Tackle a home clean-out in stages
March 26, 2018

Q:  My widowed 92-year-old mother continues to live in her own home. Her health has been deteriorating, while I hope she will still have years to live I am realistic at the same time. I will have the responsibility of cleaning out the house when she passes or requires nursing home care whichever comes first. This is going to be a huge task due to the size of the home and the accumulation of items stored in the basement. I want to start downsizing now but how can I do this without making her feel like I am getting ready to displace her from her home?

A:   Be very sensitive in how you approach the topic with your mother. She might be resistant or she could actually be relieved someone is willing to help her clean and remove continues to use on a daily basis. Your mention of the size of the home suggests you should tackle this in stages.

Survey the contents in the basement mentally putting them in three categories. Make a list of items that should be donated to a nonprofit organization for tax purposes (assuming she is in a financial category requiring her to continue filing taxes). Get her input on which organization she would choose to receive the donations. Many of the larger organizations will come to the home to pick up the items saving you the additional task of packing and delivering them.

The next consideration would be items that could potentially produce additional income for your mother. Holding a yard sale is always an option and won’t require too much time or energy on your part. If your mother has good quality clothing she no longer wears inquire about consignment shops in the area. Go to multiple shops because you might get a higher appraisal from one business over another.

The third category would be items that are of no value to anyone and should be disposed of. Be careful to find out what you are allowed to put out for the local trash pickup. In some areas, the waste management companies have strict policies on what can disposed of in the barrels. Also be sensitive in how much you put out at one time, the neighbors may not appreciate the front of the house being cluttered with trash.

If you tackle the basement this will get you in good shape when it comes time to sell the house in the future. There will be other options for consideration at that time. You might want to contact a company that is experienced in assessing the value of the furnishings and holding an estate sale.


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Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., AgeInfo Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.

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