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5 Tips for Handling an Estate Cleanout

At some point in our lives, most people will lose people who they are close to. Death is inevitable and as much a part of life as life is itself. When a loved one passes, they leave behind their personal possessions and someone has to deal with the inevitable task of removing and disposing of the beloved’s possessions. This can be a very difficult task on many different levels. Going through personal items of a loved one can trigger strong emotions and make the task of removing them an emotional strain. The actual work of going through old papers, photos, documents, furniture and the like is also a physically draining task.

What do you keep? What do you throw away? Some people have great difficulty disposing of personal items from a passed loved one. It makes them feel as if they are throwing away a piece of the person, something that was important to them and now has no meaning. It makes us question many things and challenges us to deal with many emotions. Every person will handle their grief differently, but here are 5 tips to help you get the job done with minimal problems and maximum respect for your loved one.

1. What to keep: When you are going through the home of someone who has died, you will want to keep any financial or legal documents you find. These include bank statements, credit card statements, bills (both paid and unpaid), mortgage documents, deeds and tax documents to name a few. What may seem like an inconsequential piece of paper during a house cleanout may turn out to be important later. I always suggest to my customers that they get a box and put every document that looks important into the box regardless of whether or not they know what it is. Once the bulk of the cleanout is done, these can be sorted and reviewed for importance. Other items you will want to take are sentimental items such as pictures, home videos, awards, trophies and diplomas for example. There is no logic to what someone will find sentimental value in. Every life has its own twists and turns and we all connect in different ways. What is monumentally important to one person could be completely insignificant to another person. You should keep this in mind if there are multiple family members involved in the process. Everyone should be given equal opportunity to preserve the things that are special between them and the departed.

2. Donate to Good Will: Another way to honor the life of someone is to donate useable items to a good cause. Things that can be donated are furniture, clothing, canned goods that haven’t expired and medical equipment to name some. If the departed had a lengthy period of being ill, there may be items such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, walkers, canes and the like in the home. These items can be donated to local charities that can make sure they go to good use and help those that struggle to afford these items. Can you think of a better way to honor your loved one than to do some charitable donating in their name/honor?

3. Auction: Depending upon the estate, there may be valuable items that can be auctioned off. Many homes contain antiques and the people who had daily contact with the owners may not even know it! Having an expert come in and determining whether you have enough items to auction them off or have perhaps a yard sale if an auction is not viable. If there is an auction, it will add value to the estate. Even if you hold a yard sale, it also reduces the amount of stuff you have left over to dispose of while adding a few dollars to the estate.

4. Recycle: Go through the items that you couldn’t donate or sell and see what can be recycled. Anything left at this point is headed for disposal. Recycling metal, cardboard, paper and plastics will reduce the amount of debris you need to get rid of in the end. At this point, you will also want to go through the house and look for items that need special attention such as paints, gas, oil, etc. If you can’t sell it or give it away, you have to throw it away!! Getting rid of hazardous items now will make the final disposal process run much smoother.

5. Dispose of remainder: Once you have gone through the house, taken all of the things you want and let other family members do the same, sold what you could and recycled whatever you could, you are left with the debris. At this point, you can rent a dumpster or you can hire someone to come do a clean-out for you. If you decide to rent a dumpster, you will have to decide what size you will need. If you have many bulky items, you will most likely need a larger dumpster to handle the volume of debris you will have to dispose of. If you were able to get rid of most of the larger items such as beds, tables, couches and chairs, perhaps you will only need a small dumpster. Talking over your situation with your hauler is your best bet for finding the right size. Explain to them what you are getting rid of and they should be able to steer you in the right direction. If you decide to take the clean-out route, you will eliminate the need to guess what size dumpster to get. Clean-outs are typically done on a per job basis and include all the necessary dumpsters needed to complete the job. This can often be a better option if you have a large amount of possessions to remove or if you physically can’t do the work yourself. It also locks you in to an exact price that should not vary. You will know exactly what you are dealing with and you won’t have to break your back trying to load a dumpster.

While it is never an easy task, handling an estate cleanout doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Following these simple tips can help bring value and honor to the life of the deceased while maximizing the value of the estate by lowering costs and increasing cash value. Taking on the task of liquidating someone else’s life doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Breaking it down into simple stages can make it manageable and easier to handle. I hope this answers any questions you may have had and have a wonderful day!