It is not something anyone wants to think about in advance, but at some point in our lives, most of us will have to step forward and deal with the effects of a relative after their death. No matter the circumstances, dealing with the death of a loved one can be very difficult. That means that being as prepared as you can be to deal with their effects is useful because it can help you to get the practical side of things out of the way, so their effects do not end up piled up, a reminder of your loss.
You are going to have to sort through all of their things and decide which to keep and which to get rid of, which can be emotional, time-consuming, and extremely difficult. In order to make it less intimidating and challenging for you, we have put together some top tips you can use to make the process easier and as close to painless as possible. Read on below for our top tips for cleaning out the home of a recently deceased relative.
Divide up the Work
Even a small house can be a huge job to clean out, and it is always going to take more effort than you expect. Do not try to do it all on your own; you should consider asking friends or other family members for help. That will make it easier and less lonely, and you should not have to do something like this on your own. Do not be afraid to ask for help!
When you have got a team together, divide up the work between yourselves. You could do this by rooms, themes, or anything else. Either each of you can sort out one room each, making it all go faster, or you can all work companionably together in one room. If you are all together, assign a different role to each person. One person could be responsible for paperwork, one for soft furnishings, one for books, for example!
Separate Out Financial Paperwork
It may be tempting to start throwing things out as soon as you can, but there are a few things you should set aside before you start. Chief among these is the financial paperwork that your relative may have left behind. You should sort all of this out and put it aside somewhere safe before you tackle the rest of the project.
Important pieces of financial paperwork that you should keep an eye out for include: stocks and bonds of any sort, bank account documentation, updated copies of wills, homeowner’s policy documents, and insurance paperwork. When it is time to sort through these properly, make sure you shred any documents like this completely.
Take it Slowly
It might be tempting to try to blast through the whole house in one sitting and get it done, but you will only get exhausted and risk making poor decisions. Do not try to do it all in one day: take breaks, pace yourself, and feel free to take some time away whenever you start to feel overwhelmed by the task. It took a lifetime for all of these items to be gathered up in one house, so of course, it is going to take time to sort through them and pack them all up.
Sort Belongings Simply
Sorting out personal belongings is always the most emotionally challenging task, even if it is not physically difficult. In order to make this part of the process go as smoothly as possible, you should start by sorting it into three simple categories, each of which you can refine later. We would recommend sorting all personal belongings into items to keep, items to donate, and items to throw away.
Of course, if you are working with other family members, there may be some disagreement about which of these three categories some items go into. If that happens, the solution is simple: just make a fourth pile for contested items, and you can sort that out later! The goal here is to get the basic sorting done as quickly as possible.
The most important of these piles is the “items to keep” pile. Think carefully about what goes in this one – consider how much room you have in your home for the things you want to keep and be accordingly ruthless!
Hire a Professional Estate Appraiser to do the valuation for you
It may be tempting to try to do the valuation yourself, but a professional estate appraiser’s help will always, always be worth it. An appraiser will cost you an hourly fee, the specifics of which will vary depending on where you are located and what sort of appraisal you are requesting from them, but their help will be easily worth the cost. An appraiser can give you advice on your options as well as perform a basic valuation, explaining the likely results of different dissolution options such as consignment, auction, and estate sale.
These are just a few of our top tips for cleaning out a deceased relative’s home. Use them as a starting point and as something to help you think about how to approach the task. Remember, nobody is expecting you to be emotionless and efficient. It is a difficult, daunting job, and looking after yourself as best as possible is a vital part of it. If you are tired and upset, you can’t sort through things. Take your time, take care of yourself, and do things slowly and methodically.