cleaners first or packers?
September 20, 2016 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Next to "I am shit at house cleaning" is the phrase "I am shit at packing and moving" - unfortunately the house is a disaster. Dust and dirty bunnies all around. I am also packing up three generations worth of stuff, so the amount of stuff that needs to be dealt with is pretty dense. Who do I hire first? Housecleaners to clean around the stuff, or packers to pack the stuff up?

The needing to clean and pack has my anxiety so high that I'm not sleeping and on the verge of being physically ill. At this point I just need to throw money at the situation. I just don't know who to throw money at first.

I am effectively cleaning out an estate in a house with no storage spaces.

Once I get the stuff out, I'm going to do an estate sale on the furniture and whatever else I don't need. I plan on hiring someone to run the estate sale.

Do estate sale companies handle this kind of thing? Even if the house isn't remotely close to clean?

Basically I need someone to handle this situation for me. What do I google? what do I look for on angie's list?
posted by INFJ to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would call cleaners to clean first, call packers to pack, and then call cleaners again to prepare house for sale or whatever its next step is.
posted by AugustWest at 8:11 AM on September 20, 2016 [10 favorites]

Don't clean. Just pack. Throw stuff out as you unpack-- take out what you do want, and any trash can stay in the box, handily packaged to toss. Hire packers, which you get from Uhaul or Angie's List, then sell the furniture, then cleaners, then sort as you unpack, then hire a junk hauler.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:11 AM on September 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Do you already know what needs to be packed, what's staying for the sale, and what should be thrown away? That will help determine who you need to call.
posted by she's not there at 8:13 AM on September 20, 2016

Do estate sale companies handle this kind of thing? Even if the house isn't remotely close to clean?

Yes, and I can guarantee that the person who comes out to appraise the place will have seen worse this month, if not this week. "Grandma was a hoarder..." is their niche.
posted by Etrigan at 8:13 AM on September 20, 2016 [13 favorites]

I'm not sure how much $ you have to throw at the situation, but this is the order in which I'd do it.

1.) Call cleaners
2.) Pack and consolidate things you know are junk that won't sell
3.) Call junk haulers
4.) Call cleaners again
posted by pazazygeek at 8:21 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sorry! Re-reading your question I see you are hiring packers too. In that case, if you have the energy, I would go through and tag everything you know you want to take, if you can. Packers will literally pack everything up without question. When I hired packers, they packed a full trash can - I've even heard of them picking up a litterbox full of dirty litter and packing that! They don't mess around. So you definitely want to clean first and get rid of whatever junk you can. So here is a new order - hopefully it's not too much!

1.) Call cleaners
2.) Do a round of junk consolidation
3.) Call junk haulers
4.) Call packers/movers
5.) Call estate sellers
6.) Call junk haulers again (probably some stuff will be left behind, maybe the estate sale company will handle this, I've never done this part)
7.) Final cleaning if you need it
posted by pazazygeek at 8:30 AM on September 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

The needing to clean and pack has my anxiety so high that I'm not sleeping and on the verge of being physically ill. At this point I just need to throw money at the situation. I just don't know who to throw money at first.

If I were you, I'd hire cleaners first just to get some peace of mind. Then call the movers and they can help you pack (or just pack it themselves, depending on the company). I'd call the cleaners again for a "move-out clean." Ask for a team to come in. They know what this sort of thing entails. And while they're cleaning, I'd go get a pedicure and a good lunch out of the house. Or even just a walk by the beach. Something peaceful. Treat yourself if possible.

You know, from experience moving (in one situation it was an emergency and move-out had to be FAST), I was pleasantly surprised at the level of professionalism and knowledge that movers and cleaners both have about this sort of thing. Call around, look on Yelp, and just talk to people. They've seen it all. Ask the movers if they have experience with estates. Ask the cleaners if they have experience with houses that are in the state your house is in.

Honestly it doesn't sound as bad as what they've likely seen.

But... get your peace of mind back first, via a good cleaning company with experience. That's the most important thing. You'll feel so much better if you get that first part done.
posted by onecircleaday at 8:31 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would say to consider hiring a professional organizer. These folks generally contract with cleaners/junk removers AND packers, and they can consider the whole problem instead of just the specifics. Packers will pack, cleaners will move things that don't need to be cleaned, but having someone in to be holistic about it might be in your best interest. I've found the organizers who were on "Hoarders" have huge networks of connections with people in all areas of the country (if you're in the US) who seem to have great reputations on Yelp and such, and they will actually write back if you write to them on Facebook or email.
posted by xingcat at 9:00 AM on September 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Personally I would pack everything. Then as you unpack decide what stays and what goes - you will already have boxes for the stuff that needs to go and you can clean the things as you put them away in the new home.
posted by like_neon at 9:08 AM on September 20, 2016

Here's a plan for you. It might not be the best plan but I know that when I'm overwhelmed, I just need a very detailed plan to help me out.

Get supplies
- a big trash can
- lots of trash bags
- boxes
- big sharpies
- duct tape
- packing tape

Schedule a cleaner/helper to come out on Day 2 (my housecleaner will help me sort and pack stuff, see if you can find one that will do that too. Or a college kid can be great for this)

Call the estate sale people asap and have them come out and take a look. They'll have good tips for you - you may be trying to do much more than you need to for them.

