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Cleaning Out a Loved One's Home


Sorting through all the items of a loved one can seem impossible, but you don't need to go it alone.

We’ve been recommending Amy Roberts, owner of Out of the Box Moves, to our clients for years. As a professional move manager, her mission is to “alleviate the emotional and physical stresses that are associated with downsizing and moving for individuals, families, and seniors.” Amy has assisted people in nearly every moving scenario, but her experience with people who must clean out a home after their loved one passes is why we’re featuring her today.

Sorting through all the items of a loved one can seem impossible; grief overshadows your decisions. People can sometimes manage this task on their own, with the support of friends and family. Others call people like Amy to help. Wherever you may fall on this spectrum, Amy shares her thoughts on how to clean out a home after a loved one passes, with a particular focus on memorabilia.

What is memorabilia?

Memorabilia is a collection of sentimental items that have been collected over the years, thus developing value to a person. Memorabilia, what is valuable to you, may not be valuable to others. So, what is the meaning of valuable? It’s the emotion that we are attached to, not the monetary value.  

Why are we attached to memorabilia?

We develop an attachment to an item because it represents a story, triggers a memory, and brings us back to the time that made us feel happy (or maybe even sad). That nostalgic feeling makes us want to keep it.

My parents’ memorabilia

I remember cleaning out my mom and dad’s home with my three sisters. We each took various items that had meaning to us. As a move manager, I don’t like to have a lot of stuff in my house. I’m not a minimalist, but I do prefer to have less than more. The one object I really wanted was my mother’s teaspoon that she often used to mix her sugar and milk in her tea. Though it is very small, it contains many memories and brings me a lot of happiness. It has become a special spoon in my family. My kids fight to use “Nonni’s spoon.” Even though they never met her, it gives them a connection to her and continues my family’s story.
So as you go through the home of your parents, close relatives, or someone you have cared for throughout your life...remember that you don’t need to take it all to honor their memory. Focus on the one or two pieces that have meaning and value to you as memorabilia.
Ok, so that didn’t help you clean out the rest of the house of items that don’t have memorabilia status. Here are a few suggestions for how to proceed:
  • Family first: offer items to extended family. They may not want a lot, but it’s nice to offer.

  • Friends second: a close friend may want a vase or a plant to remember your loved one.

  • Antique dealer: have a dealer come in to see if anything remaining has monetary value.

  • Charitable organizations: If you have the time, you can schedule a pick up for donations.

  • Clean out company: If you don’t have the time to call and schedule charitable organizations, you don’t have to do this alone. Call a clean-out company. They will take donations and trash.

Whatever steps you take to clean out your loved one’s house, starting is the hardest part. It really does get easier as you go. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Please reach out to me if you have any questions.

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With their complementary communication styles, responsiveness, competence, and ability to truly listen, Ellie and Liz enable their clients to feel at ease throughout any real estate transaction. They would welcome the opportunity to be your next real estate advisors.

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