals who never heard of Rugelach or Mandelbrodt.

Rescuing Old Wedding Albums 

When dad's boxes were shipped up North, I unpacked loose wedding pictures that were missing their album cover and I wondered where the rest of the photos were ? It was fun to see my mother and dad so young at the same age in the photos as my children are now, but these photo album pages were fragile and I'm glad I rescued them in the nick of time.

Downsizing Mom And Dad

For those of you who are just beginning to help your parents downsize or relocate,  I have some tips to offer you to help you with this BIG job. My main advice is not to wait too long to start
organizing old stuff. If your parents are in their 80s, it time to think about the next chapter in their lives.

Start NOW: Buy Clear Plastic Storage Boxes In Different Sizes 

 Courtesy of  http://www.tpartyantiques.com/
Now is the time to buy some plastic storage boxes and to sort out family keepsakes deciding what needs to stay and what needs to go..... and where. Sooner or later,  your parents  photographs, souvenirs,  keepsakes etc. will find their way into your home or  to one of your siblings , children or relatives, so why not take control of the situation  on your terms? And it is great to be able to discuss this process with your parents while they can still communicate their wishes and concerns.

Besides buying clear storage boxes, I would suggest also buying an assortment of different sized     clear plastic storage bags with good slider seals.  They even make a giant freezer  bag which is great for storing very large photos. I would also buy a permanent marker (Sharpie)  that can write on plastic so you can label your boxes and bags with  categories, i.e. "Florida photos" as well as where  these organized containers or bags are going  "Steve's basement" or "Mom's new apartment".

Be Gentle With Mom And Dad's Memories: Use A Little Psychology

Antique Leather Photo Album Civil War Era with Lot of 48 Photographs / PortraitsYou may want to encourage your elderly parents  to let you hold onto most of the sentimental and  important papers and memorabilia and to ask them  to keep just a few items they are attached to. This part of the process works a lot easier when you reassure parents that you will indeed preserve the family keepsakes.

Most families hold onto photographs, but what about collections of  seemingly silly papers such as old bakery or grocery receipts? While it may seem  to you a simple matter to toss out old bakery receipts it is still difficult for parents to let go of memories. Try saving one receipt instead of boxes of clutter. The task of downsizing goes smoother when you use some psychology in the process.

And when you decide that indeed there are boxes of papers that need to be dumped.... it is best not to carry on about this task in front of your hoarding parents. Be gentle when "organizing" mementos...they may be junk to you, but they are keepsakes to your parents.

Getting Help From Grandchildren And Family Members
In theory it sounds like a good idea to  recruit grandchildren, siblings  and others when you are dividing mom and dad's collections of papers and momentos  into keepers and tossers. The thought of team work is a good one but it is also a fairy tale. Buy some rubber gloves, roll up your sleeves and start your Mitzvah (good deed) on your own. At least you know YOU will get the job done in an organized fashion.

Read more about Caring For Aging Parents  http://cdiannezweig.blogspot.com/search/label/Caring For Aging Parents

Photo Credits





C. Dianne Zweig is the author of Hot Kitchen & Home Collectibles of the 30s, 40s, 50s and Hot Cottage Collectibles for Vintage Style Homes. She is also the Editor of I Antique Online an actively growing internet based resource community for people who buy, sell or collect antiques, collectibles and art. You can find Dianne’s fabulous retro and vintage kitchen, home and cottage collectibles at The Collinsville Antiques Company of New Hartford, CT, a 22,000 feet antique emporium with an in-house retro cafĂ©. To read more articles by C. Dianne Zweig click on this link: C. Dianne Zweig’s Blog Kitsch ‘n Stuff Email me at dianne@cdiannezweig.com Visit my website, CDianneZweig.com Dianne is a member of: The American Society of Journalists and Authors The Society of Professional Journalists


  1. I agree! I started using plastic storage boxes and couldn't be happier. It's a great idea, and they're cheap.

    Where is that beautiful historic building located that is at the top of this page?


    1. Helene, the building you refer to is in Brooklyn, New York