Left with a house full of beloved items after a parent's passing. A guide to help you navigate...
Updated: May 24
You have been hit by the perfect storm! The trifecta of misery.... Cleaning out a loved one’s home after their death. It’s a series of chores that can be emotionally, physically, and financially overwhelming all while grieving the loss of a loved one. Here we share some tips to help ease the way, plus some shared thoughts of others who have been through it.
First off, go easy on yourself. It is OKAY that you don't feel the desire to go rent a storage space and keep every little item in the house in honor of your deceased parent. There are probably a few items that hold special meaning, but the reality is a house full of souvenirs from trips you didn't take and mementos of a life you didn't live. It is natural that you have less attachment to those things, and it is no disrespect to your parent! So, the first step is to let yourself off the hook!
The first step is to do a sweep of the house and gather the obvious items you treasure. Look for things like old handwritten letters, treasured recipes and old photos. Take those home for another time. They are small and easy to store.
You will find very personal items that can be the most difficult to come across, items that really magnify their absence like their glasses, clothes in the hamper or washer, a watch on the nightstand, keys by the door, a half-knit scarf or a to-do list. If you are dreading this, bring a close friend with who can deal with those items for you.
LOOK FOR and gather important documents you may need later: Checklist below
____ Marriage certificates ____ Life Insurance policies
____ Birth & death certificates ____ Auto Insurance policies
____ Adoption certificates ____ Mortgage documents
____ Citizenship certificates ____ Credit card statements (current)
____ Veteran’s papers ____ Recent tax returns (a great resource)
____ Health records ____ Stock Certificates
____ Current passports / Drivers Licenses ____ Current Legal contracts
____ Vehicle titles / Registrations
____ Will and trusts
____ Powers of Attorney (medical - financial - general)
____ Property Deeds
Make sure you have space for all the items you are thinking of keeping. Try to focus on keeping the items that feel meaningful and irreplaceable. IDEA: take pictures of Special furniture and items with special meaning, create a photo album just for those!
This one you may already be experiencing, you are overseeing a house full of belongings, talking to siblings, grandkids, cousins and nobody wants anything! Maybe one or two items and those items aren't what you expected them to choose at all! How come no one wants mom's gorgeous dining room set?! Well, the reason they don't want it is probably the same reason YOU don't want it. They already have one or it's not their style or they move around often and it's too big. We currently live in an "IKEA" world where "less" is in fashion. Society today is more mobile than it ever was, people move often and can't lug large furniture.
You are not alone! Below are actual quotes from people in your spot:
"I was confusing loving my parents with loving all the stuff they left behind"
"If it doesn't bring you joy, let it go. We should never have to feel guilty for ridding ourselves of clutter or things that take up precious space. If your family members don't like you getting rid of it, they can either take it or deal with it".
"In that regard, the only way to separate junk from good is to look at what my heart responds to. What holds happy memories for me? The rest can go out and find someone new to love it".
"I realized my retention efforts were futile: I could hold on to her memories without her stuff, just as she had always remembered me, my childhood, and all our memories without ever accessing those sealed boxes under her bed. She didn’t need papers from 25 years ago to remember me, just as I didn’t need a storage locker filled with her stuff to remember her."