Cleaning out an elderly parent’s house is difficult manual labor. Add the emotional weight of sorting through years of fond memories and it can be overwhelming.

Whether you’re embarking on a solo job or have the help of family members, it helps if you can approach the project as a professional, estimating the scope of the work and stocking up on the key supplies that will keep the project moving forward.

Assessing the Job

Go through every room and roughly estimate a measurement of its contents in terms of cubic yards. It’s not a precise calculation, but a cubic yard is about the size of a dishwasher.

So make a mental note of approximately how many dishwashers’ worth of stuff is in each room of your parent’s home. Then separate all of the items into four piles: trash, donate, sell and keep. That way you can estimate a volume for each group and plan your supplies accordingly.


Checklist For Cleaning Out Elderly Parent’s House

moving boxes for cleaning out elderly parent’s house

__ Boxes (or bins)

One cubic yard will fill 3 small moving boxes. Some people prefer clear plastic bins because you can see what’s inside them, but we use boxes because they’re less expensive. Plus, it’s easier to drop boxes off at donation centers and local charities than it is to unpack and reuse plastic bins.


__ Packing Tape

Get one large roll (with a handled dispenser) for each room.


__ Trash Bags

A 50-gallon trash bag will hold 1 cubic yard of material. Make sure to use bags that are at least 3 millimeters thick. Thinner bags will tear, creating even more work. We plan for one 25-count box of trash bags per room.  


__ Work Boots or Shoes

All footwear should be leather with hard soles that nails can’t penetrate and toes that can withstand something dropping on your foot—because something is always going to drop on your foot.


__ Water

This is hard, physical work, and it’s easy to get dehydrated. No energy drinks or caffeine, bring a case of water for each day and expect to drink four to five bottles of water per person per day. Sports hydration drinks also taste amazing after cleaning all day.


__ Large Glass Jar or Fishbowl

These are for collecting the inevitable loose change you’ll find as you clean, and you’ll be amazed at how many coins you’ll find in your parent’s house. We use glass so everyone can hear when coins are dropped into it. That helps build momentum.


__ Sharpies

These are indispensable, and everyone should have several of them because they’ll be put down and misplaced throughout the day. We use both silver and black (the silver shows up on black trash bags), and we suggest starting every day with three of each color in your pockets.


__ Ground Tarps

Weather permitting, we prefer to do any sorting outside. Tarps protect the items from dirt and grass stains. We use large tarps, either 6’ x 8’ or 10’ square. You can find them in a hardware or home improvement store’s paint aisle.


__ Portable Storage Units

These are optional. If there’s no yard or the weather isn’t suitable for working outside, storage units can be used as a work area for sorting and packing.


__ Miscellaneous Items

It’s helpful to have some folding tables, rakes, cleaning rags, and trash cans on hand. A small pocket knife is also helpful for opening boxes.

Be Prepared When Cleaning Out Elderly Parent’s House

If you are cleaning out an elderly parent’s house, start the job with enough of the right supplies to save time and energy. You don’t want to have to keep running out for odds and ends, and work won’t stop just because you ran out of boxes.