If your family members are unable, or unwilling, to help clear out a house after someone dies, you may be struggling to find people who can assist. Luckily, there are other options out there to consider if you are clearing out the house on a budget. Take a look at these five different options for finding good volunteers for a house clean-up job - and make sure to take appropriate safety precautions (such as beefing up your insurance, and having volunteers sign waivers).
If you have close friends you truly trust, they may be just the compassionate helpers you need. But before you ask, assess how helpful each of your friends will likely be during a highly stressful and emotional time in your life. For example, if Mona gets distracted easily or is particularly chatty, she may be a better fit for a task like returning phone calls.
Additionally, try not to recruit a friend who may experience trauma from cleaning the house. For example, if your loved one died from dementia and your friend's parent has recently been diagnosed with a similar illness, they may not be the best person to ask.Your Personal Groups or Organizations Expand your “friend” circle. Do you play softball on Wednesday nights? How about your book club? Go to groups you regularly interact with to see if members are willing to help clear out the house, even if only for a day or two. If you are also grieving during this time, working alongside people you know may help you stay connected socially instead of withdrawing into mourning.
If you attend religious services, consider reaching out to people in your religious community. Even if you do not attend a local church or other religious service, there may be a church in your community willing to provide assistance. Some churches even have specific programs for community outreach. Clearing out a house is a straightforward physical job that has appeal for someone looking for community service, or for a youth group trying to raise money for a trip.
Government Agencies and Volunteers
Government-funded programs can provide help at no charge. Human relief agencies can also be helpful when cleaning out hazardous environments, such as extreme hoarding situations or houses plagued by mold. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has many programs throughout the country that are searchable on their website. They can also refer another service to help you if they are booked up.
Service-Oriented Organizations and Clubs
Local service organizations such as Kiwanis or Ruritan were founded specifically to assist people in need. Research what kind of service-oriented clubs are in your area, then look up past projects the clubs have done and ask around about their reputation. Is the chapter known for their altruism or just for social events? Check their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to see if the organization truly reflects a service-oriented mission. Have they cleared out other houses? Once you’ve narrowed down your search, call to ask if they would be willing to help on your project.
Helpful Tips for Clearing Out a House After Someone Dies
- Make sure everyone has the right supplies and safety equipment. Check out this list to find out what you need.
- Look for volunteers who want to help you – not get free stuff. People who really want to help you will lend a hand without any selfish expectations.
- Don’t call in too many volunteers. Having a team larger than five is challenging to manage, and increases your risk of liability.
- Thank your volunteers frequently! We suggest thanking everyone at every work break. This boosts morale for the entire group and helps keep up positive energy during a mournful and stressful clean-up. Sending a handwritten thank-you note after the job is complete shows your sincere appreciation of their physical and emotional support.
Try any or all of these options – you can mix and match groups to help clear out the house a few days at a time with each group. Make sure you have a plan in place before everyone starts, and keep your project rolling smoothly to the end.