Cleaning out a Loved Ones Home After Their Death

Cleaning out a loved one’s home after their death can be a physically and emotionally draining process. What’s more, deciding what to share, keep, donate, or trash can be a tormenting task. If you’re looking for the best approach this undertaking, utilize the following steps to help maintain your sanity and get the job done right.

Refer to the Will

A will is a legally binding document executed by the diseased. Oftentimes, a will delineates between specific and residual gifts. Specific gifts refer to items listed individually in the will. Meanwhile, residual gifts refer to what is left of the estate after all debts after taxes, debts, and specific gifts have been released. If you are the executor of the will, you are personally responsible for paying off debts, distributing gifts, and dissolving the residual property according to law.

Sometimes people die without a will. In such cases, you must refer to local intestacy laws. These laws vary from state to state, but mostly entail passing property down to specific heirs.

If you’re loved one had an estate lawyer or accountant, get it in touch with them as soon as possible. There are several required steps in dissolving an estate. These professionals have information that can speed up and simplify the process.

Secure the Premise

There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with inheriting an estate. You’ll want to freeze the deceased credit lines to avoid incurring any new charges. If the home is not paid off, you will need to pay the mortgage and home insurance payments. You’ll also want to forward the mail and change the locks to prevent anyone from entering the property without your consent.

Some estates are subjected to a tiresome legal process called probate. During this process, the deceased’s estate is legally transferred to specified beneficiaries. While you may be eager to start the dissolution process, misplaced or missing inventory during probate can be a major legal headache.

Establish a Plan

When it comes time to do the by physical labor, many people become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and emotional weight of sorting through a loved one’s belonging. What’s more, the distribution of property can become a source of frustration and anger between family members.

Start by establishing a realistic timeline for cleaning out the house. Decide who, if anyone, will help you sort through the deceased belonging, and estimate how long it will take you to clean out each room. Take your time to assess the weight, location, and magnitude of the things inside the home.

Determine your level of involvement. You may wish to hire an estate sale company, appraiser, bereavement cleaning specialist, or junk hauler. What’s more, consider renting a commercial dumpster to dispose of a large volume of unwanted items. At last, if you’re planning on selling it soon after the cleanup, consider having the home inspected to brought up to date.

Set Realistic Goals

Choose one room to clean out and stick with it until the job is done. While cleaning a large home or hoarding situation can seem unattainable, setting and attaining small goals will help you see clearly to the finish line.

It’s not healthy to let material objects eclipse your grief. To avoid this phenomenon, start by sifting through the least sentimental areas. Basements, attics, garages, and bathrooms will be less likely to pull at your heartstrings.

Divide and Conquer

As you sort through the contents of a room, use stickers or boxes to divide items into the following four categories: trash, donate, sell, keep. You may need to mull over or even change your mind regarding a number of items. If this is the case, set the item aside and return to it with a clear mind. People often get trapped in the sentimental value of a deceased loved one’s belonging, but hoarding unusable or excessive amounts of stuff is an unhealthy way to cope with a loss.

Items of true sentiment or high monetary value should be set aside for review. There’s no easy or fair way to distribute personal property that wasn’t listed in the will. Many families opt to divide items by allowing each family member to choose an item in a set rotation. Others choose to publically announce their interest in items and then draw lots when more than one family member is interested. Property dissolution can cause conflict between family members. Some families choose to hire a mediator or other third-party professional.


Consider assessing the monetary value of some assets. Valuable art, clothing, jewelry, furniture antiques, and other collectibles demand special attention. You can sell these items at an estate sale, to online collectors, consignment shops, or other specialty retailers. Cashing in or liquidating estate assets can have its perks. Establish a clear plan of what to do with the money earned in

Handle Photographs, Letters, and other Personal Artifacts

Set aside photographs, letters, and other written artifacts. While the original documents may boast significantly more sentimental value than a reproduction, these are items that can be easily preserved and shared with an extended family. Start by digitizing significant photographs, such as baby and wedding portraits. Then, establish a goal of digitizing the bulk of the collection. Consider giving this role to a reliable family member. You can also distribute select originals to close family.

Prepare the House for the Next Stage

If you’re planning on selling the house, you will need to switch gears and begin prepping the home for a quick sale. Remove old and outdated furnishings. Consider staging the home for prospective buyers. Repair broken, aged, or worn household features. Invest in quick and inexpensive improvements, such as fresh paint, modern light fixtures, and new floors. Finally, thoroughly clean the home.

Handling the Heavy Stuff

The emotional toll of cleaning out a loved one’s home can be overwhelming. You will probably encounter sentimental and deeply personal artifacts. Try not to overwhelm yourself and seek the support of those you trust. There may be items that trigger deep emotional reactions. It’s okay to set these items aside and approach them when you are better prepared for the task. It’s also important to understand that you cannot keep everything. While a person’s material possessions can trigger powerful memories, they cannot replace your memory of that person. Allow yourself the freedom to let go of items without carrying guilt or regret.

Go Easy on Yourself

Goals don’t always match up with reality, and that’s okay. If you find that cleaning out a loved one’s home is taking longer or is more difficult than you expected, it’s alright to ask for help or turn to a third party for support.

Allow yourself to take breaks and step away from the project. If you are tired or overwhelmed, your productivity is going to suffer. Finally, find it in yourself to ultimately let go and make decisions without regret. Remind yourself that grieving is an ongoing process and that material objects hold little weight when compared to the memory of a loved one.