If you’ve recently had to move a parent or other relative into a nursing home or care, or have had a loved one pass away, you’ll likely have to handle the job of packing up that person’s property.
This process is something most people dread, and it can be not only a time-consuming and physically taxing job, but also an emotionally draining one. Here are some tips you can follow, though, to help you get through the project when the time comes.
Don’t try to pack up the property by yourself. It’s not something you should have to do alone. Enlist your partner, children, siblings, friends, or others to lend a hand, so you get everything done sooner, and it doesn’t take such a toll on your mind or body.
Secure the Home
It’s wise to take steps to secure the home you’re packing up. Once no one is living at a property, it soon becomes evident to would-be thieves and other people up to mischief that the house or apartment is empty. This awareness makes it more vulnerable to a break-in or damages. As such, think about ways you might reduce the risk of such disturbances. This step is particularly necessary if you won’t immediately clean out the house after your loved one’s move or death.
Some ideas include changing the locks to the home, fixing broken windows or screens, and putting blinds down so people can’t peer in. Also, keep up (or organize) lawn maintenance and other gardening work, so things don’t get overgrown.
Search for Legal and Financial Documents
When you go to pack up a property, there is a lot to go through. However, it’s a good idea to start by seeing if you can find the important legal and financial documents required to settle a deceased estate or otherwise handle your loved one’s property.
Be on the lookout for documentation such as:
- Health guidelines
- Bank accounts and credit card statements
- Property deeds, mortgage information, and car registrations
- Insurance policies
- Utility bills
- Passwords and usernames for online and other accounts
- Social security card
- Tax forms and pay stubs
- Receipts or other paperwork for valuables (e.g., jewelry and art)
Remove Perishables and Handle Other Urgent Tasks
Next, remove any perishables from the home that could make it smell or cause issues such as attracting pests or causing leaks. Also, take out the trash, forward mail where applicable, and handle any other urgent tasks, including looking after pets and plants. These jobs may even help you in that they can ease you into the idea of having to later go through other, more personal possessions.
Move Possessions into Storage
If you don’t have the time to pack up your loved one’s home right away, need to wait for others to become available to help out, or simply can’t face the idea of going through items right away, consider moving possessions into storage.
This choice is particularly helpful if you need to put the home on the market ASAP or if the lease is up and the home needs clearing out within a week or two. Take a look online, and you’ll find many cheap storage units available in a variety of sizes and locations to suit different needs. You can rent most storage units on a month by month basis.
The biggest project is obviously going through your loved one’s items and deciding what to keep and what to sell, donate, or bin. If you’re worried you’ll put this off indefinitely, consider giving yourself a deadline to follow. Enlisting other people to assist you on a particular schedule, too, might give you the impetus you need to get going. Be kind to yourself, though, and don’t try to do everything in a day or two.
When choosing items to keep for yourself or others in your family, think about practical use and sentimentality. However, keep in mind that you can take pictures of things, too, so you don’t necessarily have to hang on to items that you can’t or won’t use again, but that feel precious to you because they bring back joyful memories.
Also, if you’re struggling to make decisions about belongings, especially those you think could be valuable, it helps to hire an expert. Use an estate appraiser, antique collector, or another specialist to give you information about goods in the home.
Packing up someone else’s property is a daunting challenge. Yet, if you follow the tips above, be kind to yourself, and take it step by step, you will survive it and be able to move forward.