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  • Episode 249 – Clearing the home of someone who has passed away
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Episode 249 – Clearing the home of someone who has passed away

When a loved one passes away and you bear the responsibility of dealing with their belongings it can be stressful, time consuming and confronting. In this podcast we’re going to talk about something we like to call sensitive house clearance and how it might help you in this situation

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  1. I have been looking for a podcast discussing these topics as I am in the middle of cleaning out my house I shared with mom.

    I am completely alone, no family at all. The biggest issue I am having is that I am unable to sell collectibles that are worth quite a bit but I do not want and are very large, I do not want to take with me to wherever I move.

    All her clothes I washed and donated to appropriate places such as her good work clothes went to a woman’s shelter and casuals went to Goodwill.

    I am not a fan of decorating for holidays so I have asked our friends if they are interested in taking anything they could use and would like.

    1. Hi Veronica,

      So glad to hear our podcast is helping you on what is a tough job to do. Are you struggling to sell the collectibles because of then logistics or the emotional attachment?

      We also have podcasts on collections so just pop that into the podcast search bar and they should help you.

      Best of luck and thanks for listening.


      1. Hi. It just seems no one wants to buy them. I am listing it for current value and willing to even drive a couple hundred miles to deliver and still nothing.
        These were my moms which she absolutely adored however I have no problem selling them for the fair value or slightly less.
        I am going to listen to the podcast now. Thank you.

  2. I was very thankful for this timely podcast. We recently lost our father who was 100 years old. He had lived in his house for over 60 years. My sister and I have luckily worked very well together, going through the contents of the house and choosing things that would work in our homes or could replace things in our home without overwhelming our homes. The rest of the contents we opted to do an estate sale auction so that the house could be sold. This is such a difficult time of life and time to go through. I think because it is so emotional there is often disagreements and anxiety which just makes the entire situation more difficult. I thank you for your thoughts. Congratulations on your 250th episode. I appreciate everything the 2 of you do.

    1. Thank you Debbie for your kind words and so sorry to hear about your dad. What a relief you and your sister could work very well together, especially in such a difficult time. Take care, Ingrid

  3. Thank you Ingrid and Lesley. You always make sense. I did help a team of friends four years ago to clear a mutual friend’s property after her passing. Whilst it was sad and I still miss her it was easier than clearing family items. Also those of us who wanted some of her items put in donations and this was used for her funeral costs.
    However my lovely Mum recently passed and my brother and I are dealing with her retirement flat which is not such a huge task as it was when she left the family house seven years ago. Before that event my brother and I sat with Mum and made two lists of items we each wanted to keep after her death. We duly signed the lists at the time. Fine and dandy Mum and I thought! Unfortunately, my brother as executor has fallen out with me and taken over everything and has blocked me from entering her apartment without him. He also took control of the funeral service etc and didn’t allow me any input in the end. So I feel cheated of grieving for her. I live down south near the coast he lived near my Mum up in Cheshire so was keeping an eye on her and helping her a great deal in the last year and half of her life. She almost reached 99.
    I used to go and stay with her for a few days every so often to give him a break but he was always very controlling and wouldn’t step back and take time out. So he resents the fact that I live down south not near her. I have lived down here since 1972/3!! Now he won’t let me have any part in emptying her apartment but resents all the work he has to do on his own. As a result he wants to change her wishes in the will too in his favour. I feel very traumatised by his treatment of me and have stood back for now for my own protection. It is so sad and I can see that it may be a good solution to have a third party helping. He will never go for that though! So I would certainly recommend for others clearing a loved ones estate to obtain some professional help before you start. Thank you for all your advice. I am in the membership but because of all the family ups and downs making slow progress. Hoping to get back into rhythm.

