How to Clean Out a House After Someone Has Passed

Anita Chauhan
Anita Chauhan
May 24th 2024 - 4 minute read
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Here are the most important steps when cleaning out the house after someone has passed, from clearing out personal belongings to preparing the premises for sale.

Anita Chauhan

After the loss of a loved one, dealing with their house and possessions can be emotionally difficult.

Here are the most important steps when cleaning out the house after someone has passed, from clearing out personal belongings to preparing the premises for sale.

Don't delay the process

Sorting through the personal possessions of someone we loved is a highly emotional task, and most people don't want to think about it while they grieve. While it's important to give yourself time and not start cleaning out the house before you're ready, you shouldn't put it off indefinitely either.

After someone has passed, cleaning the house is better done sooner rather than later because the task will keep weighing on you. Dealing with the process as soon as you feel like you're emotionally ready is likely to give you closure.

Before starting the actual clearing process, it's essential to look for legal and financial papers and even cash. Don't forget that people sometimes hide their important documents in strange places, so leave no corner unchecked, including crawlspaces and bottoms of drawers.

Look for an updated version of a will, as well as insurance policies, bank account statements, bonds and stock certificates, and personal letters. It's also important to file out a change of address form to get the deceased's mail forwarded.

Get someone to help you

Standing in the house of a person you once loved and sorting through their belongings is a massive undertaking, which means that you shouldn't attempt to do it alone.

Besides getting practical help, bringing in a friend or another family member will also help you make decisions when you can't think straight because you are experiencing strong emotions.

If you feel like the entire process is too much for you, you should only do personal belongings and sensitive documents, and live the rest of the professionals. Hiring a professional organizer can make it easier for you to deal with the task, as they can manage the process from start to finish.

Decide what you should keep and what should go

Deciding whether to keep or toss an item shouldn't be very difficult in normal times, but the doubt can be torturous when emotions are raw. Many people hold onto too many things because they remind them of their loved one, but the item should go if you don't have use it.

Sorting belongings into three piles is a good way to speed up the process. Make a pile for items to keep, another one for things to donate or sell, and a final one with things to throw away. If there are any disputed items that family members are squabbling about, set them aside and deal with them after the emotions have settled.

Prepare the house for sale

If the house of your loved one needs to go on the market, it's important to get it ready for an appraisal. Here are some important steps to get the property market ready.

  • Get rid of any old or worn furniture because it will detract from the sale. Only keep furniture in the house if it's in very good condition or antique.
  • Remove all wall hangings and window coverings (if they are dated).
  • Check the condition of the floors and refinish them if needed. This includes buying new carpeting or replacing crack ceramic tiles.
  • Decide whether the walls could do with repainting.
  • Remove all dated light fixtures and repair any cracks in the ceiling.
  • Deep clean the property inside out — you may want to hire professional cleaners for this task, depending on the condition of the house.
  • Remember that you may be required to disclose the death to potential buyers if the owner died in the house. The rules regarding disclosure vary from one province to another, so make sure that you read up on your provincial laws and expectations before proceeding.

Cleaning out the house after someone has passed is emotionally taxing, but it's important to give proper attention to the task and do it as soon as possible.

If the property goes on the market, following the right steps comes with the added benefit of higher offers.

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