Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

The Final Housecleaning

Barbara Bensoussan

Your parent has been laid to rest, but the worldly possessions haven’t gone anywhere. What should you do with the piles of stuff? How can you avoid sibling disputes over who gets what? Firsthand advice from children who have spent days (and months) sorting through their parents’ stuff, often crying their way through the cleaning.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

atticAfter sitting shivah for her mom, Devora Segal flew from Tel Aviv to Seattle to clean out her mother’s old house. “It was a very painful experience,” she says. “It was like confronting her death all over again.” Intellectually she knew her mother was gone, but coming face to face with all her belongings brought back a deep feeling of connection. “It was like feeling her presence in the house. It was surreal.”

Miriam Liebermann agrees that the process can be emotionally wrenching. “I was very touched to see what my mother held onto,” Miriam says. “We found personal letters we had written that my mother had obviously cherished. She kept the invitations from all our simchahs in a special file in the front of her desk, from our weddings and the weddings and bar mitzvahs of her grandchildren. We found letters we had written her from camp as kids — those made us laugh and cry at the same time.”

Cleaning out a parent’s home can be physically draining, too. When Seena Elbaum of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, started to clean out her parents’ home, she didn’t expect it to take four full months. Seena’s parents had lived in the house for 58 years and apparently never threw out a thing. “My mother was in her 80s, but she still had her maternity clothing!” Seena says. “There were straw handbags in the attic she’d kept since her honeymoon. They’d become so fragile, they disintegrated when you lifted them up. She kept all our baby clothing, which was really a shame, because nobody can use it now. But years ago, there would have been enough to clothe 50 babies!”


 To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha. To sign up for a weekly subscription click here.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Drink to Eternity
Rabbi Moshe Grylak Redemption doesn’t simply mean being let out of jail
Klal Yisrael Is Always Free
Yonoson Rosenblum "In that merit will Klal Yisrael continue to exist”
Home Free
Eytan Kobre My baseline for comparison is admittedly weak
Believe in Your Own Seder
Rabbi Judah Mischel Hashem is satisfied when we do our best
Picture Perfect
Yisroel Besser Take a picture — and this time, send it to yourself
Flying Solo
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman As Pesach loomed closer, his resentment was growing
Hanging on by a Hair
Jacob L. Freedman MD “Do you still think that I’m not completely crazy?”
A Song for Every Season
Riki Goldstein Influencers map out their personal musical soundtracks
Subliminal Speech
Faigy Peritzman The deeper the recognition, the deeper the effect
The Big Change
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Spelling things out clears clouds of resentment
The Count-Up
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz Tap the middos of Sefirah to recreate yourself
The Baker: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP with Zivia Reischer "She can't get married if she can't build a relationship...
Know This: Infertility
As Told to Bracha Stein There was no place for me. I didn’t belong
Dear Shadchan
The Girl Here's the thing: I need time