When parents pass away, there is usually only a small amount of time for you to go through their house and decide what you should keep and giveaway. If you don’t take care of it as soon as you can then you may end up stuck with a lot of junk that you don’t know what to do with.

As your parents get older, you and your family need to start thinking about what will happen to all of the stuff in their house. The truth of the matter is that no one wants to keep all of their parents furniture, china, nicknacks, artwork or trinkets. A wise thing to do as your parents start getting older would be to start going through their things with them and deciding what you need to give away. This will also make their passing easier on you and your family so you won’t need to worry about their things as much and you can just worry about mourning their death.

If you’re not prepared for their passing, then all of a sudden you’re left with a house full of junk, you might accidentally throw away some family heirlooms if you’re not careful.

According to Holly Kylen, financial adviser of Kylen Financials, “at least a half dozen times a year, families come to me and say: ‘What do we do with all this stuff?’”

Most of the things found in elderly people’s homes that were once worth a lot, are usually now worthless. For example, a lot of old mahogany furniture you may find at your parent’s or great aunts or uncle’s house are probably pretty close to worthless.

The prices for certain types of furniture have dropped so much that the resale price is nowhere near the amount your parents probably paid for them at the time.

Recent Generations

Stores like Ikea and Target cause newer generations to live much more minimally now than they did in previous generations like the baby boomer generation. People don’t have the emotional connection to certain things that earlier generations did. Recent generations are also a lot more mobile, which means they do not want a lot of heavier things holding them down and preventing them from new opportunities.

All of the books that lined your parent’s shelves will have to be given away or sold, because I doubt your grown kids are going to want them taking up un-needed space in their house. If the books are in good condition then you may be able to donate them to your local public library or sell them in a garage sale.

Nowadays, people are not going and picking out china patterns as they used to do. So now, children don’t know what to do with their parents’ old china. There are many places for you to donate your parents stuff, like Goodwill and Salvation Army, and both of those places rarely decline donations.

There are some kinds of home furnishings and possessions that may still attract buyers and collectors. For example, high-end pieces of furniture, nice jewelry, good artwork, and nice oriental rugs. A good example of high-end furniture is Eames chairs and Knoll tables. Many items that were from the Midcentury can still be resold for a decent value.

A lot of the older generations bought items that were mass produced, which decreases the resale because they do not hold value and go out of style pretty fast.


Nova Liquidation considers itself “the fastest way to cash in and clean out your estate.” They usually work in the Metropolitan areas of Washington D.C., Charlottesville, and Richmond Va. The way that Nova works is, an employee form the firm will show up, make an assessment based on the items in the estate, offer you a check and take everything away for you, including worthless items. This whole process usually takes around two days. This process is a lot faster than holding an estate sale.

If the client has a particular amazing piece of art, then Nova will broker it though an auction house. For everything else the company thinks they can sell, they take it all to a retail shop and discount the price a lot, which can get down to 75%. The company also donates a lot of the items from the estate.

Nova also does free consultations so they can see what services would be needed by the client.

Tips for Making this Process Easier

  1. Start going through things while your parents are still around to help. If your parents are still around, then you need to go back and collect the memories and stories from their things. This might actually help you sell some of the things that you thought you might not be able to or it might make you decide to keep some of the more meaningful things. Some of the things your parents have may come with an incredible story that you may never know if you don’t listen to them.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time to find a good seller. According to Fultz, “The longer you have to sell something, the more money you’re going to make.” This might lead to a cluttered basement or attic for a little bit, but it will be worth it in the end.
  3. Research online to find out if there actually is a market for your parents furniture, china, or crystal. If there is, then research how much you would be able to sell them for, or if an auction house would be able to help you sell things for you on consignment. You never know what kind of things people will buy or how much they will pay for it. So, if something looks like it could be expensive or it used to be very popular then you might as well give it a try. Always remember, something may be worthless to you, but it could be priceless for someone else.
  4. Get an appraisal for the jewelry. Once again, somethings may look worthless, but could actually be worth a good bit of money. For example, an old diamond broach that your mother or grandmother used to wear.
  5. Look into nearby consignment shops to sell some items. Or a liquidation firm.
  6. See if someone locally could use what you inherited. According to Kylen, “My dad had some tools that looked interesting. I live in Amish country and a farmer gave me $25 for them,” says Kylen. She also picked out five shelters and gave them a list of all the kitchen items she wound up with. “By the fifth one, everything was gone. That kind of thing makes your heart feel good.”
  7. Download the free Rightsizing and Relocation Guide from the National Association of Senior Move Managers. This helpful booklet is on the group’s site.
  8. Always be prepared for disappointment. Unfortunately, many of the things our parents cherished are no longer worth anything, so be prepared for anything that may happen.