Cleaning Out a Parent’s House

    A former client had a difficult experience before they contacted the Deceased Estates Cleanups. There was plenty to do for clearing out this client’s family home of 40-odd years. They had a challenging task to face, clearing so many unusable and outdated items, simply because their parents weren’t involved. Their mother had died, and their father, who was being relocated, was suffering from dementia.

    Most caregivers face empty estates with still-living relatives. It can happen when you combine households because of a recession, or help a parent relocate into assisted living. Sorting through the accumulated years of experiences can be exasperating, especially if the still-living person is under stress, suffering from mental diseases due to old age, or has a strong sense of sentimentality. This can be one of the most difficult parts of a cleanup. That’s why we at Deceased Estates Cleanups want to offer a list of helpful tips to you in order to aid in the recovery process.

    1. Start sooner than later.

    Just about everybody who’s been through this ordeal wish they’d begun sooner.

    Tip: Appeal to the person’s sense of alleviating trouble: “Dad and Mom, it will be a heck of a lot more trouble to sort through all this once it’s in storage, why not sort through what we can right now?”

    2. Take pictures.

    Great tip: Take pictures of beloved objects before disbursing them. It’s the memories associated with objects, but not necessarily the objects themselves, many discover. Your parent is apt to have more fun looking at albums (or downloaded images online) than dusting and digging.

    Tip: Perfect summer job to put an unemployed teen in the neighborhood to work.

    3. Box it and move it.

    For stuff you’re pretty sure you’re not going to want to see again – but the original owner insists is important – try some elegant boxing. Get official, sturdy moving boxes, carefully label contents, and relocate the clutter to a basement or storage unit. Nine times out of ten, it’s never asked about or seen again, but the person feels reassured that it’s safe.

    Tip: For items worth keeping, write the significance (where it came from, family meaning, etc.) on a piece of paper stuck to its bottom. Your own children may appreciate seeing some history.

    4. Develop some guide questions.

    The specific questions depend on the situation, but you can make a game of it. Samples: When was the last time you wore it? (More than two years and it’s out.) Does it work? (If it doesn’t function, forget it.) Is this a sentimental thing for you, or a memory you want to pass on to somebody else? Is there anybody who could use this more than you right now (a young family starting out, or a charity)?

    Tip: Focus on potential gains (less to clean, safer floors, money, helping someone else, creating additional space) rather than what you are losing.

    5. Distinguish saving from collecting or hoarding.

    It might all look like junk to you, but understanding the person’s motivation can guide the psychology you use on them. People reared during older generations tend to save stuff because they “might need it someday.”

    Collectors might be persuaded to cash in on their collection in this economic climate. Another route is to work with them to plan ahead to divide collected items among, say, grandchildren as Christmas gifts.

    Tip: Consult what options you have for selling. There are companies like pawn shops, or internet storefronts such as Craigslist and Ebay, where you can find a new home for unneeded objects sitting around your house. Another person might need it more than you, and you can walk away with a bit of money to aid in your housecleaning goals.

    6. Set some time aside.

    Try easing into reorder by suggesting you spend one evening a week, or an hour every evening, setting aside time to sort through items. This will allow them to know that they have a say in the process, and that their say is valued.

    Tip: Start small: a corner, a box of paper paraphernalia or photos, or a single bookcase to begin the organization process.

    One person put it, “I’ve learned stuff I would never otherwise have learned, and for my Mom it is a trip down memory lane, on the one hand, and a chance to say goodbye and move on with the next life chapter, on the other.”

    7. Enlist professional help.

    Especially if it’s a crisis or you’re out of town, consider finding an experienced move manager. These experts know not only what to do with personal belongings with heavy sentimental value but, more importantly, empathetic ways to get someone to willingly part with it or move it to safe storage.

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