Empty a parent's house fast
September 17, 2012 6:58 PM   Subscribe

What's the quickest, easiest way to clean out my mom's house in San Diego when I don't live there?

My mom is still alive, but we had to move her to assisted living out of state. My siblings and I are all busy and live out of the area, but we need to clean out and renovate her house fast so we can rent it to help pay for her care.

I'm not sure how valuable any of her stuff is -- I suspect my stepfather will take the decent appliances, and they don't own antiques. Will an estate sale company even be interested? Frankly, we'd probably be willing to write it all off if someone will simply take it all and trash what can't be salvaged for us. Does anyone provide that sort of service, and how does it work?
posted by Lauram to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have used 1800GotJunk to get rid of crap I couldn't take when moving out of an apartment. Two very nice men (in my cases, it was always men) showed up at the appointed time and carried off whatever I pointed at with nary a complaint. There are certain things they can't/won't take like hazardous materials and such. And they won't salvage anything, they put it in the truck and take it away and do whatever it is they do with stuff.

But they do a good job and are fast, polite, and pretty reliable within the 2 hour window you pick. You get billed based on the percentage of the truck you fill up and they give you a quote upfront based on what you want them to carry away, though obviously that changes if you suddenly decide you want them to take more.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:18 PM on September 17, 2012

If you're convinced there is nothing of much value there, and you've removed any family keepsakes, jewelry, documents, etc. that she might have, the next step is to donate what you can to a good nonprofit that will use/sell the items, then call someone like 1800gotjunk to take the rest out. Finally a cleaning company to come in and clean, do carpets, wash walls and get it ready to rent. That's the easy way... but it will take someone in the family going to the home and taking the first steps.
posted by HuronBob at 7:19 PM on September 17, 2012

As a Certified Professional Organizer who generally no longer works with this type of client situation, I'm glad that there are specialists who DO exactly this. You want to either:

1) Consult with a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, using the basic search to find someone geographically close and then narrowing to Residential>Estate Management and Residential>Seniors. Even though your mom won't be present, one of my colleagues in the latter area would be experienced and would be able to parse the materials, find appraisers and estate sales specialists and guide your family.

2) Consult with a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers. Again, although your mom has already moved to assisted living, her stuff still needs to be downsized and moved to appropriate places for resale, donation, etc.

Whether you work with someone from NAPO or NASMM (and there's often significant crossover of membership), the person you pick will be able to confer with you step-by-step without bogging you down with non-essential details.

Places like 1800GotJunk are fine for pure removal, but you need someone whose experience you can trust to methodically go through each item, to make sure money, jewelry and important documents aren't hidden in books, bedside tables, clothing pockets, etc. I've worked with adult children of parents who've moved to assisted living where the parents have assured the kids, and the kids assured me, that nothing valuable had been left behind...and yet I've found thousands of dollars in cash, stock certificates, jewelry, and various letters and documents of significant family/sentimental value.

Whether you and your family members do it, or you hire someone to do it, or you work in concert with someone who can guide the process, everything should be reviewed methodically before involving estate agents (for which you certainly don't need an "estate" of the fancy type) and/or removal crews.

Also, re: estate sales, we've had them remove and sell dishes, tables, upholstered furniture, etc. Estate needn't mean "estate. Someone should come, do a no-charge consultation and determine whether the possessions warrant an estate sale. Usually, they'll arrange to come pick up what they believe will sell (once you've cleared all the drawers and hidey-holes), sell, and retain a commission from the revenue, turning the remaining proceeds over to the family. I wouldn't work with an estate sale company that required an outright fee, beyond a percentage of the revenue.

Good luck.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 8:25 PM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

[Comment deleted. This is a very straightforward question; please stick to what is actually being asked. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 2:16 AM on September 18, 2012

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