At Home with Marni Jameson: Clearing out parent's home stressful

It’s like having open heart surgery without anesthesia.
Published: March 1, 2014

Then he nailed the heart of the problem: “While we wanted to hold on, we knew we had to get rid of 95 percent of the stuff,” he said. “None of us has a huge house. We all have our own objects that have sentimental value.”

They didn’t need to explain to me. I wanted to cling like a barnacle to every remnant of the lives that were slipping from me, but I also did not want to add to my load.

Whenever the siblings lost focus or their spirits lagged, Brenton reminded his sisters of the goal: To empty the house so they could sell it. The house was costing them $1,800 a month to carry. It would serve them all to clear it and sell it.

“I looked for things that I remembered the story from, or remembered my parents really valuing,” Brenton said, “but also that I had room for and would use.” One item is a monogrammed keybox his father’s carried in his pocket so the keys wouldn’t poke holes in his pockets. It’s small, personal and useful.

When two antique clocks became a little contentious, because Brenton wanted both and so did his sisters, this realization helped. “I really didn’t want both clocks,” Brenton said. “What I really wanted was to keep them in the family. It wasn’t important that they were in my house.”

Although I chose to sell most of my parents’ belongings through an estate sale, that’s not for everyone. “I knew from the start we wouldn’t be able to do that,” Brenton said. After they sorted the personal items, they brought in professionals. MaxSold, a company their Realtor recommended, has 50 years of auction experience, which the company combines with the wonders of social media to liquidate households swiftly.

“Like many people, we thought there was more money in stuff than there really was,” Brenton said. “We weren’t out to get the highest price, but MaxSold helped us see that the pricing was appropriate for the goal.”

In two weeks, MaxSold, which gets 30 percent of the sale, grouped, photographed, cataloged and auctioned off everything. “It was a dramatic clean sweep,” Brenton said. For people in our situation, who were paying the costs of holding onto the house, this was absolutely worth the money.”

When Isenberg catches herself thinking of items that got auctioned off that she wishes she had, she banishes the regret. “You can get caught in that spiral thought.” But instead, she summons the voice of her mother. “She would tell me, ‘You have to let that go honey. It’s gone. You have what’s important: your memories, your children, your life. You have to live your life.’”

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through