What to do with all of Mom’s stuff. That is often a question when one or both of your parents pass away and you are left with having to clean out the estate.

wondering what to do with all the stuff thats on the garage shelves

This post is a follow-up to my post about being chosen to be the executor of my mom’s estate. You can read that part here.

Mom had left notes telling us kids what she wanted done with her stuff. So I followed those notes as best I could. There was still sooooo much stuff! This is what I ended up doing.

What to do with Photos after someone dies

I explained my process of sorting through Mom’s numerous photo albums in this post here. I threw away many, many photos for various reasons. A bunch were duplicates of ones I already had.

I ended up with 2 photo boxes jammed full of photos I wanted to keep.

letting go of deceased belongings


Not many people use their good china anymore. I did not want the set and I didn’t want to keep them just to “have them when I have family and friends over.” I didn’t have the room to store the dishes so that meant putting them into a box and finding a home for the box. I’ve had enough of hauling boxes from place to place.

There are clutter people that suggest you go ahead and use your china rather than just keeping it for company. But, that’s up to you.

Some of the china went to my nieces. I kept a few pieces just because of the associated memories.

The rest went to an acquaintance that rents out a mixed set of china for special events.


Mom and I were using 2 sets of dishes. I had sets of my own which were currently boxed up. After Mom passed, I decided it was time to use my own dishes and it was time for the other set to be passed on so someone else could enjoy them.

What dishes that didn’t sell in the estate sale were sold to a young man moving into his first apartment and the remainders were donated to a local organization that provides emergency assistance to families in need.


These are the little decorative items that make a home a home. Most of these were put into the estate sale. What didn’t sell went on to various other organizations around town. If you have a consignment shop in town that sells home decor, you could take items there.

I set up a family Facebook page for the items that Mom made, took pictures of those and asked who wanted them.

Baskets, Artwork

Mom had a lot of baskets in the house. Many of the baskets Mom had made, so I took pictures of those and posted to the family Facebook page. I did that for her artwork as well.

Collection of various baskets some with sales tags

Some baskets were store-bought. Some of those were put into the estate sale and the ones not in very good shape were thrown out.

This was the hardest category of personal belongings for me to handle/sort. I can’t bear to throw out Mom’s artwork so what my nieces and nephew didn’t want, I hung on to (at least for now). I took most of them out of their frames. I did this because I don’t like Mom’s choice of frames and it’s easier to store the artwork than within the frames. I figure I can always rotate her artwork!

Tin Containers

Apparently, tin containers were readily available, relatively inexpensive and easy to decorate with because Mom sure had a lot of them!

Many of these were thrown out. They were the decorated tins you get at Christmastime that have candy, cookies or nuts in them.

Personal Documents

I unexpectedly ran across a bunch of papers in the back of a cupboard. After going through them and keeping what I felt necessary, the papers were shredded and taken to a local recycling center or saved for the community paper shredding day.


Depending upon what shape the clothing was in, it ended up going to a nearly new shop, Christian Clearing House, Goodwill, my Church’s rummage sale, or thrown out.


Cleaning out all the clothing meant that you now had a lot of hangers! And what do you do with hangers? 

I emailed local elementary art teachers to see if they were interested in the wire hangers. Luckily one said yes, so the hangers were dropped off at the school. I also took a large bunch to my co-workers. The rest were thrown out.


Most of the furniture was put into the estate sale. There were 2 big pieces – a dining room table and a buffet hutch that didn’t sell. Those were put out onto Facebook marketplace and eventually did sell. One negative about selling that way – you end up selling the item for way less than it’s actually worth. Two bookcases were sold that way too. A bed and an old couch were sold to a co-worker’s son who was moving out on his own.

Rather than throwing out an entertainment unit that wasn’t in very good shape and a warped bookcase, we put those outside by the curb with a Free sign on them and they were gone within 2 days.


Sheets, blankets, tablecloths, towels and such were either sold, donated, or thrown out if in bad shape.

Photo of very cluttered garage with items on shelves and ground


We had an overabundance of coffee mugs so the well-used ones were thrown out. Some pots and pans were sold and some thrown out because they weren’t in very good shape.

Paint and other Hazardous Waste

The paint cans that had dried up were thrown out. I waited for a community hazardous waste disposal day and took the cans that still had old paint in them to the collection point along with liquids from the garage.

Music, Movies and Books

If your library has a used book collection/store you can donate old books, music, and movies there. I took a load of items to our local library. Some of Mom’s music I hung onto.


There are only so many plants a person has room for. I kept what I wanted to hang on to and several were thrown away. Mom had a huge ficus that was pretty tall and someone bought that at the sale. 

You also have to consider that in the event of a move, the moving company will not transport plants.


Many years ago my dad had gone out and purchased a small tv on sale. He liked it so much and thought it was a great deal so he went back and bought several more. These little, heavy tvs along with an old computer of mine and an old printer went to an electronics recycling day.

Old televisions

Lessons I learned from cleaning/sorting personal belongings

Put more stuff into the estate sale than you think you should. It’s that sentimental stumbling block that comes along with all the “stuff”. Really put some thought into whether or not you want to hang onto something.

Do you really need it? Or do you just want it for the memories? If so, then take a picture of it, thank the item for its service and send it on its way.

There were several items that I didn’t put into the estate sale that I ended up later selling on Facebook Marketplace. However, the flip side of that could be that you might end up selling it for a higher amount through Facebook!

Don’t leave the garage until last. This was the last “room” I ended up cleaning out right up until the day before I had to be out of the house. That is definitely not what you want to do. I ended up throwing out stuff I would have liked to have held on to. Furthermore, don’t clean out an unheated garage in the middle of December in Ohio!

Tips and suggestions for disposing of deceased belongings

Use the Inventory List below to help you keep track of belongings in each room of the house and to make notes. You can read more about the list in this post.

As you empty out a closet, a drawer, a room, etc, clean as you go. Dust, Swiffer, vacuum, wash – whatever you have to do to clean it, do it then. That will make it easier in the long run when it comes to having to list the house for sale.

Use Facebook Marketplace for selling items. I had really good luck with it.

The Side Benefits of Cleaning out someone else's stuff

To be honest, having to go through the house and do something will all the stuff, in preparation for selling the house, was an excellent time to clean my stuff out too, so I did that as well!

Many bags of shredded paper (Mom and Dad’s stuff plus mine) were taken to the recycling center. Why, why, do we keep so much paper?

I weeded out my clothing as well and that was a very good thing. Again, why do we keep so much stuff for so long?

Would you believe that I still had things in boxes from my days after graduating college? That was over 20 years ago! 😀 😀 I went through that stuff as well and decided if those were things I wanted to hang onto at this stage in my life. Needless to say, a lot of stuff was thrown out!

For those of you who cleaned out your parents’ estate in one weekend, kudos to you. I don’t know how you did it!

For those of you who are executors and facing this in the near future, just know that you have your work cut out for you but you can do it. It just might take a while!