The things left behind, the important documents and endless paperwork and yes, the clutter… what to DO with all that after someone passes away?
This is a topic I really never WANTED to talk about, but I have to. There are SO many of you, my beautiful readers, who have lost someone dear to them and just can’t seem to declutter anything since that loss.
Losing someone you love is not only heart-breaking – it is traumatic. There is nothing in life like trauma and loss to totally pull the rug out from under you and turn your world upside down!
I don’t care if the loss was 3 DAYS ago or 3 YEARS ago – grief does NOT have a specific timeline that everyone follows.
In short, there is no right or wrong way to feel or act after you experience someone you love passing away.
While I can’t stop the pain you are feeling, maybe I can give you some tips and tricks to help you declutter the sentimental items, the paperwork and other items your loved one left behind…
AND – some suggestions to help you prevent your ‘normal’ daily STUFF from piling up on YOU while you are going through the grieving process.
If this is as far as you can read today – HUGS to you.
I hope tomorrow will be a better day for you.
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I have read countless emails from my dear sweet readers who have suffered loss – and are now drowning in clutter.
Not just the things the deceased left behind, but also in their own clutter that grew from floor to ceiling while they were healing from the loss.
I have people tell me things like…
“I couldn’t MOVE or deal with ANYTHING day-to-day related after he died.
Not only did his stuff sit there, but my own mail and clutter piles grew and grew and GREW – until I was unable to even THINK of a way to get my home, and my life, back together.”
What’s even worse, my employer only gave me one WEEK off from work to deal with it all.
I was SO overwhelmed… and alone dealing with the business end of her dying AND my own debilitating grief.
I couldn’t even LOOK in her closet or kitchen without falling to pieces!
My only choice was to hire a cleaning company to come in and get rid of all her stuff for me.
I couldn’t watch.
I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven myself either.
The guilt over throwing things away was devastating.”
“I was in the process of making a quilt for my daughter when she suddenly died. My life became a depressed cluttered mess ever since – I seriously live in a hoarder situation now! I can’t get rid of ANYTHING all because that unfinished quilt is still in my craft room and she’s gone. It’s been 8 years now… HOW do I get rid of that quilt so I can start decluttering my life!?!?”
Those are just 3 stories I’ve been told of MANY… and each one breaks my heart.
I’ve personally witnessed those dear to me go from neat, organized and “together” people to drowning in clutter after experiencing loss.
On the flip side, I’ve seen loved ones who USED to be cluttered and messy turn into NEAT FREAKS after someone they loved died.
We each have our own unique way of processing grief – there’s no such thing as the right way or wrong way to do it.
Some times, hidden underneath the obvious grief is a feeling of loss of control over life.
Some feel the need to seize control and declutter EVERYTHING quickly…
Others just give up – feeling as if they have no control over anything.
No matter how YOU process it – it’s ok… you’re “doing it right”.
To get through grief YOU need to do what YOU need – not what anyone else tells you that you SHOULD need, or SHOULD do… or SHOULD feel.
Grief is personal – do NOT let anyone make you feel bad or guilty for how YOU are while you are grieving.
Just a note: Going through a divorce can feel very similar.
Loss is loss.
And sadly, loss ALWAYS leaves STUFF behind.
When my kid’s dad and I divorced, I grieved for the death of that relationship and that time in my kid’s life of having 2 parents in the same house.
(yes, I piled guilt on myself lol!)
I had ALL this STUFF from my now dead marriage that I simply could NOT deal with.
For example – PICTURES.
I seriously wanted to throw it all away – but I felt that my kids might someday want some or all of those memories.
So, I piled ALL those pictures and mementos into a BIG plastic tote box…
and shoved it in a closet so *I* would now have to see it – or deal with it.
I used to call the box ‘The Big Box of Trauma’ (humor is my coping mechanism haha!)
But now, many years later, my kids and I sometimes pull out The Big Box and go through those pictures together… and it’s a GOOD thing.
If you also have all those pictures and mementos that remind you of your lost loved one, don’t feel bad piling them all into a container and shoving them in a closet somewhere.
When you’re ready and you’ve healed – they will be right there for you.
You do NOT have to do anything with them until YOU are ready.
Same with sentimental items – the RIGHT time to deal with those items left behind is when YOU are ready to.
When my neighbor’s Dad died, she kept (and wore) his favorite sweatshirt for YEARS.
It was so comforting for her as she went through the grief process.
Then one day, she had this overwhelming clarity that it was time to let it go.
Do you know what she DID with that sweatshirt?
She gave it to a homeless man.
Literally just handed it to him.
She told me she felt “lighter” after doing that… and at peace.
I hugged her SO tight after she shared all that with me – what a beautiful tribute to her late father!
When it comes to decluttering sentimental things after someone dies – decluttering THEIR stuff – you do it when YOU are ready.
Even if you HAVE to clean out their house, etc because you are on a time limit, if it’s things of theirs you truly don’t know what to do with (or can’t emotionally deal with), find a way to store it somewhere until you ARE ready.
You can NOT force yourself to do this… it doesn’t work out well at all.
Actually, it magnifies the trauma and can make things WORSE.
When my friend’s teenage son died suddenly and tragically, he and his wife left the son’s room EXACTLY as he left it that day he never came home.
That room stayed exactly that way for YEARS.
He (the Dad) asked me if I thought it was “weird” that they left his room that way and if they were doing it “wrong”.
“Does it help YOU?”
He said it helped him and his wife SO much but others told them it was “time” to let go.
I told him to ignore ANYONE telling him it was ‘time to let go’ –
It was a bunch of selfish CRAPOLA that only makes things worse by piling guilt on top of the grief.
There is NO right time – and NO right way – to go through the grief process and be ‘over it’.
Those are things people say to make themselves more comfortable AROUND someone who is grieving – it has nothing to do with what’s best for YOU (the person who IS grieving).
Always remember that!
The most important thing you can TRY to declutter is your immediate surroundings.
Your bedroom, your spot in your living room, your kitchen… those are your SAFE places.
Do everything and anything you can manage to keep clutter to a minimum while you go through this life-changing process.
Clearing your personal space will HELP with your healing process.
If you neglect it for too long, you could end up like this:
An middle-aged neighbor of mine lost her husband about 10 years ago.
After that, she pretty gave up.
Clutter and trash and STUFF are now piled from floor to ceiling in ANY area or room you look in.
She managed to clear a narrow path through her clutter to get around her house – and that was it.
It was heart-breaking.
But no one changes until they’re ready to.
“We remain the same until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change”
Read that quote above over and over until you truly get it.
You will know, within yourself, when it is TIME to tackle any of the clutter and stuff your loss has left in its wake.
When you get that first spurt of motivation, seize the moment and do something – even if it’s just throwing a few things out or going through ONE box or drawer.
Your life – your happiness – your future are NOT determined by how fast you get rid of your late loved ones things – there is no time limit on that at ALL.
Just be sure to take care of YOU and YOUR immediate living space in while you heal.
Please don’t open your eyes one day and find yourself covered in clutter that has become a task you have no clue how to deal with.
It may not seem important NOW, but please be mindful of YOUR mental well-being and surroundings.
Do it for YOU –
YOU deserve it!
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