Looking around a three-room apartment in Tokyo's eastern Edogawa Ward, remnants of its deceased owner's life are everywhere: yellowing family photographs, a black hairdryer caked in dust, old ¥100 notes and stacks of papers, magazines and books (including one titled "The I Hate to Housekeep Book").

With gloved hands, staff members of a cleaning firm called Bxia are sifting through the various accumulated possessions and packing them into cardboard boxes. A 76-year-old woman had died here alone, only to be discovered several months later. Instructions from her estranged daughter who hired the firm are written on a piece of paper stuck to the wall.