Cleaning Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home

Regardless of how well you prepare, cleaning out a deceased loved one’s home, bedroom, or even closet ranks among life’s most stressful experiences. It may be many months before you are emotionally ready to tackle the project depending on the relationship of the loss. Remember that just as each relationship is unique, so is each grief journey. Don’t let others judge you for how long (or short) the time period is before you feel ready to take on this task. . Before you begin the process, you will want to gather your supplies.Experts say it hastens the process if you sort belongings into three piles or tag them with color-coded stickers of three different colors:

  1. Items to keep
  2. Items to donate or sell
  3. Items to throw away

Below are some tips to help smooth the process, and hopefully create order and harmony during a stressful, heartbreaking time:

  • Choose a place of honor to hold or display the treasured objects you keep to remember your loved one, and discard those things that aren’t either immediately useful or sentimentally important.
  • Tackle the project in steps. Don’t try to do it all at once, or after eight hours you may be exhausted and traumatized and still not done, and reluctant to try again. This closet, room, or home full of things took a lifetime to gather and can’t be packed up in one day.
  • Do not feel guilty about discarding things. The important things to keep are your memories. The rest of the "stuff2 served your loved one well, and it is not your responsibility to keep it forever and ever. Take pictures of items you want to remember but that are not practical to keep.
  • As you sort, put all papers in one box or bin to sort later. Don’t stop and evaluate every greeting card, play program or receipt. (But of course always keep paper versions of official records like birth certificates, military discharge papers, or deeds).
  • As you think about items to weed or to keep, reflect on the cost of keeping the items, and set limits. What is the cost to your own psychic wellbeing to fill your home with a relative’s belongings? What is the financial cost of keeping a storage unit to maintain a home’s worth of belongings, going unused? Sometimes people decide to store boxes and boxes of things because they cannot bear to sort through it presently — ask yourself, "If not now, when?" before investing in storing items.
  • Do not hoard. Items may not be worth as much as you think they are. The dining room table and chairs where you and Nana and Mom and Dad spent every holiday may be irreplaceable to you, but be prepared to let it go if the goal is to clear out the house.
  • Create a timeframe to finish the entire project. You don’t want to be too rushed, but you also don’t want to let things stagnate. Plan four-hour blocks of time, with a reward at the end of it (maybe a manicure, movie, or dinner out with friends).
  • Hire a rubbish removal company. The best way forward is to take the help of professionals. They can help remove all sorts of rubbish, junk or trash; quickly and affordably.

Your memories of your loved ones and relationships with family are more important than things.