Cleaning out a parent’s home can be daunting
May 13, 2019

Q:  My parents passed away within a short time of each other. Now my siblings and I face the daunting task of cleaning out their house to get it ready to be sold. This is the home we grew up in, after 60 years the house is filled with furniture, belongings and “memories.” We are willing to work together to get this done but are not sure how to go about it. Do you have any advice to pass on?

A:  If it was just a matter of throwing everything in the trash, cleaning out the house would be straight forward. It would be wise for your siblings to all get together and go through the house to identify any belongings that may hold sentimental value to each of you. These items may not necessarily be of financial worth but reflect on the memories you referred to. Once you all agree on what to keep then carefully set aside items that could be sold. Local antique dealers or estate appraisers can be very helpful in putting a value on furniture, silverware and china and can make suggestions about estate sales, putting them up at an auction or taking items to a consignment shop.

Furniture, clothing and other household items that are in reasonably good shape can be donated to nonprofit organizations. Find out which groups are located where your parents lived and contact them to ask if they have specific needs. Some organizations will actually send a truck to the house to pick up what you are willing to donate. Remember to get a receipt in the event federal taxes will need to be filed.

Most likely there will still be things to discard. Someone in the family should inquire as to what and how much can be put out for trash pickup. In some communities private or town trash collection companies are very strict about what they are willing to take. It might be in your best interest to rent a large haul away dumpster that can be put in the driveway.

Approach this task and remember the four categories – keep, sell, donate and throw away.


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Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services.

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