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Often, families and friends come together to clean out houses after the death of a loved one, sometimes traveling from out of town. To make the most of your time and volunteers, we advise planning carefully to keep this big house clear out project on track.

We’ve compiled a list of the five steps we perform in our estate clear out service.

Five steps for a DIY house clear out project:

1. Assess the magnitude of your project

This begins with some basic volumetric equations. How many square feet of “stuff” is in the house, including all the furniture, everything in closets and drawers, and all of the boxes in the attic, basement and garage? We’ve found that it takes between 0.8 and 1.5 man-hours per cubic yard of material to complete a house clean out.

Consider this example: If the house left in an estate has 3,000 square feet total, and the average height of all the stuff (furniture, boxes, etc.) is about 2 feet, then you are working with 6,000 cubic feet of material. There are 27 cubic feet per cubic yard. Do that math and you are left with just over 222 cubic yards. That means that going through everything, removing it from the estate and selling or distributing it properly could easily take more than 200 man hours and possibly more.

The more sorting and cleaning that needs to be done the longer it’s going to take to complete. Too often, DIY estate managers seriously underestimate the amount of work that goes into a house cleanout. When that happens, the project can drag on for months or even years.

2. Define success

What’s your endgame? Are you cleaning out the house to sell? Then you need to empty it out as quickly as possible without spending much time on evaluating the contents. The sooner you can get the house cleaned out and on the market, the lower the overall cost of carrying the property. Start by determining what’s realistic in terms of delivering the man-hours necessary to complete the project.

Or, is your priority to maximize the value of the house’s contents? If so, that could take a lot longer because to get the best price, you’ll have to sell items individually. For example, if there are valuable antiques, you’ll want to find the best market for each. Of course, that extra time will increase your carrying costs for the house, so you need to factor that in when determining the net return. Sometimes hiring an estate clean-out service is more cost effective than doing it yourself.

3. Conduct a complete house inventory

Every item should be assigned to one of four categories: things going to family members or yourself, things to donate, things to sell, and things to dispose. Then you have to think through the logistics of getting everything where it’s supposed to go. If your cousin is supposed to get the living room furniture, then they should come pick it up (at no charge to the estate) or pay for its delivery. If the symphony is going to get the antique violins, then they should arrange for pickup.

4. Identify your house clean-out team

Perhaps you want to enlist an estate sale company or realtor to help you manage specific portions of the project. If major repairs are needed before the house can pass an inspection you might need some contractors, and you’ll need to schedule that work around the other items on the list. Are there family members willing and able to assist you with some of the tasks, such as going through boxes or cleaning out closets? Assign specific tasks based on what’s going to happen with the items. For example, one sibling could manage the contractors while a cousin handles all of the donations.

5. Take out the trash

Not everything is worth keeping. No matter how sentimental something may seem to you, or the memories that touching an old apron can spark, at the end of the day a lot of the stuff you’ll be sorting through doesn’t have monetary value. That’s why even the most pristine houses yield truckloads of trash that families need to deal with. Not every family wants a dumpster parked out front through the duration of the clean-out (which is one reason we use our own dump trucks), but you will likely need one. We recommend calling a licensed, bonded company, such as 1-800-Got-Junk, to haul stuff away.

Of course, it’s difficult to not get caught up in the emotional aspects of a project like this, but our list should help you keep on track with the business end of things. The more you can separate yourself from the emotions and focus on the job at hand, the faster and easier the project will be to complete.

Estate Clear out Services

If you need help with an estate clear out, contact us for a free consultation.

WayForth is your trusted and professional move management company. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with downsizing, packing and unpacking, storage services, and more!

About the Author: WayForth

WayForth is the definitive provider of comprehensive and personalized moving solutions for life and business. Since 2016, WayForth has led the way in move management, providing solutions to over 15,000 individuals and families. How you move matters and no matter the destination, WayForth serves as a guide making life’s transitions easier to navigate. Call 1.844.WAYFORTH today to learn how we can help with your next move!
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