Certified Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB)
Certified Bay Area Green Business
Small Business Locally Owned & Operated


Certified Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB)
Certified Bay Area Green Business
Small Business Locally Owned & Operated

Nixxit Logo

How Do You Empty a House After a Death?

unnamed 5

After a person passes away, giving yourself time to mourn is integral to the grieving process. You shouldn’t rush yourself. However, some things can’t wait, and dealing with the home is an essential part of that.

It can seem overwhelming when you first consider sorting through an entire house. Grieving is emotionally taxing enough without the additional toll of clearing out the person’s home and belongings.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to break up the task. This guide walks you through emptying a house after a person’s death. Naturally, everyone’s circumstances are different, so you’ll want to adjust the guide to your situation. However, we hope you can use this as a roadmap to navigate this understandably difficult time.

Steps to Clean Out a Home After a Death

person holding photograph

The best thing you can do before attempting to clean out the home of someone who has passed away is to form a game plan. Going in without any itinerary will only make the task seem far larger than it is. Listed below is our eight-step guide on how you should proceed, in order of importance.

Step 1: Gather All Important Documents

The first thing you need to do is find all of the most important documentation relating to the deceased’s identity and ownership of the property. The important documents stage covers a lot, but some essential items you need to look out for include:

    • Passport
    • Driver’s license
    • Life insurance policy
    • Home insurance policy
    • Will
    • Bank statements
    • Bill receipts
    • Property deeds

Hopefully, the deceased will have kept documents like these in a similar location, such as a folder or drawer. You must retrieve this information as you will need it to complete various legal procedures further down the line, such as selling the house at a later date.

Besides the deceased person’s important documents, you’ll also need to request copies of the Certificate of Death. This record is essential in transferring real estate after death.

Step 2: Set Up a Forwarding Address for Future Mail or Cancel Subscriptions

You’ll need to have all future correspondence redirected. You or someone close to the deceased will need to be court-appointed as executor of the estate to receive future billing statements and similar documentation.

Once you or another has been court-appointed, you need to inform the local post office of the change so that they can appropriately redirect all mail.

Other mail may no longer be necessary, such as subscriptions, health insurance coverage, voter mail-in ballots, etc. You’ll need to talk to the relevant authorities—the DMV, healthcare provider, car insurer, etc.—and notify them of the person’s passing. You’ll likely need additional copies of the Certificate of Death for terminating these services.

Step 3: Give Yourself Time to Process

As you are locating all of the important documentation and managing the mailing situation, you should remember to take a moment for yourself. It can be easy to get swept up in your checklist and forget to give yourself time to process.

If the deceased were very close to you, it’s understandable that the process may be especially difficult. Be gentle to yourself and take the time necessary to process your surroundings. It could be the last time you’re in their home and, indeed, the last time you see a lot of these items. Take it all in, and don’t feel guilty if the clearing-out process is a series of fits and starts.

Step 4: Set an End-Date for Clearout

A firm deadline helps ensure the process doesn’t take too long and prolongs the grief and labor involved.

Sometimes, end dates are unavoidable merely because you have external circumstances requiring you to sell the house quickly.

However, if there is no external motivation, you might find yourself dragging on the process. Set an end date, stick to it, and try to stay motivated.

Step 5: Sort and Clean One Room at a Time

Don’t think of the clearout as a house-wide operation. Instead, break up the project into smaller tasks so that you don’t become overwhelmed by the thought of facing one monumental endeavor.

Proceed one room at a time. Or, if multiple people are helping you out, assign each one a particular room. Designating provides focus to your task and makes it easier for your mind to wrap itself around what you need to do.

Sort items into distinct categories, including sentimental, valuable, and waste. Make sure to confer with other relevant parties before throwing something away to avoid arguments.

Step 6: Donate Or Sell What You Don’t Want to Keep

Some items you don’t intend to keep may prove valuable to others. You can donate these items to various charities, especially clothes and furniture. Alternatively, you also can sell these items online or through consignment stores.

When donating items, check clothing pockets and even inside cushions. You would be surprised where things can end up.

Step 7: Toss or Recycle Items You Can’t Donate or Sell

Anything that you can’t sell or donate for whatever reason should be removed appropriately. It should be as simple as throwing it away or recycling it, but make sure you go about it properly.

Some items can’t just be thrown away like standard trash, such as electronics or sharp objects. Your local waste management provider will have a list of hazardous items that you can’t toss with the usual junk. They can direct you to other waste processing centers for things such as electronics, hazardous materials, and more.

A junk removal expert can make this step even more manageable by helping to clear out junk and, in some situations, donating or recycling it for you.

Step 8: Clean the Home and Change the Locks

Once you have gathered all of the important documents and cleared out all the items, you’re ready to finalize the proceedings.

Give the house a thorough cleaning or pay for a professional service. You might find some new things during the cleaning process.

Once that’s finished, make sure to change the locks. You don’t know who still may have a key or if there’s a spare key out there. You want to be sure that the only people with access to the home are newly designated keyholders. With the locks changed, you can finally rest easy.

What Do You Do With Stuff After Someone Dies?

furniture under plastic wrap

We already touched on this a little bit with our step-by-step guide. Keeping, selling, or donating things encompasses your three main options for what to do with anything you find in the house.

However, in reality, it isn’t that simple. Some stuff may have deep sentimental value, making it harder to decide whether to keep, donate, or toss it. At the same time, you may not be able or even want to keep every item that brings back memories.

With that in mind, here are some questions you should ask yourself before deciding what to do with the stuff you find.

Do You Have Room for It?

Throwing away anything that once belonged to a loved one is tough, but it is sometimes necessary. You may simply not have sufficient space to hang onto it, and that’s okay. Don’t bully yourself for not being able to keep everything.

Do You Want to Keep It?

Is the item something you will cherish, or are you just struggling to let go? Though some objects may be of personal significance, a lot of this stuff is just stuff. It doesn’t represent your loved one, and throwing it away doesn’t mean you miss them any less.

Are You Keeping Things Out of Guilt?

Donating old clothes or selling valuable items can sometimes feel like a betrayal, but it isn’t. Your loved one doesn’t exist in those items, nor should you feel guilty for moving them along. They will make someone else very happy, and you don’t need to keep things solely because you feel like you ‘should.’


Losing a loved one is never easy, and clearing out a home is probably the last thing on your mind. Remember to be kind to yourself, take it one step at a time, and be patient. Even if you are under time constraints because of rental agreements or something similar, try your best to take your time. It is a big thing to process, but you can do it.

If you find yourself facing piles of junk that you need to donate, recycle, or toss, call Nixxit Junk Removal. We can help you get rid of junk in an ethical and environmentally friendly way.

Need Help with a Property Cleanout in the Bay Area, CA?

Nixxit Junk Removal can help with your property cleanout needs in the Bay Area.

  • Full-Service Removal and Sorting
  • Locally Owned and Operated
  • Donation and Recycling
  • Same Day Appointments Available
Get Started
Nixxit Logo

nixxitjunk · Apr 26