I was recently asked to speak about a recent organizing project that I am fond of. I have to say, hands down, the answer is Grandma’s house.

A few months ago, my team and I were asked to assist an out-of-state family to prepare their late mom/grandma’s home for an estate sale. This is a fairly common situation for professional organizers when families live far away from one another, and they are seeking help with estate organizing and clear-outs.

What is uncommon was what we found in Grandma’s house.

You see, Grandma had many hobbies and was an avid collector of dolls, flamingos, quilts, and other items. Being from the Greatest Generation, she didn’t throw things away because they might be useful later. She was also a meticulous record-keeper, with receipts going back to 1978!

Grandma’s house was full of surprises. We discovered an attic above the garage that the family didn’t know about. It was full of treasures. Then we discovered another attic above the shop. The day after that, we found a third storage shed (also full) hiding under blackberry vines in the backyard. The home was slowly revealing secret spaces that had gone untouched for many years.

Then came the best surprise.

One day, as we were sorting and organizing Grandma’s linens, we came across something that you don’t traditionally find in a linen closet: $10,000 in cash. We also found over $600 in loose change that we had evaluated by a coin shop, then deposited at the bank for the family.

Organizing Requires a Plan for Disposal, Donation, and Sales

We learn new organizing skills with each organizing project. This time, we learned the procedure for selling firearms, which companies ship pianos out of state, and never to imagine that we’re completely done with a project (there just might be one more attic or shed lurking!).

This project took us 243 hours total. There was a huge volume of items, especially paper, in Grandma’s home. We scanned and sent important documents to the family, and packed 10 small boxes of memorabilia to ship with the piano. We also helped prepare for the 4-day estate sale, put on by A Clean Slate PDX, a fantastic local estate sale partner.

A Clean Slate PDX Review


Here’s what we did with the rest:

  • Recycled 35 lawn and leaf bags full of paper
  • Shredded another seven boxes of paper
  • Recycled 15 bags of fabric
  • Donated 161 lbs of food to the Oregon Food Bank
  • Donated 150 bags and boxes of items to the Vietnam Veterans of America
  • Drove two SUV loads of warm clothes, shoes, and supplies to a women’s and children’s shelter
  • Took half a carload of art supplies to SCRAP PDX
  • Donated 25 boxes of books and one box of costume jewelry to the Hillsboro library
  • Donated three boxes of milk glass, crystal and a quilting rack to the Assistance League of Greater Portland
  • 10 pairs of eyeglasses found new homes at the local senior center
  • Bags of supplies benefited Medical Teams International
  • A 24’ foot truck full of tools, furniture and household items to Habitat for Humanity
  • Several carloads and one truck and trailer load of items to Goodwill.
  • We gave away three boxes of liquor to neighbors, a very happy letter carrier and recycling hauler!
  • Our estate sale partner company also sold a car, jewelry, and over 2,000 additional items at an estate sale, grossing around $16,500 for the family.

We’ve also gotten to know the neighbors and Grandma’s friends who have stopped by the home to share stories about her life. She was loved by many. It’s a shame that we didn’t have the opportunity to meet Grandma while she graced this earth; however, we have come to know her well by respectfully sorting through a lifetime’s worth of possessions. It has been a great honor.

A Job Well Done

Grandma’s family is extremely pleased with our services. We spared them from taking months of vacation time, spending thousands of dollars traveling to Oregon, and most importantly, the emotionally overwhelming and painful task of sorting through their loved one’s home.

The cash we found in Grandma’s home, plus the proceeds of the estate sale, will more than cover our services.

From the family: “We really appreciate your help and are so glad that so many people in the community will benefit from Grandma’s things!”

Here are some photos of Grandma’s space. It was an honor to be of help! Grandma, we’re so glad we got to know you.

Whitney Zeigler

Outdoor area cleaning for estate sale Garage organized for estate sale Estate cleanout Estate clearout and preparation for sale Garage clean out Kitchen cleaned out for home sale Collectible consignment and sale Bathroom cleanout and donations to shelter

Bedroom Packed up for an estate sale

This room was full of old memories and mementos. Our team carefully packed up everything the family wanted and sold the rest at an estate sale.

Kitchen organizing for an estate sale

We emptied the fridge of its contents and organized all of this leftover paperwork!