Friday, March 26, 2021

Sorting Through the Belongings of a Parent Who Has Passed On: Making-It-Home

For most of us, losing a parent is fraught with emotions– sadness, despair, fear, and more. Yet at the same time as you’re grieving the loss, you might be faced with the responsibility of deciding what to do with all the items that were cherished over a lifetime. It’s hard to imagine disrupting the perfect pictures in your mind – sitting on Dad’s lap squeezed into his favorite chair, gathering round that perfectly polished dining table for Sunday dinner, or leafing through favorite books and tattered photo albums during the holidays. 

Sorting through your parents’ belongings can be a daunting task, but perhaps made a bit easier if you narrow down the options and organize the work ahead. 

A first step is to think about what your parent would want you to do. Giving your relatives an opportunity to select belongings they admire or that bring back a certain memory is a good way to honor your parent. Take some photos of items in the house, send them out selectively, and set a deadline for receiving their requests, so you know their thoughts and can determine how to proceed.

When the keepsakes have been requested and a method for retrieving them, take an inventory of what remains. You’ll likely have an assortment of clothes and jewelry, electronics, small appliances, instruments and books, housewares and linens, food and supplies, artwork - and furniture. The next step is to decide if you want to put some items in storage, hold an estate or garage sale, offer the items through online platforms, or donate them.

Food and supplies might go to a food pantry. Housewares, clothing, and linens might go to a local house of worship or thrift shop. You might advertise artwork, instruments, and jewelry online or sell them to a dealer. In spite of your good intentions, it’s not uncommon to be left with perfectly good furniture that no one wants or that is just too difficult to remove or transport. 

But don’t despair – there are resources, though fewer in number, to ensure that your mother’s magnificent dining set or your dad’s beloved desk finds a good home. 

Making-It-Home, a nonprofit program of Bergen Volunteers, collects gently-used furniture from residents in Bergen County, NJ and brings it to formerly homeless adults and children, veterans, victims of domestic abuse, seniors, disabled, and low-income people who are moving from emergency shelters to empty apartments. The work we do gives critical assistance to vulnerable populations, so they can have a comfortable home environment that supports healthy living and a new beginning. Rather than put these pieces by the curb or send them to a landfill, you can offer them to people who will truly benefit. 

This is something my mother would have wanted,” said one of our donors. “She was passionate about her beautiful furniture, and I feel good about honoring her memory this way.

Each year, Making-It-Home brings donated furniture to dozens of people in need, saving them precious funds that they can put towards necessities such as food, rent, and medical care. Working with a corps of volunteers, we pick up hundreds of pieces from dozens of donors, and help preserve our environment by keeping more than 42,000 pounds out of our landfills.

Do you have furniture to donate? 

For more information, visit Cynthia Massarsky at or 201-289-8444.  

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