The Greatest Gift: Cleanse Your Estate

The Greatest Gift You Can Give to Loved Ones is to Purge Your Clutter

by Team Mentor Victoria Willett

We wouldn’t dream of not having our legal documents in order as we age. They make clear our wishes regarding our health and estate. Finalizing this paperwork prior to a life changing event, such as illness or death, allows families in times of crisis to concentrate on their loved one without worry. 

Equally critical, though not always as obvious, is the importance of culling through the possessions in your home prior to life’s eventualities. Freeing your home of unnecessary belongings and organizing what remains could be the most valuable gift you give to your family. 

For relatives left navigating through the family home after a serious illness or death, the process is overwhelming. Lisa Geraci Rigoni, a professional organizer and owner of The Organizing Mentors, sees this regularly sharing, “clearing out a home, usually within tight time constraints, is extremely stressful for families.” More often than not, Geraci Rigoni adds, “relatives are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of belongings, don’t know what is valuable, and sometimes can’t find important paperwork.” 

Clearing out a lifelong collection of belongings on your own may seem staggering. However, Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, suggests, “tell[ing] your loved ones and friends what you are up to. They might want to help you and even take things you don’t need.” 

If that is not an option for you, enlist the help of a professional organizer. These professionals are wonderful at stepping in to help homeowners and their families clear out extraneous belongings. They can help you decide which possessions should be sold (and where), what can be donated, and what is trash. 

In either instance, to get started with your own “death cleanse,” Magnusson suggests: 

Communicate what’s important 

“If you don’t death clean and show people what’s valuable, once you die there will be a big truck that takes all the wonderful things you have to an auction (at best) or a dump.” 

Save the sentimental items for last 

“Don’t start with photographs—or letter or personal papers, for that matter...In general, when death cleaning, size really matters. Start with the large items in your home, and finish with the small” 

Give things away, thoughtfully 

“Thinking of the new home in which your object will find itself is very important as you do your 

job. Don’t offer things that don’t fit the recipient’s taste or space.” 

The main idea is that this process can be done at any age, but before others have to do it for you. The added benefit to clearing out now? You get to enjoy an uncluttered space and know everything is in place for your family.