At one time or another in all our lives, we will have to clean out a home that belonged to a loved one or a friend. It can be paralyzing to the loved one that is responsible for the project.
I am hearing more stories of people letting houses sit. One lady told told me that her boyfriend has let his parents house sit for 10 years. I had another client that let her mom's house sit for 5 years.
Money and emotion are the main factors in the situtation. If the family needs or wants the money for the property, then the clean out will begin soon. Also if the family member lives out of state, then usually the other members will schedule a week off to tackle the home clean out.
Is there any unwritten rule of when a clean out should begin?? No. I tell people to do it when you feel able. For everyone that is a different time frame. My Aunt Ada never purged her husbands things(he died 30 years before her). As I child I was amazed that all his shirts and ties still hung in the closet. My grandmother on the other hand, began purging my grandfathers stuff immediately. I think keeping busy helped her heal. She called all the male family members and gave them first dibs at his tools in the workshop.
How to handle this sensitive situation. Tackle one room at a time. The bathrooms and the kitchens are the easiest. Alot of time these rooms contain alot of items that just get tossed. Then move on to the storage areas of the home. Again, alot of items that might be trash or donate.
Once the trash or donations are out of the house, then comes the great divide. If their are multiple family members to split stuff with; get some colored post it notes. Have everyone go around the house and put a postit note on what they would like. If a few people want the same item, then it needs to be discussed among the family.
If there are items in the house that no one wants for their home, consider calling an estate sales person. They will price and sell the contents of the home for you.
As an organizer, I have done many of these jobs as well. I have done round one of the purging and sorting. This makes it easier for the family to get through the emotional process.
So, start the process when you are ready! Break it down by room. Do what you can and don't overwhelm yourself!!