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Home organization & decluttering

Guide to Clean Out the Home of a Deceased Parent

 (modified Aug 3, 2022)

Bearing the weight of the responsibility associated with cleaning out a deceased parent's or loved one's home after they pass away is exhausting and draining on so many levels: between juggling the physical demands of moving belongings around and processing fresh feelings of grief, the financial impact of handling their posthumous affairs can be especially unbearable. Review the following guide to help you through one of the most emotionally challenging tasks for friends and family members.

Guide to Clean out the home of deceased parent

Immediately Secure the Property

If your departed family member lives across the country and away from the rest of your family, you should travel to their home as soon as possible. To protect their belongings, you should change the locks immediately or contact their landlord if they were renting at the time of their passing. You don't have to get started immediately with cleaning out the property, but you should at least ensure that everything left behind is protected and secure.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Facilitating an estate cleanout is grueling work, and it's completely understandable to enlist the support of other friends and family members to help you with ironing out all of the logistics. Assign roles for outreach to other loved ones, making funeral arrangements, contacting lawyers, and any other miscellaneous tasks that need to be completed. Being overwhelmed by shock and grief is common and can often make getting through all of the work that needs to get done difficult to face alone. If you're uncomfortable or not ready to sort through certain belongings, ask your spouse or a close relative to help you through the process.

Locate Important Legal and Financial Documents

If your parent or loved one left a last will and testament behind, you should locate this crucial document before moving things around and preparing to distribute any property. As you walk through each room, collect any credit card statements, bills, receipts, paperwork, deeds, titles, and forms of identification. You may be familiar with your loved one's preferred end-of-life arrangements, but if their death was sudden, you should take time to carefully read over the will to review their wishes with a probate attorney. If no will was left behind, the laws that determine how the property is allocated after the owner's death vary by state. It's best to also contact an attorney in these circumstances to help you make informed decisions while handling the distribution of the estate.

Sort Items for the Family

Woman and man unpacking a box

Trying to get everything rehomed within a strict timeline can make your head spin, which is why it's important to set a specific date for friends and family members to collect possessions. This way, you won't be stuck with trying to figure out how to empty out your deceased parent's home all on your own. Depending on your family's relationship, you may want to designate specific days for small groups of people to visit the home and collect belongings.

Host an Estate Sale

After arrangements have been made for distributing property to heirs, consider hosting an estate sale to get rid of any other unwanted items that may be too large to donate yourself or be picked up by your location sanitation service. If you have a significant amount of clutter to sell, using this comprehensive estate sales guide to make preparing for the big day—or weekend—much less hectic.

Estate sales are comparable to auctions, which is why it's extremely important to sort through every item that makes it to the sales floor to ensure that nothing of sentimental value is accidentally sold. If you're worried about certain items not selling, research collection services in your area for donating unwanted items. If your deceased parent lived in an assisted living facility, consider donating some of their possessions to other residents. On the other hand, set aside all valuables for appraisal even if you're completely unsure of what they're worth.

Discard Junk and Clutter

Some items are too damaged or soiled to be donated, and may be too large to be picked up by garbage collectors. Schedule a dumpster rental to help clear away heavy or bulky clutter and leftover debris from your loved one's former residence. Having a designated dumpster to discard items on the property can help make this difficult process a little bit easier.

While cleaning out a deceased parent's home is difficult, following these steps can help make it more manageable. Make sure to clearly communicate all plans to fellow family members—from home cleanout dates and times to scheduling the estate sale as well as how long the dumpster rental will be available. Click the image below for more home organization tips:

Home Organization Call To Action - Organize Your H

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