7 Tips for Cleaning out an Estate Without Stress

Cleaning out a family member’s or friend’s estate after they have passed away isn’t a task most of us prepare for or know how to do. Grief is an experience we all journey through differently. For some, grief makes something as daunting as cleaning out a house feel overwhelming. For others, having something actionable to work on related to the loved one is a welcome activity.

Every person has different needs and a unique journey, so there isn’t one right way to clean out an estate. These tips will help you incorporate some strategies and offer some ideas on how to make the process as meaningful and stress-free as possible.

Don’t rush in

Allowing time between your loved ones passing and the nuts and bolts of cleaning out their estates is sound advice in most situations. Cleaning out their house too soon can feel like a betrayal to preserving their memory. Moving stuff out can feel a lot like moving on. While this feeling persists, let things be. Don’t feel the need to uproot the entire place in a week or two.

Another reason giving some time can be important is that it ensures you make decisions you will be proud of later. There are many decisions about what to keep and not to keep. When overwhelmed with emotion, it’s easier to make these decisions brashly without fully thinking through the consequences.

Take an inventory

Knowing where to start when cleaning out the estate can often feel like the most challenging part. There is so much stuff, and all of it is in different states of repair. Some of it is incredibly sentimental, while others have little personal value, like that cupboard full of sheets and pillows. It’s tempting to start in one room and go from there. However, understanding how much there is to do and where certain items are generally located can save time later.

Tackle time-sensitive items

If the deceased loved one lived alone, there will be some time-sensitive items to attend to before completing the cleanout. For example, cleaning out the fridge and pantry before everything becomes an expired mess needs to be a priority. There may also be mail that needs returning and automatic systems, like sprinklers or online subscriptions, to get on top of.

A commonly forgotten time-sensitive issue is that of security. Properties are left with minimal security unless you order new locks or if you know where all of the keys are kept. Avoiding theft and break-ins helps keep a hard time from becoming a horrid one.

Remember important documents

Most people store important documents somewhere in their house. If you don’t know where these are located, some common places include:

  • Under the bed
  • In a safe box
  • In the study
  • In the attic

Documents like passports and birth certificates are essential to locate for security reasons. Others, like journals and letters are important for personal reasons and family history. Making certain these are safe before the general clear-out begins is an excellent step towards maintaining peace of mind.

Make piles

Once you’ve dealt with time-sensitive items and important documents, it’s smart to divide things into piles as you clean. For example, you could divide everything into these three categories:

  • Keep in the family
  • Sell, auction or donate
  • Throw away

Of course, your piles don’t have to be these three, but coming up with a triage system of sorts can make dealing with an overwhelming amount of stuff much more manageable.

Outsource hard labor

Once you have assigned things into categories, many people run into the issue of dealing with heavy items and enormous piles. Cumbersome furniture, bags and bags of garbage, a piano, all of it too heavy to lift or too big to fit nicely into the back of a truck. The solution to this dilemma is outsourcing the heavy lifting to a waste management or moving company. Atlas Disposal has your trash pickup in Sacramento or Salt Lake City areas covered.

Another option is roll off dumpster rental. You can fill the dumpster at your own pace, and then a waste disposal team can pick it up. Contacting a company like Atlas Disposal about delivering a dumpster is an easy step that can make things much less stressful.

Clean with friends and family

A final tip for making the best out of a difficult situation is cleaning the estate with close family and friends. Similar to sitting down and going back through photos together, stuff often reminds people of precious memories. It can be a process filled with bittersweet remembering and sharing as you work with others who know the person well.

In the end, there is no set program for clearing and cleaning an estate. Taking the time to be intentional will leave you with the best feelings for the others around you and the knowledge that the deceased loved one has been honored in the best way. Have patience with those around you. We all deal with loss in different ways. The process may be more challenging for some. Be mindful of these differences and communicate your feelings as you go. You’ve got this.


When taking care of an estate, it’s essential to be organized and follow a plan. Taking the time to plan will help ensure that you get everything when cleaning out an estate. Start by listing all the items in the house that need to be addressed. This can include furniture, appliances, clothing, and other items belonging to the deceased. Be sure to note down any sentimental or valuable items that need extra attention.

7 Tips to Clean an Estate Infographic


7 Tips for Cleaning out an Estate Without Stress