Julie Hall is an expert in dealing with personal property from the Depression era. Estate dissolution and helping grieving families make appropriate decisions during the estate settlement process are her specialties. She is a certified personal property appraiser, an estate sales professional, a residential content removal specialist, and a broker of fine items. As owner of The Estate Lady®, LLC, she brings 18 years of experience to families facing the overwhelming task of dissolving the family home.
After cleaning out estates for almost 20 years, my assistant and I have a saying I’d like to share: “People shouldn’t put stuff in attics. They’re young when they put it up there, and when they finally think about cleaning it out, they are too old.” Somewhat comical, it holds a ring of truth as well. I’ve seen so many attics in my lifetime that I can predict with 98% accuracy what’s up there and the position it is placed in!
It’s pretty amazing to consider that the majority of people you know have full attics. What’s even more amazing is that 90% of what is in the attic is no longer usable; it can’t even be donated anymore because it has passed its expiration date! Some people store clothing, floral arrangements, cardboard boxes they think they will use again, and lawn furniture. Some are still storing electronic equipment that for whatever reason no longer performs well or is broken altogether. So I must ask this question: If the electronics didn’t work “back when,” why were they stored in the attic for 40 years? Why weren’t they just discarded to begin with? Herein lies one difference between the generations.
The younger boomers and Generations X and Y do not want clutter, or anything that is considered garbage, laying around the house. It simply doesn’t belong there if it can’t be used or enjoyed.
Your attic is a breeding ground for critters: furry, slithery, creepy-crawly, and little unnamed things in the dark that gnaw and poop, often at the same time. Clothing gets eaten or rotten, any kind of plastic will become brittle, dolls’ faces decompose, quilts disintegrate, old trains rust, furs fall apart, cardboard flakes in your hands, and old electronics that were obsolete then are still obsolete.
Let’s not forget the smell!! You know the smell I am referring to—that mildewy, mold-like stench that refuses to dissipate and only irritates your respiratory system from the moment you step into the attic.
I believe the original intent of attics was simply to hold things like luggage and some Christmas decorations. But if the hundreds, maybe thousands of attics I have stepped into are any indication, we treat them as another home that simply holds things we are too tired to deal with. So we keep stuffing it up there, where no one goes to look. You know the old saying: “Out of sight, out of mind.” That might be so . . . until you pass away and your loved ones need to empty it in the midst of grieving.
Use the Estate Lady’s rule of thumb: If you haven’t used it, haven’t seen it, or had no need for it in six to 12 months, let go of it! It will only be a burden to someone else one day!