If you’ve recently lost a loved one, the thought of dealing with their belongings surely feels overwhelming. Oftentimes, we don’t have anyone to guide us about such matters, so naturally, decluttering as a bereaved person takes a toll on your healing journey.
If you’re faced with this unfortunate task of decluttering precious items of a deceased loved one, you’re in the right place.
In this post, I’ll share some tips on how to declutter after someone passes away. I hope this information helps make the process a little bit easier for you. Read on to complete this daunting decluttering process.
Decluttering Process of a Deceased Person’s Belongings
Decluttering the home of a loved one after he or she passed away, maybe one of the hardest tasks there is. In a short amount of time, you need to make really difficult decisions. And many items will trigger emotions and memories.
Therefore, it’s important to have a plan in place so you don’t have to make difficult decisions during an already emotional time.
Also, it’s important to decide who should be responsible for decluttering the home and if it’s you, see if you can get someone else’s help. Perhaps you have siblings?
Whatever you do, make sure you take enough time to enter this decision-making process and decide when you’re mentally ready to experience this daunting task.
Tips to Make This Decluttering Process Easier
Decluttering after a death can be a complex and emotional process, but it doesn’t have to be physically tiring. Here are some ways that may help make the decluttering process a little easier:
1. Start With The Most Accessible Room
You may want to start with the least sentimental room in the house when you declutter the items belonging to your loved one. This room can be the kitchen or storeroom.
In my experience, the bathroom is the easiest place to start. When my mother passed away, my sister and I chose to work through one space at a time, starting with the bathroom. Over the weeks, we worked our way through the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, and lastly, the living room.
We saved our mother’s clothes and jewelry for last because those were harder to decide on and triggered more emotions. We also took a lot of boxes with pictures, cards, and more personal items back to our own homes to sort through. Those were even more emotional and we wanted to have time to process those.
Starting with the least sentimental room will help get your process started and give you a sense of accomplishment. Since sorting personal belongings after someone is gone can bring happy and unpleasant memories along, don’t overburden yourself.
2. Set Aside Time
Dedicate a certain amount of time each week to decluttering. This will help prevent the task from becoming overwhelming and time-consuming. But if you want to do this all in one go, that’s also perfectly fine.
Just make sure your schedule is easy-to-follow, and divide the whole project into smaller tasks you can manage one at a time. When my mother passed away, my sisters and I blocked a few dates in our calendars to come and help my father sort through stuff. He prepared for our visits by collecting some categories of items and placing them in one room, so we could decide what to do with them.
3. Create 4 Piles: Keep, Toss, Donate And Sell
One way to declutter after a loved one passes away is to go through the deceased person’s belongings and categorize them into different groups: things to keep, donate, sell, and throw away.
Keep items that are precious or have sentimental value. You may want to create a memory box with some of these sentimental items or display them in your home as a way to keep the person’s memory alive.
These treasured items may include pieces of clothing, pictures, cards, jewelry, and anything that reminds you of their scent or style. If you’re going through the grieving process after losing your spouse, give yourself enough time to go through their belongings. You’ll feel a range of emotions looking at your deceased spouse’s belongings and the memories associated with them.
Toss anything that is broken, damaged, or no longer serves a purpose. This includes items like old clothes, outdated electronics, and expired food.
This category should also include the personal belongings of your loved one and anything that can trigger negative emotions about the person who is gone.
Start with half-used or old items like toiletries, grooming essentials, and other stuff that we don’t share with others.
If you want people to remember your loved one, the best way is to donate their usable items. Donating will ease your cleaning-out process and help those who receive the donation.
If the deceased person used to live alone, you’ll have more practical items to donate. For example, used electronics, bedding essentials, and crockery make good donation items. Remember to donate items to charity organizations that are still in good condition and clean. This might include furniture, books, clothes, and everyday life items that belonged to your loved one.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to designate certain people you want to donate specific items to. That makes it easier to part with the items. If you have a lot of items to donate, you may consider making an appointment with a charity organization or a thrift store. Many times they’ll come and pick stuff up for free.
If you’re left with the task of managing the meaningful or valuable items of a deceased person, make a category to sell. This category of items should include larger items like furniture, electronic equipment, expensive personal belongings (such as gold or diamond jewelry), collectibles, or tools.
Sell any items of value that you don’t want to keep but that someone else might be interested in. You can organize a yard sale, or you can sell items on Craigslist or eBay. This will help you to be more efficient in your decluttering and healing process.
If there are family heirlooms in the deceased person’s belongings, set them aside and discuss this situation with other family members to decide their fate.
4. Be Honest With Yourself
Be honest about which items you are actually going to use or display. There is no point in keeping something if it is just going to sit in a box in the attic.
For example, you can display photo albums that contain happy memories of your late spouse. But you’re unlikely to keep their work-related stuff for long, especially if it takes up a lot of space. So, be honest with yourself at this point, and don’t let current emotions impact you.
5. Let Go Of Perfect
Don’t try to make the perfect decision about every item. There will be some items that you are just not sure what to do with. In these cases, it is best to err on the side of letting go instead of making them a constant reminder of your grief.
If there are tons of photos and you don’t know what to do with them, here are some photo decluttering ideas for you.
6. Cherish the Memory
As you declutter, remember your loved one and the happy memories you shared together. This will help you to let go of items that are no longer needed, like greeting cards, daily life things, and worn-down items.
By following these tips, decluttering a deceased loved one’s home can be a little less daunting.
And remember, you can always ask for help if you need it. Many people have been through this process and are more than willing to help. So don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand!
It’s Time to Start this Emotional Task
Decluttering after a loved one passes away is emotionally challenging, but it is also a meaningful way to say goodbye. By taking the time to remove unwanted items and clean up the home, you can create a space that feels both peaceful and respectful.
- First, take some time to sort through your loved one’s belongings and decide what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away.
- Next, begin by starting with the easiest spaces and items and work your way up to the more difficult and emotional spaces and items.
- Finally, remember to take breaks and ask for help from friends and family.
By following these steps, you can declutter your loved one’s home in a respectful and efficient way. If you have things to declutter that we didn’t cover in this guide, you can still follow these tips.
If you understand your emotional attachment to different things and don’t force yourself to throw them away or keep them, this phase will become less draining. Just put the difficult items aside and give them another look later in the process.
Allow yourself time to grieve and take comfort in knowing that you are honoring your loved one’s memory in your own way. Hopefully, this information will help you declutter the home of your loved one.
I wish you all the strength and wisdom in such a challenging time!
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