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1.  Start the Estate Cleanout with the Loved One’s Wishes

Many people leave a will or some other writing that spells out essential details about their final wishes about their possessions. Before starting an estate cleanout, review these wishes so that you avoid making decisions you may regret later.

2.  Visit and Take the Time to Process

Whether the loved one’s home is someplace you visited frequently or hardly ever, if you are charged with the estate cleanout, you should approach the space with a different mindset. It can be hard to switch gears, and there is no rush. Spend some time in the home, take pictures of the space to remember it as it was, and give yourself room to come to terms with your next step.

3.  Find Important Documents

In addition to the will, there are critical documents to every person’s estate. Financial information, proof of ownership (e.g., car title, deed to the house), insurance policies, and many other documents will be necessary to process the estate. Finding, consolidating, and reviewing these documents should be your first action in the home.

4.  Clean Out the Perishables

While tending to objects is the purpose of an estate cleanout, taking care of your loved one’s home is also important. The cleanout process may take some time, so make sure to empty the refrigerator and pantry of food items early in the process.

5.  Clean Out Offside Storage Units

If you discover that your loved one has a storage unit, be sure to include that in the estate cleanout. You should try to do this early on, or some of the subsequent steps will have to be repeated for the unit.

6.  Identify and Appraise Valuables

Whether it’s a collection of baseball cards or a recliner set, your loved one is likely leaving behind items with some monetary value. If you are responsible for the estate, you should retain the services of an appraiser to look over all your loved one’s possessions to determine if anything is of higher value.

7.  Make a Safety Plan

While dealing with your loved one’s estate, there may be periods where the home is left unattended. Plan to visit the home regularly to maintain a presence. It may also be worth investing in light timers to keep the impression of continued occupancy to deter thieves. Consider checking on the homeowner’s insurance and ensure the home is covered during the period of the estate cleanout.

8.  Invite Family to Identify Keepsakes

Once you have reviewed your loved one’s wishes for any personal items, you can offer the family the opportunity to identify items they desire. Having a chance to take an item that serves as a reminder of the one who has passed can be very meaningful. Be sure to do this after the appraisal to minimize conflicts over higher-value items.

9.  Research Charitable Donations

The estate cleanout will result in some items being unsold, unwanted, and still useable. If your loved one hasn’t provided for a charity to receive these items, research to figure out a good place like A Wider Circle for your loved one’s donations.

10.  Consider Working with a Professional Organizer

You’ve done all the work to prepare yourself for the estate cleanout, but the process may still feel overwhelming. Rather than go it alone, a professional organizer with experience in estate cleanouts. As a neutral, expert party, they can help you to assess what needs to be done and take the heavy lifting off your shoulders.


Clutter Corrections understands that a time of mourning is precious, and trying to manage an estate cleanout while grieving a loved one is the last thing you may want to do. Let us use our experience and skill to advise, assist, and execute. Contact us for more information.

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