How to Clean Out Your Parents’ Home


Whether your parents are downsizing, moving into a senior living community, or have just passed away, cleaning out our parents’ home is something that most people have to do someday. But though it’s common, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Cleaning out your parents’ home is hard and emotionally taxing, even if they’re still around to help.

At Compass Self Storage, we’ve helped many of our customers with cleaning out their parents’ home via our flexible storage solutions. Here are some of our tips to help you efficiently and properly clean out your parents’ home.

The Logistics of Cleaning the Home

Not sure where to start when it’s finally time to clean your parents’ house? You’re not alone. The logistics of the operation can be a bear, especially if your parents are gone. Keep these things in mind to help you get started.

Utilize Self Storage

Often times, there’s a hard or soft time limit to complete the cleaning—you usually don’t have forever to deal with your parents’ belongings and figure out where they should go. As a result, one of the best things you can do when cleaning out your parents’ home is to line up a storage unit near you. Storage units can be rented on a month-to-month basis, providing storage flexibility you may desperately need.

Additionally, having a self storage unit provides a number of other benefits. It can:

  • Allow you to stagger decisions—choosing what to do with different items can be hard, and a storage unit lets you make decisions on your time.
  • Help you to sell the home—if you need to sell your parents’ home, a storage unit can be a helpful staging place for furniture and more.
  • Longterm storage—should you be interested in keeping certain items around for good but don’t have space in your home, a storage unit is the perfect place. 

Estate Sale

Holding an estate sale is a great way to celebrate your parents and their belongings while simultaneously lowering your overall burden (and making a bit of cash on the side). An estate sale is essentially a specialized garage sale where you sell your parents’ items from their estate.

An estate sale isn’t always an option depending on your situation, especially if you don’t live in the same state or town as your parents’ home. Still, it might be possible if you can get your parents’ community and friends involved.

Prepare a Garbage Plan

The hard truth of cleaning out your parents’ home is that you’re probably going to throw a lot of stuff away. Everyone accumulates a certain amount of junk, especially if you have a home for a long time.

While there are certainly things you’ll want to keep, distribute to your family members, keep in a storage unit, or give away to charity, there will probably be even more things that you’ll need to simply throw away. And you know what—that’s ok. Your parents’ belongings are not your belongings, and nobody can be expected to keep every belonging handed down to every generation.

Just putting trash on the curb probably cut it. The solution? Line up a dumpster. Most trash companies have residential roll-off dumpsters that they’ll drop off and pick up when you’re done. Alternatively, you can use a dumpster in a bag, which can be purchased at most big box home improvement retailers.   

Making the Hard Decisions

Once you’ve got the logistics lined up, the hard part is truly underway. Cleaning your parents’ home involves a lot of hard decisions on what to do with precious memories.

Set Goals

One of the things you know for sure when cleaning out your parents’ home is that it’s going to be an emotionally draining experience (in addition to being physically draining). This is especially true if you’re figuring out how to clean out a recently deceased parent’s home. To prevent getting sucked into a whirlpool of feelings and memories, put together a plan before setting foot in the home—and stick to it. The plan can be anything, from a time goal to room-specific goals.

What to Do With Sentimental Items

From old photo albums to cherished furniture, jewelry, cookware, and beyond, you’ll encounter memories all over the place in your parents’ home. This is true for both the clearly valuable items and for items with little or no monetary value—memories are priceless, after all. Unfortunately, that fact can make choosing which items to keep and store and which items to get rid of or donate difficult.

The first step in figuring out what to do with sentimental items is to accept that nearly everything is going to have a memory or nostalgia tied to it. Ask these questions to help you work through your inevitable pile of sentimental items.

  • Did your parents use it? If the answer is no, chances are good that you won’t use it, either.
  • Did you forgot about it until you found it? If the answer is yes, it probably isn’t as valuable to you as you might think in the moment.
  • Can it be digitized? If the answer is yes, such as for photo albums or videos, plan to do so and get rid of the originals.
  • Is it unique to your family, or is it a product? There’s a big difference between a unique item and a product of some variety that was used by your parents. The former is more valuable.

You’d be surprised at just how far you can get asking these four questions of sentimental items you’re considering keeping. Of course, every item is unique, so don’t be afraid to get creative—and don’t forget to forgive yourself for making tough decisions.

Compass Self Storage is Here for You

Our friendly storage experts at Compass Self Storage have helped countless families through life events like the death of parents, simple downsizing, and more. We’re not only here to provide storage solutions for you and your family, but to help you through the hard times that often accompany storage needs. Find a storage unit near you to get started.