My mom's beloved stuffed baby seal — one of my gifts to her, and one of the few possessions of hers that I kept after her death.
Someone you love dies, and you grieve. And somewhere amidst the overpowering grief, the question arises: What am I going to do with all of the person's stuff?
I've been reading what some of my wise colleagues and others have written, and their advice mirrors my own. Two recurring themes are:
1. If at all feasible, take your time in going through your loved one's possessions. Don't get rid of things before you're ready to.
2. When you are ready, consider keeping a small number of very special things.
Lisa Montanaro is a professional organizer who, sadly, has had to grapple with this recently — and has written a thoughtful piece about it. Here's a bit of what Lisa wrote about organizing after the loss of a loved one — and I encourage you to go read the whole thing. It's not long.
My best advice is to take it slow and go at your own pace. ... Some clients only needed a few months, while others waited years until they took on the task of organizing their loved one’s possessions. Indeed, some clients only took on the project due to necessity – moving, selling a house, clearing room for new family member to move in, etc. ...This topic was also discussed on the Unclutterer forums. Among the many thoughtful comments, I especially resonated with those from Cole, a pastor, who wrote about his own experiences after both his father and his grandmother died. He wrote, in part:
I often tell my clients to choose items that embody the person’s spirit, remind you of details of his or her personality, or that carry special memories. There is no magic number of how many items to keep, but remember that sometimes less is more.
Over time, you will be able to let go of more. Don't be frustrated by not being able to let go of certain worthless objects — I just now got rid of an old mirror from the 60s that was on my grandmother's door. She died three years ago. I was ready at certain times to say goodbye to certain things.And, separately, Erin Doland of Unclutterer also addressed uncluttering after the loss of a loved one, saying in part:
You need to move at a pace that is right for you. Don’t feel pressured to part with things if you’re not ready.Erin also suggests keeping a limited number of items (once you are ready to part with things):
Find the handful of his things that you value most and that best honor your memories of him. You will instantly recognize these special items when you see them. ... Find a way to honor the treasured items you decided to keep. Frame and/or display these things so you can enjoy them. Let these wonderful objects continue to bring you happiness.
One Person's Story: Keeping the Memory of Our Loved Ones Alive
Not Clutter: The Odd Sentimental Items