7 Tips For Cleaning Out a Loved One’s House After Their Death

The passing of a loved one is already a very emotionally challenging time. Now, add on end-of-life logistics of cleaning up their house and other decisions that can get added to your plate, and it can all seem even more overwhelming. 

Handling an estate cleanout can be a demanding task, but you don’t have to do it alone. We’ve laid out 7 helpful tips for cleaning out your loved one’s home after their passing to help make the process a little less stressful and more manageable. 

Navigating The Cleanup Process

It’s important to know that taking on the task of cleaning out a loved one’s estate can be an emotional task. So be mindful of how you are feeling. If it feels like it’s too much to take on, ask for help from family, friends, or professionals.

Secure the Property

One of the first steps is to be sure their home is adequately secured. You don’t know everyone that may have a key or access to their property. Even if you don’t plan to clean it out right away, it’s essential to have the locks changed immediately to protect their belongings. 

Locate Important Documents

Before you start going through things to get rid of or donate, be sure to locate any needed documents for the future. It’s also a good idea to keep them all together in a safe location, so you know where to find them quickly. Examples of important documents to find and hold onto include:

  • Credit card and bank statements
  • Mortgage documents and deeds
  • Car registrations
  • Wills and insurance policies
  • Usernames and passwords for online accounts
  • Utility bills
  • Tax documents and pay stubs
  • Receipts and paperwork for valuable items (i.e., jewelry & artwork)
  • Social Security Card
  • Home and life insurance 
  • Stocks and bonds

Let Their Will Be Your Guide 

An expected death often gives us time to familiarize ourselves with our loved one’s will. However, if the passing is sudden, it’s important to read the will thoroughly before starting the cleanout. While many wills are straightforward, some are more complex than others and may require an attorney. 

Once the items stated in the will are distributed out appropriately, you can start to tackle the remaining items. 

Start Cleaning Out Remaining Items in the House

After the items in the will are taken out of the house, you may want to let the family claim other remaining items inside the property. However, for everyone’s sanity, it is best to put a time limit on claiming these items. From there, it is best to divide things up into three categories (either by piles or color coding)

  • Donate- There might be a charity important to your loved one that could use their items. Other charities to consider are; Habitat For Humanity, Catholic Charities, and Tech For Troops. For some well-loved items, you may want to consider a local animal shelter!
  • Keep – Sentimental items like pictures, letters, and heirlooms.
  • Sell -Artwork, jewelry, antique furniture, and other valuable assets that the family might not necessarily want. 

Since so many sentimental items, including valuable ones, are often hidden in a safe spot, it’s critical to look in every drawer, cabinet, and pocket. If you start to feel overwhelmed, allow yourself to step away. 

Hire An Appraiser And/Or Estate Liquidator 

Most of us can’t determine if something is valuable or not and how much it might be worth. Hiring an appraiser takes the guesswork out and makes it much easier to determine if something should be sold or donated.

An appraiser can also make an itemized inventory of belongings in the home for equal distribution amongst the inheritors. 

An estate liquidator is someone who “professionally appraises, prices, and sells off an estate’s entire contents for the most money possible.” This is a good option if you live out of town, are too overwhelmed to go through everything, or don’t have the time. 

Develop a Plan to Get the Property to Be Sold

If your loved one’s home needs to be sold, it is critical to prepare it to be ready to go on the market. This may require a lot of work beyond decluttering. 

Hiring a reputable real estate agent is one of the best things you can do. They will be able to give you advice on what needs to be changed or repaired before you put the home on the market. If you want to get the best possible price, you will want to make some changes, such as:

  • Removing wallpaper
  • Painting walls and ceilings
  • Updating flooring/refinishing hardwood floors
  • Eliminating all signs of pet ownership, like stains and other damage
  • Installing new fixtures
  • Updating lighting
  • Deep cleaning 

Ask For Help

As we said before, cleaning out a deceased loved one’s home can be both physically and emotionally draining. On top of grieving, you are taking on a huge task, so don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends. It’s a good idea to assign tasks to break up the responsibilities. For example, one person to handle important documents, another to hire the appraiser, someone else to find a realtor, etc.  

Bereavement, clutter, and hoarding cleanup services are professionals who can assist in sorting and organizing the deceased’s belongings. Using them, along with others who specialize in estate cleanouts, can save you time, energy, and anxiety during an already difficult period.

It’s important to remember that cleaning out the house of a loved one after they pass also involves learning how to work through your own grieving process. Grief is not one size fits all. Give yourself grace, take breaks as often as you need, look for outside resources, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

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