Thursday, March 3, 2011

How To Clean Out Your Parents House: Organizing The Basement

Helping Your Parents Clean Out A Lifetime of Accumulation

Every time I go down into my basement and take a look around, I scare the daylights out of myself thinking about how much stuff has accumulated over the years. I keep up with my basement and yet no sooner than I tidy the place up, more seems to find it's way down there. What will happen when my adult kids are asked to help their parents clean out the basement?

Save Or Purge

Right now, there is a tower of old computer parts growing higher and higher. And yesterday I must have filled a shelf with about 10-12 broken radios and speakers. There is no question about it, no matter how hard you try to keep things under control, the quest to SAVE STUFF overcomes any urge to purge what you have.

What If I Need It

The theory goes something like this..... "what if I need a _______" , fill in the blank.....door knob, piece of old wallpaper, lock without a key, rusty wheel, plastic container, loose leaf, T.V. cart, rag, broken suitcase, puzzle without all the pieces. I mean it makes sense to have a few spare parts on hand...BUT here is the one keeps just one rag on hand or one rusty wheel around. No, no, no we all keep 10 rusty wheels in stock and three boxes of rags hanging around. And did we really need to save every picture junior made in school? Or keep every camp letter from every kid?

Too Old To Go Down To The Basement

By the time any on us reach old age......we have accumulated enough junk to build another house. And by the time we are in need of assistance with packing up what we have , we can't even walk down to our basements or see what we have with clear vision.

When You Are Called To Clean Out Your Parent's Basement

Now lets fast forward and talk about what happens when adult children are called into action to help clean out their parent's house. Sometimes this happens earlier on in life when mom and dad decide to downsize and move into a smaller place. But many times, illness or death requires adult children to clean out mom and dad's home. And many children may not be familiar with the contents of their parent's basements or even have been in that part of their house.

Where do you begin?

Step I Analyze the situation:

Take a visit to the basement. Can you walk through the junk easily? Are things in boxes or loose? Is there any organization already? How many boxes will you need? Do you need garbage bags? Will you use plastic or cardboard boxes? Where will the garbage go? Is there a door to the outside from the basement? Is the basement on level ground? Are their steps? Does mom and or dad have step stools, wheeling carts, garbage cans etc to aid you with carry outs?

Step II Sorting:

Set aside areas for different things.
Boxes/garbage bags for :


Step III Getting The Stuff Out and Dispersed

Will you recruit family members to help disperse the stuff.
Will you call Goodwill for some of the stuff?
Will you hire a clean out service. (You must do the sorting first).

For more information on how to deal with your parent's stuff, be sure to visit "Estate Mavens: Help With Estate Liquidation" which is a feature on my site I Antique

These great photos of collectibles are from the collection at

C. Dianne Zweig is the author of Hot Kitchen & Home Collectibles of the 30s, 40s, 50s and Hot Cottage Collectibles for Vintage Style Homes. She is also the Editor of I Antique Online an actively growing internet based resource community for people who buy, sell or collect antiques, collectibles and art. You can find Dianne’s fabulous retro and vintage kitchen, home and cottage collectibles at The Collinsville Antiques Company of New Hartford, CT, a 22,000 feet antique emporium with an in-house retro cafĂ©.To read more articles by C. Dianne Zweig click on this link: C. Dianne Zweig’s Blog Kitsch ‘n Stuff Email me at dianne@cdiannezweig.comVisit my website, CDianneZweig.comDianne is a member of:The American Society of Journalists and AuthorsThe Society of Professional Journalists

1 comment:

  1. I keep my own stuff cleaned out so I can help my kids when that time Mel's Cabin and my mother is the queen of getting rid of nonimportant stuff at more clutter for her and us to clean up later. Whew it's a good thing.