I was flattered when Dave Nesbit invited me to write a blog entry for Keystone Elder Law. The hunt was on for the “right” topic (I am an over-planner by nature), but then I came across this story. I keep it on hand for inspiration and it became clear that one of the most important things to keep in mind when helping a relative or friend sell their last home is PATIENCE.
I have been fortunate to grow up with all my grandparents. I was always very close to my maternal grandmother, Eleanor Snyder (Nana). Several years ago, after my grandfather passed away and my Nana was left alone in a large home they had owned for 30+ years, I assisted my mother in moving Nana into a two-room apartment at an independent living facility here in Harrisburg.
Moving an 85-year -old woman to a new home, and clearing out her house full of special collections and memories, is a difficult task to take on. Nana would ponder over items that seemed silly and insignificant at times. It was hard to be patient, and allow her the time to say good-by to the things that she had built her life around. Our approach was to let Nana determine what was MOST important to her and move her and her treasures to her new home before tackling the house filled to the rim with “stuff”.
After she moved out, our family tackled the great task of dividing and conquering. Everyone took mementos that had special meaning and memories. The little mice she had displayed all over, the tea cups she loved, the cookie jar that always sat filled on the counter with Club crackers, the grandfather clock that still chimes in my living room as an ever-present reminder of my grandparents. Two daughters and six grandchildren divided and shared the lifetime of memories, and thankfully, we all shared nicely.
The next step was getting rid of EVERYTHING else. A dumpster was ordered, a call to the Salvation Army and a church group that took furniture donations. This was the grunt work. Two long weekends, many hands and lots of tears later, the home was empty and ready to sell.
The lessons I took from this experience were to be patient and respectful of, not only my Nana’s possessions, but her emotions, her thoughts, her memories. It’s easy to feel frustration, impatience, short-tempered. I can look back now and appreciate the stories and lessons she would relate as she slowly picked through and prioritized her belongings.
As a Realtor, I have worked with many families, selling the last home of a beloved family member or friend. I know the challenges and have helped provide referrals of people and organizations to help with the “stuff”, cleaning people to clean after the home is empty, and sometimes just lending an ear as the family and friends vent their frustrations. My goal is to help the family with the planning and implementing of preparing the home for sale, so they can have time and patience for their loved one.
I was lucky to have my Nana live for several more years in an independent living facility right down the street from my office. I was able to spend many hours with her, especially in her last few months when she was very ill. She passed away in November of 2011, and will forever be in my heart and chiming in my living room. I am grateful to have had that experience and be able to take the lessons learned to share with my clients and their families.
Jennifer Feinberg – Realtor
Prudential Homesale Services Group
4309 Linglestown Rd. Harrisburg, PA 17112