How to Manage Moving a Parent or Their Belongings After the Loss of a Parent

Moving a parent is accompanied with unique challenges and emotions. Here are some tips to get you through the process.

Guest post by Laura McHolm

Many of us are now, or soon will be, helping our parents downsize and move. Moving a parent is accompanied with unique challenges and emotions. And, one of the most difficult and trying times in life is losing a parent. The grieving process also often includes the horrendous task of sorting out and moving the cherished belongings from their home. I have experienced all of the above and it is a roller coaster of emotions.

Not only is there the task of sorting through a home lived in for decades, the task is compounded with item-by-item decisions: what stays, what goes to the parent’s new home, what goes to your home and to your siblings’ homes, what goes to storage and what goes to charity; all enveloped with the deep emotions that come from saying goodbye to a lifetime of belongings and a well-loved home full of treasured moments.

It is not easy boxing up memories. The organizational and physical tasks associated with planning and implementing such an emotional move can be overwhelming for the entire family. That’s why it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes, someone outside the family can be just the right figure to assist all of you through the transition.

Did you know there are actually professionals that can assist you? They guide families through the daunting process, showing you where to start, how to sort your parent’s belongings and then help you sell the valued items. After all, you shouldn’t go through it alone.

Here is some insight on these specialized experts, as well as tips to get you through the process and find closure.

Ask for Help

After walking through your parent’s home, I am sure your to-do list includes items like clean out the attic, sort out cherished collections, figure out what to donate, what to sell and what to keep. Your emotions are already running high and these to-dos are adding to them. Allow the pros to assist you through the steps and be by your side.

There are organizations, like the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM), that help you find and qualify a Senior Move Manager®. Did you know there was such thing? Well, there is! They specialize in assisting families with the daunting process of cleaning out a parent’s home, downsizing and moving items to a new residence. They successfully manage the move and any emotional trauma that comes with the transition.

Does your parent own valuable antiques and artwork that there just isn’t a place for? Local auction houses are another great resource for help. Auction houses, like Abell Auction, personally guide clients through the entire process of selling valuable belongings. First, they will evaluate and assess auction items, then remove the auction items in a discrete, non-disruptive manner and deliver them safely to their warehouse, where they will be stored and insured until auction. Finally, they auction the items off at their weekly or quarterly auction and send you a nice check. Qualified auction houses ensure their clients’ possessions get the care and return they deserve. An auction is often the best and most cost-effective way to sell that rare and valuable item.

There is emotional pain in having to sell cherished family belongings. So before you say goodbye, there is always room for a photo of the valuable on your phone. Snap photos to treasure later.

Share and Celebrate the Memories

For the items that are sentimental, keep them in the family by giving them to loved ones. Of course, first follow your parent’s wishes or the bequests your parents outlined in their will or trust. But for those items that aren’t included, here is a way for the treasure to get into loving hands. Don’t just divide the left over items into piles; why not throw a party in your parent’s home! It is a great way to celebrate your parent’s life in that home and shares the memories with family and old friends.

Ask each family member and friends to pick one (or more) of the items and take it home with them. I know one family who started dividing up the treasures with the oldest family member taking first pick, then worked their way to the youngest. Each family member picked one item and then it was the next in-line’s turn. They repeated the process until the belongings were divided up. Your parent’s beloved things will be in a home where you can visit them often and it will make closing the door on that home easier.

Remember, this journey is not an easy one. Be sure to lean on others for help and guidance. The process of sorting through your parent’s home is actually a healthy one. It allows you to remember; and if your parent has passed, it allows you time to grieve; and gives you the satisfaction of giving everything a new life. Providing closure on a well loved home and well lived chapters in your family’s lives.  


Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.

Sam is the Content and Multimedia Specialist for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. He is Jersey born and bred, and currently resides in Weehawken, NJ. He is an avid reader, loves Games of Thrones and is a New York Yankees die-hard.

You can follow him on Twitter @World_Shalom

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