Emptying the property of a loved one

Emptying the home of a loved one can be one of the most difficult of tasks, so we’ve put together a five-step guide to help you approach the process.

1)      Ask for help

Consider asking for help from someone outside the family and removed from the immediate situation, they won’t have the emotional investment or memories of every little thing, which could be especially. They’ll help you keep up the momentum and be decisive if you’re flagging. 

2)      Be organised

Go armed with all of the packaging you’ll need: boxes, wrapping, labels and pens. Then as you move through the house, sort things into three broad groups, those you want to keep, those you think will be of use to someone else and those that can go straight to the tip. Another suggestion is to pop all of the paperwork you come across into one box so that you can go through it at a later date. It will prevent you digressing from the main job at hand and allow you to evaluate their importance when you have more time and space. Label everything clearly as you work and put the boxes for different destinations in a different area – so they don’t get confused.

If you’re having difficulty making a decision about things, try going through them by category rather than by room: kitchen, books, ornaments, and then pick a few items from each category to keep. You could have a fourth set of boxes for the things you’re ‘not sure’ about, but this may just delay the inevitable and increase your burden by stretching the whole process out. If you have storage space in which to put these things (your dining room, garage or spare bedroom), it may simply increase your burden or become some else’s in time. Gloria Horsley recommends an ‘only handle it once’ policy, so you are swift and decisive with each item and don’t prolong the process more than is necessary.

3)      A mixed blessing

You may be clearing the property with close family, and this isn’t always an easy process. There are a number of ways to approach this, first consider agreeing together a limit on the number of items people will choose to take away with them. If people take turns choosing – but there are arguments over items, then put the disputed things aside and come back to them later, when all the other work has been done. It’s amazing how tempers will settle when the initial fraught moment has passed.

Psychologist Dr Ramani Durvasula has some useful advice here, be mindful of the fact that these objects will give you less solace than you might think. Remember your connection is with the person and not the object. A heated argument over an ornament, for example, is likely to stay with you far longer than the said item will give you joy. On the matter of joy, try taking a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s book and keep only those things that give you joy – let go of the rest. It will leave you a lighter, freer feeling, so you’ll be ready for a fresh start.       

4)      Destination ‘useful things’

Our fourth step is to consider the ‘useful things’, those items that you don’t want to keep, but might be of use to someone else. You could potentially make some money through their sale at an auction house or on eBay, but be mindful of the fact that this will take time and effort. Remember, some charity shops now collect things, so bear this in mind, and if you do send items to charity,  you’ll have that added rosy glow that comes from knowing you’ve helped someone else. Another alternative is to engage the services of a house clearance company, there would be a charge involved, but it might be the most straightforward option. Lesley Garner describes her mixture of proud decisiveness and sobbing when the house clearance van disappeared down the road, after clearing out her mother’s flat.   

5)      Forgive yourself

Most of all don’t be hard on yourself, in fact, forgive yourself. We’ve probably all donated something to the charity shop only to run back later and buy it back, and that’s okay. You don’t have to get everything right, all of the time. It’s not your responsibility to find the right home for every little thing, so let go and forgive yourself. Clear things away, make way for new experiences and look forward not back.

There you have it, our 5 point guide to emptying the property of a loved one; we hope you’ve found it useful. If you’re clearing out the home of someone close to you, it’s more than likely that you’re going through the probate process too. If you have a probate property and you want a quick house sale, then we can help.

Tim Jackson