    1. Oh no I'm so sorry to hear this Gail. What an awful situation. Grieving for someone who's passed is hard enough without all the trauma and emotions. Have you thought about getting some legal help with this matter or do you know it's not going to help you in any way?
      Just make sure you practise self care and grief for the lost of your mum in your own way. Thinking of you in this very difficult time.
      Do make sure you come to our live sessions in the membership. They are always so good for the soul and for support and motivation.
      Ingrid x

  4. I love the podcasts and this one especially resonated with me. My dad died in 2002 and 4 years later after several falls, my mum moved from their 3 bed house to a 2 bed small flat near us. Obviously she couldn't take all the furniture so we were given quite a lot as we couldn't bear to let it go and she wanted us to have it. In 2012 after more falls, she moved to the nursing home were I was working and needed to rent the flat out to help pay the fees. That was very tricky – she took a lot with her (to a small room!) and again wanted us to take stuff. By this time her paperwork was all muddled up and all over the place so that was difficult too. In the end some of the furniture had to go to house clearance people, but our house was filling up – nice furniture but too much of it. When she died in 2014, again loads to remove quickly and guess what? it's still in boxes in our 'room of doom'! She very kindly left me (only child) the shares that my father had but those have stressed me out so much over the years – I know I should be grateful but I find them so difficult to deal with – tax forms etc, Doing probate on my own took 6 months and was SO difficult. I wanted to let the solicitor do it but my husband said that was too expensive.

    Last Easter 2022, my mother-in-law died (98) and still had her 4 bed house. Every week my husband went over (70 miles away) to empty the house with his sister and each time came back with piles of stuff – some went to charity. Finally the house was sold and emptied of furniture in December, coinciding with our daughter buying her first house with her boyfriend. They took quite a bit of furniture (Ercol) but the rest ended up in our garage (which my husband had finally managed to clear after 31 years). It's still there waiting for our 38 year old son to move out (that's another story!) and for us to clear a space in our house. Meanwhile we have 3 sofas in our sittingroom (not a big room) and another one elsewhere which I hate but he loves. That's the problem – because he let me have my parents' stuff, I have to let him have his. Our daughter's house is immaculate – because she has piles of her stuff here! The clutter really gets me down and it's so hard to deal with other people's stuff. My mother had a story about everything she possessed and I can hear her voice in my ear when I'm contemplating getting rid of things! I have been away and hope to get back to the roadmap soon (when I've sorted out the holiday stuff!!). I do realise that I'm in for the long haul now and will keep going. Thank you Ingrid and Lesley for eveything tht you do to keep us motivated.

    1. Oh my word Pamela, that is a lot of hard situations you've been in and I'm not surprised that it's taken a toll on you and your home. I'm so glad you're in our membership so we can help you step by step. It's so important to do the emotionally easier rooms first before tackling those harder areas. Make sure you keep submitting your questions for our Live Q&A's so we can answer you with lots of detail. It's the mindset that needs changing alongside the clutter leaving your home.

  5. I live in the US, and I was the only one of my siblings that lived in the same city as my parents. My brothers live 2000 miles away. We didn’t have the time, energy, or emotional capacity to deal with their large house full of stuff. We would have liked to have had an estate sale, but the people we met with determined that it would not be worth their time because my parents didn’t have a lot of things with great value. They had a lot of antiques, but there’s no market for that now. So we ended up auctioning off the house and the contents after we looked through everything and saved what we wanted. We got a lower price for the house, but it worked out so we did not have to sort through everything and empty the whole house ourselves. We just handed over the keys and the auction company set over and we were not even present on the day of the auction.

    1. Hi Tracy, thank you for sharing your story. You did what you thought was best in the circumstances and there is no right or wrong way. I'm glad you had a chance to look through items before the house went up for auction. Ingrid xx

  6. This was a timely episode for me. My husband recently passed away and I know I will need to deal with all the things. The most helpful advice was to have a family meeting before making a plan. In my situation, I will be staying in our home at least for the near future. However, we were married for 45 years and have lived in this home for almost that entire time and his death was unexpected so you can imagine the accumulation of things. I appreciate your podcast and look forward to continue listening.
    p.s. congratulations on #250!

