Your parents’ stuff. A household of possessions that you need to do something with. Where do you start?

taped boxes stacked up on floor

After my mom passed away in December of 2018 I was faced with that herculean task.

For more on my mom, check out this post. 

This post is the first of 2 about having to clean out a parent’s home in preparation for selling it.

I've chosen you to be the executor!

Before Mom’s dementia got worse, my mom had told me that I was going to be the executor of her estate once she passed. Ok, I thought. Made sense since I had moved back home to live with her and be her caregiver. Little did I know of the gigantic task that was ahead!

Well, reality came along. Gulp!

OMG! There's so much stuff to go through

Reality is –

  • Condensing 70+ years of photos (you can see how I did this here)

  • Figuring out what to do with a set of china and multiple sets of silverware

  • Deciding what to do with Mom’s knick-knacks

  • Searching the house and gathering all the baskets (boy did my mom like her baskets!! Everywhere I looked I found another one!

  • Searching the house and gathering tin containers (another item she liked to use)

  • Gathering all of Mom’s artwork

  • Finding years of Mom and Dad’s old financial statements in an unexpected place that required time to sift through and then shred.

  • Going through the clothes and deciding what to toss or donate

  • Deciding what to do with all the furniture

  • Deciding what goes into either a garage sale, an estate sale or an auction

  • Cleaning out cupboards and closets

  • Rounding up all the cans of paint that were used in the rooms. God knows how old those were!

  • Smiling at Mom’s musical preferences of her cassettes as I sorted through all her music

  • Deciding what to do with all the houseplants

  • Dealing with memories of a house that I grew up in and will soon be leaving

  • Trying to take care of the outside plants that Mom spent so much time getting “just right”

  • Packing up boxes as I go from room to room

  • Taking the boxes of donations to places around town

  • Rounding up all the small TVs that Dad bought because they were a good deal. 

  • Finding stuff in the attic long forgotten

  • Cleaning out a garage and figuring out what to do with 60 years of accumulated tools and all the miscellaneous things my dad thought were worth saving. Why on earth would Dad want to save every electrical part he ever tinkered with!

packed boxes stacked on floor and on bed

Make your lists

I’m very much a list maker so this is what I started with. I made a list of everything in the house. Get some paper. You can use the forms in the freebie below. Or use a notebook or typing paper. Get your favorite writing tool or tools and sit in a comfy chair. Start with one room of the house. Write the name of that room at the top of the page. (Ex. Living room)

Now, start on one wall or corner of the room and list everything you see as you go around the room clockwise, like the picture on the left below.

3 pages of lists of items in rooms of house
4 pages of to do lists for rooms in house

You can move from room to room and complete this. If you are comfy and watching tv then sit there and close your eyes to visualize all the other rooms and go through the same process.

Remember to do the garage, any outbuildings, and the attic. Mom had things out in the yard such as bird feeders and wind chimes so list those as well.

Beside each item make a note if the items will be sold in a sale, thrown out, donated or, offered to someone. On my list, I added a note for each item whether it was something of mine or Mom’s. 

On a second sheet of paper for each room, note what needs to be done in each room. For example, in the bathroom – clean out the area under the sinks, clean out each drawer. See my list on the right in the photos above. You get the idea!

This is also the time where you want to make notes of any repair work that might be needed in the rooms in preparation for selling.

Gather boxes, pack, sort, donate and toss

Now for the hard part! Those lists become your to-do lists. This is where you’ll probably you will spend the bulk of your time.

Actually going through your parents’ stuff is hard for several reasons. First, you have to make decisions and for some people, that’s really hard. There were many times I would walk into a room and just stand there, wondering what to do first, where do I start, what do I do with all this stuff. You’ve got to just take it one step at a time. Just start. 

Secondly, it is a time-consuming chore. If you’re working and have a family that makes it even harder.

Thirdly, it involves lifting and moving things from room to room. I had to clear out a room so I could have a staging area for all the things going into an estate sale.

Lastly, it’s also sentimentally hard. For me, it was very hard to close out a house full of Mom and Dad’s possessions that I had spent a large part of my life living with.

There's more on settling an estate, but ….

This post has only touched on the stuff of my mom’s life. There is more to handling an estate than the personal possessions, such as all the paperwork involved, but I won’t go into that.

Stay tuned for part 2 and I’ll tell you what I did with Mom’s stuff and the last of Dad’s stuff.

If you’re asked to be the executor of an estate, make sure you give it plenty of thought, accept if you have the time, then be ready to grin and bear it. Just know that you have a lot of work ahead of you! Work and paperwork!