More from “The Art of Downsizing”

7 Things to Consider When Cleaning Out a Parents’ Estate

Another great article from Michelle Munson on getting a parent’s home ready for an estate sale after a parent’s death.  I have been through this myself and know the process is difficult.  Michelle has given some helpful advice in this article should you have to go through this personally.

You may not have time to clean your own homes, much less the house of your parents. And though grieving a parent is one of the most heart-wrenching situations you can face, the responsibilities just pile up if left undone. While our hearts and prayers go out to you, here’s some valuable advice.

The process of dividing up things to keep, sell and give to charity is difficult because there’s no exact science to it. When you find yourself reluctantly cleaning for an estate sale, consider bringing in a third party who’s not as invested in the emotional ties to material things and can sort more objectively. Also, review this list of helpful tips to make it as painless as possible.

The Big Picture

Cleaning for an estate sale takes a measure of foresight. Devising a preliminary plan of attack is equally as important as doing the dirty work. These three tips focus on some baseline things to keep in mind when starting the process:

  1. Know thyself. Getting your parents’ home in order after a death requires a certain level of self-awareness. If you know you’re more of a big picture thinker, stick to the planning. Leave the cleaning for an estate sale to a sibling, another relative or even a professional.
  2. Divide and conquer. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of cleaning out an entire house or apartment. But when you schedule certain sections of the house to tackle every day, you keep yourself sane and busy with a set pattern.
  3. Stick to a deadline. People tend to work better and more efficiently with a deadline. After mapping out exactly how you plan to prep the house for the sale, set a date to hold yourself and your family accountable. Advertise the date to further solidify the event. You can also leave the whole estate sale process to a professional team like Art of Downsizing.

The Nitty-Gritty

Now it’s time to carry out your plan. Roll up your sleeves, put on your favorite music and get to work! Our experience has taught us to consider many things when cleaning for an estate sale. Let us share the most important ones:

  1. Be thorough. When going through your parents’ things, locate all the important documents and store them in a safe place. You wouldn’t want your dad’s financial records accidentally going home with a stranger who bought his desk.
  2. Lists, lists, lists! Have your family members write down what they want before you sell, and use it as a checklist while you’re cleaning for an estate sale. If your sister wants the china and your brother wants the ship in a bottle, putting pen to paper is the only way you’ll be able to keep it all straight.
  3. Label EVERYTHING. You may get ridiculed by some family members if you’re a bit crazy with the magic marker, but you’ll be the one laughing in the end. Separating and labeling things by the smallest commonality is only going to make things easier for you when it comes time to sell.
  1. Keep the end in sight. There are going to be days when you just want to cry and give up, but you can persevere with the right mindset. Give yourself plenty of time, even weeks to accomplish this task. Use the experience to bring you closer to your parents’ memories. Let the experience heal your grief. Know that this too shall pass. Use available help when you find yourself stuck. We’re here to see you through this because we’ve been in your shoes.



Michelle Munson

Thanks to Michelle Munson at “Art of Downsizing” for this article.  You can reach Michelle at:

1465 Sand Hill Road

Suite 2005

Candler, NC 28715


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