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Emotional Baggage: 11 Tips for Clearing Out a Parent’s Home

Emotional Baggage: 11 Tips for Clearing Out a Parent’s Home

June 7, 2016

Clearing out a parent’s home is an extremely emotional and stressful experience no matter the circumstances.  Besides the nostalgia and sometimes grief that accompanies sorting through a parent’s things, there is also the possibility of disagreements with siblings or other family members about who will keep what. And on top of that, there is a LIFETIME of books, pictures, documents and memorabilia, furniture, dishes, linens, and more  to sort through, box up and sell, give, or throw away. If the home is not paid for or is going on the market, the pressure is even greater.

So, what is the best way to approach this task? Here are 11 tips and thoughts to keep in mind as you get started.

1. First, start to organize. Experts at estate clear outs say it is easiest to start by tossing easily identified trash like old socks and underwear, lidless Tupperware, soap and Q-tips, magazines and opened food items. If something is broken or stained, throw it away. There will be more trash during the clear out process, so make sure you have plenty of boxes, garbage bags, and gloves, plus permanent markers to label containers “Keep,” “Discard/Trash,” and “Donate.”

2. Understand that this job is going to take some time. For an entire house, it can take several months of weekends. Work in four hour blocks or break it down by closet, room, or particular area of the home to make the job and measuring progress easier.

3. Know that you will probably have to get rid of most of the stuff. Remember, we all have limited space and our own objects that have sentimental value.

4. Be thorough. Seriously, go through every single closet, drawer, container and pocket, because sometimes jewelry and other valuables can be tucked away and forgotten.

5. Preserve sentimental photos. These are irreplaceable.

6. Plan to donate clothing. Most clothing has little resale value unless it’s vintage, so it may be easier and more worthwhile to make charitable donations instead.

7. Sort papers later. Group keepsakes like greeting cards, programs and so on in one box, official records like birth and marriage certificates, military discharge papers, etc., in another, and financial documents such as wills, life insurance policies, deeds, bank statements, stock certificates, 401(k) records and tax returns in another.  You can talk with an attorney after the clear-out about how to transfer assets to named beneficiaries, as well as shred duplicate copies of papers with personal information.

8. Expect to argue. Have your siblings create a wish list of the items they’d like from the estate. Then, try to divide the assets equally by monetary value which you can determine by having an appraiser come in. But keep in mind that you are family and the most important things in life aren’t “things” at all.

9. Know what you want and why. Of course you will want to keep some objects, but do not feel guilty about discarding or donating things. If they are not pretty or useful to you, donate them without guilt. Take pictures of items you want to remember but that are not practical to save. The important things to keep are your memories.

10. Divide the physical labor. Don’t be shy about asking for a hand from close family members or friends.

11. Hire professional help. After sorting through the personal items, having someone without an emotional tie   to household items can move the job along more swiftly. Among those to consider are:

• Professional Organizer-Someone who can help you group, photograph, and catalog everything. To find a trustworthy Organizer, ask BumbleJunk for a referral or look for one on the NAPO website.

• Estate Appraiser -This individual can give you dollar values for furniture, jewelry and antiques. To find a trustworthy appraiser, ask an estate attorney for a referral or look for one on the American Society of Appraisers website.

• Junk Hauler – A company that will come on site to lift and remove unwanted items, including heavy or bulky things or whatever’s left after you’ve decided what to junk.

Remember, just as each relationship is unique, so is each grief journey. Don’t let others judge you for how long (or short) it takes you to accomplish this task. As always, BumbleJunk is only a phone call away to provide whatever assistance you need, from lifting and removing items to delivering a dumpster for you to fill yourself. Our professional, courteous team is sensitive to how difficult this time can be, and will work with you to make the process as simple as possible. Call us to schedule an estimate at 1-888-286-2535 or for more information check out our website at www.BumbleJunk.com.