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Top 10 Lessons Learned from Cleaning Out My Parent’s House

Do you own a lot of stuff?

A few weeks ago, I spent six days clearing out my parent’s house. They both have recently transitioned into a senior care center and their house of over sixty years needed to be sold.

They were not savers nor did they have a big house, but they still had a lot of stuff. After all the furniture was given away, a 7′ x 21′ garbage bin was placed outside the garage. At the end of the week, it was completely full of stuff that nobody wanted.

It was a great physical, emotional, and spiritual exercise for me.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:21

Someday, all our stuff will be placed in a garbage bin and hauled away. Gadgets and mementos – collections and pictures that were meaningful to us will not be meaningful for others.

If our hearts were attached to what was accumulated or felt it was good to save things in case they are needed, it will be worth nothing or forgotten at the end of our days.

Top 10 Lessons Learned from Cleaning Out My Parent’s House

Here are my thoughts, reminders, and action items after spending a week clearing out my parent’s house after they have lived there for over 60 years:

  1. Everything that I possess in my house is not my own. It all belongs to God, and he doesn’t want anything back.
  2. Everything that I have valued and decided to keep over the years does not necessarily mean it will be valued by others. It’s okay to let things go.
  3. I will honor my children by not being lazy and leaving stuff for them to clear out when I’m gone, because that is hard work.
  4. I will honor my children and allow them to go through stuff and let them decide to keep it or not. If there is stuff that they don’t want, then there really is no reason for me to keep it.
  5. I will regularly set aside time to go through my stuff to toss or give away, so it won’t be an overwhelming task that is left undone.
  6. Stuff that could be considered valuable is rarely as valuable as I think it might be. Sell things of value while I am able if none of my children want to keep it.
  7. I will give away or toss everything that has to do with my profession. I will not let my children do that for me.
  8. I will carefully select pictures and mementos to keep until I die. Anything that is buried in desks, folders, or closets is not worth keeping unless I go through it regularly. I will spare my children the emotional burden and guilt of tossing personal items in the garbage.
  9. My health can deteriorate quickly. While I am mentally able, I will clearly communicate my desires to my children about how to handle my estate so there is no financial confusion that can easily tear apart family relationships.
  10. My health can deteriorate quickly. While I am physically able, I will ask my children if I am too much of a saver and with their help, toss or give away stuff that is collecting in my house. I will honor my children and not force them to do it after I am gone.

Treasure stored up in heaven is meant to be shared with others and the greatest treasure is the Word that creates and sustains faith. 

Stuff of earthly value is inherited by loved ones or given away. Heavenly stuff — God’s Word — is also meant to be given away. It will either be received gratefully by some or sadly, thrown away by many — not knowing its value until it’s too late.

Preparing my parent’s house for sale was a heart examination. It gave me a renewed perspective on stuff. More importantly, it refreshed what my heart ought to value most:


And a heart that treasures heaven will brim with praise and proclaim the message of salvation to others.

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