Day 1------
Step 1
1. Clear off a table somewhere in the house - just move stuff to the floor, don't even think about it.
2. Go to the room with the least amount of stuff and literally just shove it all to the walls to create a space to work in.
3. Put the table there.
4. Put the trash can in there with a bag
5. Look around the room and identify 3 categories of stuff (we're going to work in 3's or less, never more than 3). They could be books, clothes and trash. Or trash, magazines, and shoes. Whatever grabs your attention is fine.
6. Pick out everything that fits into one of those three categories and put them onto the table into 3 piles. If one of the categories is trash, throw that right into the trash.
7. Don't think, just pick and pile right now.
8. Once you're done with those 3 categories, look at one pile at a time and do the "Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash" thing. Box or bag and label (use the duct tape and sharpies for this) appropriately. (Don't worry about efficient use of boxes and bags at this point - if a category is done but the "donate" bag or box for it is only half full, go ahead and close it up and label it anyway. Small victories like this will keep you motivated!)
9. Take the "donate" stuff to your car.
10. Take the trash out if needed.

Take a break. Drive that stuff to the donation center or grab a soda and sit on the front steps for a few minutes.

Step 2
1. Go through steps 5-10 with the next set of 3 categories.
2. Take another break (this is really important or else you won't "see" the categories anymore, everything will just be an overwhelming pile of stuff.)

Step 3
1. Repeat Step 2 until there is enough floor space cleared up, then designate one wall for "keep" stuff and the opposite wall for "sell" stuff. Move the stuff from under the table to those spots. Don't worry about sweeping/cleaning right now.

Step 4
Repeat Step 2 until you are about 75-80% ready to flip out/burn the house down and then just stop for the day (or at least take a 2-3 hour break). You need to pace yourself, you're running a marathon, not a sprint here.

Day 2------
Now is when the momentum can start.

At this point, you can either identify 3 categories from another room and bring them to the table in the first room or you can bring the table to the first room. Just always put the "keep" and "sell" stuff in the first room.

Here are things your helper can do for you:
- once you have defined the 3 categories, they can help you pile onto the table (or do it themselves while you take a break)
- they can take boxes/bags out to the trash or your car
- they can start cleaning the easy/obvious stuff like the kitchen (cleaning out the fridge, boxing up food to donate, etc.) and bathroom
- then, as you finish rooms, they can clean

Here are some rules
- only 3 categories at a time
- go through all of the steps for each of those every time or else you'll feel like you're on a hamster wheel
- breaks are mandatory
- don't be afraid to tell your helper what to do but, at the same time, don't micromanage. If they're making progress then let them do it the way they want to.
- if you are using your car to take stuff to the donation center, drive it there as soon as it's 75% full. Don't start piling up stuff to "take later" unless you are going to have someone come out with a truck and take it all at once.

So that's about it. Once you start freeing up some space to move and work in, things will go really fast. Keep at it and don't forget to take those breaks!
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:38 AM on September 20, 2016 [9 favorites]

We did movers first, then cleaners, as we figured (correctly) that the movers wouldn't care if the place was a mess.
posted by Mogur at 9:43 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been that mover/packer who doesn't care, fwiw.

I have also been the one to spec out a packing job and say "You don't want us, you want an estate cleanout service. Here's the biz card of the folks we work with, and we're used to working with them and can work simultaneously." They are often called foreclosure cleanout services these days, too - I started seeing that branding more often circa 2007.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 9:51 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Call the estate sale people asap and have them come out and take a look. They'll have good tips for you - you may be trying to do much more than you need to for them.

I can't emphasize this enough. We worked with an estate sale company some years ago, and they had connections—like, they'd do the estate sale, and then they had a connection with a junk dealer who came at the end of the sale and took everything that was left. They had connections for jewelry and art that might be valuable enough to pull out of the estate sale and sell separately, and connections for people who hauled off old fabric stuff to turn into rags.
posted by not that girl at 10:21 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

i'm firmly of the pack then clean camp. why clean before you pack? just throw stuff out as you go.

cleaning an empty place is easy. cleaning around stuff you want to keep/pack then cleaning again after its out seems like a waste of time and resources.

and yes, i've packed up some pretty awful places.

Do estate sale companies handle this kind of thing? Even if the house isn't remotely close to clean?

This is literally what they do, and if you're willing to go that route, this basically becomes one of those "ask the lawyer" questions where the professional you need to talk to is them. They will have done this before, a lot.

I've only handled this from the self-service perspective, which is why i recommended what i did. If they say to clean/pack/clean and you're willing to let them take the helm, i'd go for it.
posted by emptythought at 11:33 AM on September 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Please don't pack dirty things, you will hate yourself. This is an AWESOME opportunity to do right by yourself!

Cleaners. Packers. Clean the space again once empty. This is the only sane prescription based on the level of dust and grime you describe. Seeing your things dusted and cleaned will help you sort what to pack and what to sell/donate/discard.

Be kind to yourself. Get a professional deep clean before you get started.
posted by jbenben at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I definitely recommend contacting the estate sale people first! My grandma did essentially what you're talking about while she was still alive (so it wasn't an estate, but she was downsizing from a ginormous mansion-type house to a small assisted living unit and did not want to store whatever family was not going to take). They hooked her up with this awesome woman -- not sure if she was employed by the company or simply a professional organizer who they recommended. Basically she came and helped her sort through everything into piles for "giving to family" "moving with me" "try to sell" and "trash." Obviously you could customize that based on what you need. Having someone go through it with her worked really well and made it all less emotional and easier. I can't remember what she did in terms of movers/cleaners and the schedule of that, but I think the estate/organizer type people could tell you what tends to work well -- after all, they see this every day vs. your one experience doing it!
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:44 PM on September 20, 2016

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