Cleaning out the House after the Death of a Loved One

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Dealing with the death of a family member is certainly one of the most difficult experiences there is. Besides all the grief you are grappling with, there are often myriad issues that need to be taken care of in the wake of your loved one’s passing; and while your first instinct may be to just get in bed and pull the covers over your head, you have to power through. Sorting through possessions, and clearing out the house, is usually on the docket for many families and can be challenging on numerous levels. Here are some tips to make this difficult job a bit easier.

Bring Along Emotional Support

Sifting through your loved’ ones belongings can be a very emotional experience, and many people are caught off guard by the level of distress it causes. Bring someone along who can provide emotional support, like a friend or a family member who may not have as strong an emotional attachment to the deceased. Walking into that house for the first time and getting the process started can be challenging and having someone there with you can make it a whole lot easier.

Start with the Trash First

Houses have lots of stuff, and if your loved was elderly, chances are she accumulated quite a bit over the years. You may feel overwhelmed and have no idea where to begin. Starting with the items that you know for sure are going to be trashed is a good strategy. It requires less thinking and decision-making, and it may not be as emotional. If you anticipate throwing away large items or a great deal of stuff, look into renting roll off containers or open top containers for easy disposal.

Set up a Staging Area

Setting up a staging area is a great way to organize your efforts.  The living room or dining room is a great pick since they tend to be spacious and are centrally located. Clear out the space and place anything here that you are planning on giving to a family member, donating to charity, selling at an estate sale or having appraised. Designate an area for each of the different items to keep everything organized. Get tags to designate the recipients of items to be given away; get boxes to house items that will be sold or donated and label the contents. This is a much better strategy than making piles of items in each room. This approach also helps create momentum, allowing you to finish this unpleasant task more quickly.

Working with Charities and Estate Buyers

Contact charities before you start gathering items to donate to see if they actually have a need for them. If you do end up giving anything away, make a list. This may be information you need for the calculation of estate taxes. If there is anything of significant value, think twice before donating it—you may want to sell these items instead to offset any costs you may be facing, such as legal fees.  Working with estate buyers is one way to deal with items that may have some value. These companies will give you an estimate of what these items may be worth, pay you that amount and arrange for pick-up of them. Make a list of everything you are having appraised and make sure the quote you receive is itemized to ensure that everything was taken into account when calculating the value.

About the Author:Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about a variety of topics related to the home, from handling the estates of deceased loved ones to how to get better organized.