Sisters motivated to declutter their own lives after going through their mother's belongings

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DETROIT – The Mastri family sisters are close, and they trust and communicate with each other. All three of them say that helped them get through the time period after their mother died and they had to sort through her stuff.

Karen Taylor, Diane Kosuda and Donna Hurst each kept a few things to remind them of their mother, Eleanor Mastri. The ceramics that she made and her jewelry, silver and photographs, to name a few.

Hurst said they sat down and talked about what items were important to each of them and what they each valued, and then they invited their children to go through and pick some things they might like to have.

"We trusted each other to make decisions for each other, and that's a big thing, communication and trust," Taylor said.

The sisters say luckily they each had different ideas of what they wanted to keep, so the process worked out well. Also, they were careful about how they talked about it and cared about what the other person wanted to hold on to from their mother.

They hired an estate planner to go through the rest of her belongings.

"The estate planner comes in and says, 'We're going to sell these; we're going to give these,' and so on and so forth," Taylor said. "That was extremely helpful in the expediency of it."

An estate sale was held for many of their mother's items that the sisters and their extended family had decided not to keep. The estate planner also took items to be donated, given to other sales or thrown away.

"At the very end, after all of it was chosen to be purchased, then they (the estate planner) dispersed it to the places they felt it needed to go," Kosuda said.

However, the sisters recommend going through everything ahead of the estate planner to make sure you hold on to whatever it is you want to keep.

They spoke with Local 4 to share the lessons they learned going through the experience. 

"You can't have everything, and you have to realize that," Kosuda said.

"Oh, it's emotional, going through it you tear up, you see something you start tearing up, and then you say, 'I've got to move on. I have to get this stuff done,'" Hurst said.

The three sisters also say going through this process with their mother has motivated them to declutter their own belongings for their children.

"Trying to do it now so they don't have this huge issue at the end where you got to go through everything and papers and all that kind of stuff," Taylor said. "That's the advice I give people: Start the process early as far as yourself. Or when you're with your parents and you're at their house, pull something out and say, 'Do you really need this? Why don't you give it to your granddaughter or something right now?'"

The sisters say their mother would make comments about what her wishes were for some of her belongings, and they would have to pay attention to that.

Dr. Donna Rockwell, a clinical psychologist in Farmington Hills, recommends having your parents talk about their stuff with you.

"I think it's really important to honor the things our parents have collected over all these years and to really start early going through their things with them," Rockwell said. "As we're helping our parents pare down as they get older to let them take the time and tell the story about this item, what this value is to them and what the meaning is to them, and then they'll be better able to let go of it."

Rockwell said if parents can share the stories with you as their child, not only will you be able to get them to give it up easier, but you will have a connection with your parents and create a family legacy to pass on to your own children.

She also suggests making the process a positive experience. Instead of focusing on the loss of items, have them focus on clearing out the house to create fresh space for new things.  She said getting rid of clutter makes people feel better.

"Parents are healthier if there is less clutter. If the space is cleaner and more open, their minds will be able to stay cleaner and more open longer," Rockwell said.

Rockwell says if you're doing it after a loved one has died, it's important to have support because you're also going through the grief process. If you find yourself in deep grief, call a counselor.


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