Unfortunately, we will all lose someone we love at some point in our lives. The emotional struggle of grieving is often accompanied by another overwhelming task—managing the belongings of someone we hold dear. So in today’s episode I’ll give you three considerations when tasked with deciding what to do with a lost loved one’s physical belongings.
Allow yourself to acquire.
I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “This woman is a professional organizer, and she’s telling me to take on a bunch of stuff?! This flies in the face of all that is minimalism!” Except, dear friend, I am not a minimalist. I’ve tried it, and it didn’t work for me, especially when grief was involved. I want to step into this moment and give you permission to acquire more than you think you should—provided that it won’t cause you more distress to do so. I personally find it easiest to let others in the family have what they want, because it was never mine to begin with, and I only leveraged for ONE meaningful keepsake. I still received a few others and I’m so glad I allowed myself to acquire them, even though the pragmatic voice in my head was crying out to me to say no to all furniture and papers that would weigh down my renter’s lifestyle. But I love each thing I received after my sweet grandmother passed away, and I will cherish those items forever.
Give yourself time to process your grief.
It’s okay to give yourself literal years to navigate your grief and just store things that you received, provided it doesn’t financially harm you to do so. What I mean by this is don’t spend money storing things you can’t afford to store. Otherwise, take your time. You literally do not HAVE to make decisions on how to get rid of things right away if you have some capacity to store them, and you’ll feel better about the process of organizing a loved one’s belongings with a little space and time. Grief never goes away. Managing someone’s belongings is never easy. But time provides a lens of what items hold the memories that warm us to our core.
Don’t declutter memory items alone.
I suggest enlisting the help of a kind soul who either barely or did not know the person you lost to help you declutter items when you’re ready. This is not to push you to get rid of more than you want to. Instead, I recommend decluttering with another human so that you recognize which items make you want to tell a story to your helper—these are usually the items we have energy and memories deeply rooted into and the items that we truly want to keep. So take time. Tell stories. Serve them some tea or lemonade or cookies and remember the person you love so dearly as you sift through their belongings in your charge one by one. You’ll probably cry, but you’ll probably also smile, and that’s better to do with another human you love.
I hope that these three considerations serve you and give you permission to process your loss how you need to when you experience it, and remember, I am always glad to hear your memories and stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organized YOU! host Taylor Vogel is the Owner &
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