10 Tips for Cleaning out a House after a Death

Parting with your loved ones possessions and cleaning out their house is one of the hardest things to face after a death. We have put together 10 tips below to help you face this daunting task.  

During a bereavement sorting and moving the loved one's belongings is one of the saddest processes after the loss of a loved one.  It can be weeks or months before the grieving can face doing it.

Many parents who have lost children keep the child’s room exactly as it was. They derive comfort from being in the child’s room, feeling close to them there. This is often where many of the memories remain. Hopefully they will get the strength to move on and share their child's precious things with friends and charities.

This is a good time to get help from a sympathetic friend or family member but It can often be distressing for other family members to to cope with too.

It is a daunting task and you feel as if you are throwing out part of your loved one’s lifetime. However it is all part of the grieving process and the journey to acceptance.

dog on beach

Here are 10 helpful tips to help you cope with sorting your loved one's things:

  1. Don't be surprised if you get upset.  Many people take months before they can face this task. 
  2. Don't be afraid to go down memory lane as there will be lots of happy memories too, as you remember where you bought that shirt on holiday or when she wore that dress at a wedding.
  3. Give family and friends gifts of your loved ones treasures. Something to remember them by. 
  4. Get a supportive friend to help you.
  5. Decide what is going to your loved one's favourite charity shop. This eases the trauma as you know they would have wanted this.
  6. If you do get too upset leave the job, go for a walk, or out to lunch. 
  7. Do the task over a few sessions. It doesn't have to be done in a rush unless a house move is imminent. It's best to take several days or weeks to finally complete the job. Some people have many possessions so it can be a long job.  Once started it does become easier.
  8. You could get a family member to do it for you, but you might regret it.  You probably want to do this for your loved one. You may know that a watch was to go to a grandson, a necklace to a niece.
  9. If you have a few close relatives, they may want to help and choose items they would like for themselves or grandchildren.  Many hands make light work.  You can do this.
  10. Don't throw away things because you can't bear to look at them now.  You might regret it later when you wish that you had kept some special keepsakes.  

Whatever you do, don't rush it if you don't need to.  Don't force the issue if you are not ready.  You will know when it is the right time for you.  Read more pages on this site about 'Dealing with Grief' and you will gradually come to terms with what you need to do.  

Looking after the pets

This can be one of the most heart wrenching parts of cleaning out a house after a death. 

If there is a pet which has nowhere to go - do try and find a sympathetic relative or friend to take in the animal.  Your loved one would have wanted to know that their beloved companion was being well cared for.  If you really can't find anyone to re-home the animal, then ask for help from the RSPCA or try and find a local group that re-homes pets.  Avoid the local dog pound if you can, as they are likely to have to put down the animal if it isn't re-homed within a certain period of time.  

dog footprints in the sand

Recommended Read: 

Related Pages: 

Should we move house after bereavement? 

10 Best Ways to Deal with Grief

Our Recommendations for Best Books on Grief 


We are two bereaved parents who have teamed up with researchers at Yeshiva University and Memorial Sloan Kettering to study how the death of a child impacts parents’ lives, and the resulting ripple effects as life continues without our children. We invite you to participate in a survey which will help us develop resources to better support parents experiencing the heartbreak of child loss.

For mothers or fathers who have lost a child (or children) of any age, and would like to make a contribution to our understanding of bereaved parenthood, this is a way to make a difference.

If you would like to participate in our study, please fill out this confidential survey at https://yeshiva.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cUXcBDFIiWAg6Ng It will take about 20 minutes.

For more details, you can contact the Principal Investigator:

Kailey Roberts, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University.


Thank you for your consideration --

Judith Kottick, LCSW and Jean Singer, PhD

IRB Approved at the Study Level, May 10, 2021. #30499052.0

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Check out our lovely range of memorial jewelry for any lost loved one.  Pendants, necklaces, rings or bracelets, we have them all in all kinds of styles.  Choose for yourself or buy as a sympathy gift. 

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Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind. Learn how self-hypnosis can help you cope with grief at any time of the day or night.  

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Create an Online Memorial Website

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