    1. Thank you for your comment Glorrus and we're so sorry about your loss, especially since it was unexpected. We appreciate you listening to our podcast and are glad our advice has helped you in such a difficult time. Take care, Ingrid

  7. Episode 249 comments – My mom passed away June 2022. Her house and garage were filled to the brim. She was not a hoarder, but kept a lot of items (paperwork, sentimental, photos, home movies, family slides, train collection, crystal and china collections, antiques, extensive tools, etc). My dad had passed away in 2004. Mom had let go of Dad's clothes, but nothing else. My brother and I lived in the area and started on the house early in July. The goal was to make the house ready to sell in one month. It took us 2 months. Looking back, I can't believe we were able to accomplish what we did in that timeframe; the more we processed, the more we found (items behind items behind items in the bookcases, closets, and garage)! There were still items in the house when it was listed for sale like furniture and some items in the cabinets and closets. The open areas just had the furniture, lamps, some artwork, etc. My family was also selling our house and moving 2 hours away so I was hesitant to bring home too many items. The items I brought home went into our garage. As I brought home more and more, I started to let go of more of the earlier things and stopped bringing home as much as I originally intended. During all of this, the housing market changed quite a bit and it took us longer than we anticipated to sell both houses. That was very stressful, but in the long run I am glad it turned out as it did. We were able to spend one final Christmas in our old house (we decided to downsize since our kids moved out since they are now on their own). With 2 out of the 3 kids on their own now, they moved out their items too. Along the way, we had a roof leak and many of our boxes in the garage got wet. Luckily, nothing too important was lost. In the end, both houses sold only a month apart so that was pretty hectic getting everything out by the closing dates. My brother and I divided up the responsibilities with the remaining items – digitizing the photos and home movies. During the cleanout of Mom's house, my brother and I communicated very frequently. In the beginning, we decluttered together. Once we got in a rhythm, we were able to go over when we could with our schedules. Since I am the oldest, I was the leader and drove the entire process. We had a plan from the beginning which changed a little as we went along, but basically stayed the same regarding what needed to be done and the order of execution. Mom had talked to us years earlier about what she wanted to leave each of us with our input so there were no conflicts over the household items. It was all written down in her will as well. Mom's grandkids are all grown and they each took some items. I was also in charge of the will and financial stuff. There were items with the house that needed to be repaired so that was part of the plan too. From the time mom passed until the sale of the house was less than 9 months. Looking back, I wouldn't change too much. I don't think I would have been able to turn over the process to professional organizers. I would have been too worried that things might have been discarded that we wanted especially since we found some hidden gems that we didn't even know existed. However, I can definitely understand why that is a great option for many people. If I had to pick the top things that contributed to our success, I would say that we had a plan and that my brother and I did a very good job communicating with one another.

    1. Hi Nancy, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and I'm glad to hear you and your brother worked so well together. It's all about the communication isn't it? I can completely imagine how stressful it must have been to do 2 houses at the same time. Wow! That is a lot of hard work and decision making all in one. Well done for tackling these big projects and wishing you all the best in the future. Take care, Ingrid

  8. Hi Lesley and Ingrid
    I've been listening to your podcast for 2 years or so, and always find the podcasts useful, friendly, chatty, and full of top tips! My mother died in April 2021 so I have been through the decluttering of all her stuff left in her apartment in Oxfordshire. My sister lives in Toronto, so when she came over to the UK (despite Covid conditions) during mum's final few weeks, and also over the following year, she was a massive support in helping to sift and sort, bag up 'stuff'! This included probably around 300-400 CDs, around 200 books, various pieces of antique furniture and we're not finished yet, as the flat is proving hard to sell. 27 months after her death, I still have her antique dining room furniture, beds, some pictures and other things which we've kept to furnish the flat to make it appealing to a buyer. The whole process was overwhelming, relentless but in a funny way, therapeutic – my sister and I relived moments from our childhood and it was almost as if mum was in the room with us as the memories flowed in. One particular find was a box letters written between my mum and late father (he died in 1992 aged 50), written between 1962 and 1967, before they married, 2-3 letters per week whenever they were apart. Not only is it wonderful to hear their voices, but they are the voices of our parents when they first met, found each other; they also provide a social statement from the times, with theatre trips to the Black & White Minstrel Show in London (!), and they went to see the Beatles movie "A Hard Day's Night" in 1964, and my father professed he didn't think they had much of a future! Sorry, I'm waffling. Anyway, I just want to share that your podcast this week resonated with me so much, it's inspired me to get the job done and declutter the final items we've kept 'just in case' and not touched or moved for 2 years.

    1. Hi Helen, thank you so much for listening to our podcast and for sharing your story. I'm glad we've inspired you to take next steps and of course we hope it helps with the sale of the flat. We did a podcast about getting a property ready for sale (episode 79) and maybe it's worth re-listening to that one? Take care, Ingrid

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