Cleaning A Loved One’s Home After Death

Nine months after my grandfather passed away, my grandmother died unexpectedly leaving my family grieving and having to handle her “estate.” I always felt so lucky to have been my grandmother’s only grandchild. When she passed away, so many people loved her and wanted favorite items to remember her. A lamp she’d promised me from the time I was a little girl, one she’d purchased with me when I was four, was given to a favorite “niece.” 

My grandmother used to jokingly say my name was on the bottom of the lamp as she did with other items. It was her humorous way of letting all of us know one day, she would no longer be with us. 

My uncle’s wife wanted a beautiful umbrella stand that had always been at the front door of my grandmother’s home.

Cleaning a loved one’s home after death is especially difficult. You have a big task at hand. You’ll likely want to honor your loved one properly while you are also grieving. This can make it especially hard as there are some things that hold sentimental value but no real value, and may not be “wanted” by you or your family. Silverware-Cleaning a loved one's n=home after death-Silver Linings Transitions

The other challenge is dividing belongings while you are also grieving. When my aunt passed away, the tension among her four children was so bad, police had to be called in.

As a Senior Move Manager, when I speak about downsizing, I always recommend the process of “Swedish Death Cleaning.” This is a proactive way to go through your own belongings, sparing your loved ones of having to make these tough decisions while also making sure your belongings end up where you’d intend them.

So if you find yourself in this situation, here’s my advice.I get so frustrated when audience members tell me their way of dealing with their stuff is by not dealing with it and leaving it for their children.

Most important, preserving your familial relationships is more important than “stuff.” If you anticipate having a problem with dividing belongings, use a third party like Silver Linings Transitions or utilize an online site like designed to make the process peaceful.  

Here are some important tips for cleaning a loved one’s home after death:
  1. Identify important papers and financial documents.
  2. Divide the work appropriately. Remember everyone grieves differently. Our response to trauma is fight, flight or freeze. It’s really important to communicate openly about where you are in the process and understand there may be some family members more capable of getting the task done.
  3. Preserve family photos. Now you can use a program like Googlescan to photograph and digitize photos. This way everyone gets a copy.
  4. Be thorough in your clear out process. The Greatest Generation are especially known for finding unusual hiding places for valuable items and jewelry. Even old coffee cans and books are used for storage.
  5. If you aren’t certain about the value of items, plan on bringing in an appraiser. You can also use to look up the value of SOLD items.  
  6. Depending on the value remaining in the home and your time, there are several options besides donation for clearing the home. Remember to sift through belongings prior to using one of these options.

Online auctions – this takes one – two weeks to complete. Items are sold online before the purchaser comes into the home to collect. MaxSold is easy to use seller managed tool. 

Liquidation – a liquidator or buy out company will clear the rest of the home. They will sell what can be sold to offset the cost of the clear out. To find one in your area search for Estate Liquidation. 

If you are in the San Diego area, Silver Linings Transitions is available to do photo scanning and preservation, home clear outs, online estate sales and division of belongings.  

Our partnership with the Devore Realty Group offers a one stop solution for selling the home and clearing it out. This program is ideal for grieving families as it takes the stress of the home clear out off your shoulders while offering multiple home selling options including a traditional sale, an “AS IS” quick close and a renovate to sell where home improvements are done before the home is put on the market and paid for out of escrow typically generating a higher sales price. If you are represented by the Devore Realty Group, much if not all of Silver Linings Transitions services are included at no additional cost.