To Keep or Not to Keep? Tips From a Home Downsizing Expert

Funeral Planning

Posted on February 05, 2013 by

What To Keep, Donate, Sell, and Discard When Cleaning Out a House of a Loved One

Following the passing of a loved one such as a parent, grandparent, relative or close family friend what do I do with all of their household items?

Since many people do not realize how to handle all of the various categories of things found in the common household and are overwhelmed with even beginning the process. To get you started, we spoke with Court Ebeling of Carter's Home Downsizing to get a room-by-room guide on what to Keep, Donate, Discard, Recycle, and Sell*. *Shredding is not mentioned below except for the office but confidential documents may be found throughout the household and should be reviewed closely and if they are not needed destroyed properly.


Keep: Cooking related items you truly need or could use to upgrade what you have in your own kitchen

Donate: Functional items in good condition or better – pots and pans, flatware, glassware, mixing bowls, etc. - canned goods and other food may be donated to the local food pantry

Discard: Anything chipped, cracked, broken or worn beyond use including china, glass, dishes, old food in the refrigerator and canned goods and packaged food with expired dates

Recycle: Dirty, discolored, rusty cooking pots and pans, worn utensils, out-of-date and non-functioning small appliances

Sell: Vintage cookware, Le Creuset pots and pans, Fiestaware, Stangl plates and bowls, etc.


Keep: Put family photos, heirloom jewelry and important personal paperwork in a safe place to take home to review more closely and distribute to the appropriate family members

Donate: Clothing, shoes, accessories, linens, books to local libraries and retirement communities, paperbacks to our soldiers, hotel toiletries to homeless shelters

Discard: Undergarments, old toiletries, old medicine, used/old makeup, no value items from the “junk drawer”

Recycle: Eyeglasses, old electronics, wire coat hangers to your local dry cleaner, towels and blankets to your favorite animal shelter

Sell: Vintage jewelry, Zippo cigarette lighters, coin collections, designer clothing to consignment shops

Living Room/Family Room/Den

Keep: Heirloom quality china, silver sets and artwork if desired

Donate: Lower value furniture, incomplete china sets, extra glassware, CD’s and DVD’s

Discard: Used candles, coasters, incomplete board games and puzzles

Recycle: Non confidential paperwork, magazines, newspapers, old greeting cards, soiled tablecloths and placemats

Sell: Crystal bowls, Hummel figurines,  Lladro figurines and related collectibles


Keep: Recent tax returns, home improvement records, current files

Donate: Old phones to our soldiers, outdated but working electronics to schools or charities

Discard: Office supplies that are no longer functional - Pens that don’t work, dried up erasers, etc.

Recycle: Obsolete fax machines, printers, power cords, old trade publications, ink cartridges

Sell: Furniture and higher-end electronics when updating/upgrading

Shred: Credit card statements, tax returns over seven years old, bank statements, old confidential business and related records


Keep: Family memorabilia, personal items and other heirlooms

Donate: Clothing, picture frames, low-value knick knacks, books in better condition to your local library

Discard: Worn out suitcases, baby cribs and car seats, anything low value damaged by the heat and cold from sitting for years that can’t be recycled

Recycle: Rusty bed frame rails, corroded metal fans, non-confidential paperwork

Sell: Antiques, old dolls, vintage toys and trains, sports, movie and political memorabilia


Keep: Better quality hand and power tools and related machines and equipment if truly needed

Donate: Children’s toys, exercise equipment, games in good condition or better

Discard: Damp, musty, moldy books and record albums, broken modern toys

Recycle: Outdated electronics, rusty tools, old wiring, non-functioning dehumidifiers

Sell: Duplicate or unneeded tools, musical instruments that are no longer used, vintage stereos


Keep: Better quality hand and power tools, shelving and storage bins if needed

Donate: Vases to your local florist, extra garden tools to your neighbors

Discard: Sports equipment in poor condition, toys missing parts or broken

Recycle: Junk metals, hazardous waste, paint, old bicycles

Sell: Lawn mowers and snow blowers on Craigslist and Kijiji, sort and sell boxes of unwanted things from parents, grandparents and relatives sitting for years

About the Guest Author

Court Ebeling Home DownsizerCourt Ebeling is the Owner of Carter’s Home Downsizing which serves the Bucks and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania and Mercer and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey.

Court works with clients to assist them in determining what to keep, donate, discard, recycle and sell and then puts a real plan in place to make it happen.

For more information on services by Carter's Home Downsizing, visit: or call 215-794-8585.

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