Organizing can be very helpful in times of transition. Unfortunately, one of those times can be after the death of a loved one. The death of a spouse or partner can be a devastating event in one’s life, and it can bring about many changes. Sometimes, this may result in a move to a new location. I have helped many widows and widowers in the process of sorting through their late loved one’s belongings as they declutter and simplify to prepare for a move.
The grief and emotion surrounding a death of a loved one can be very overwhelming. If possible, it is usually best to wait until the widower or widow is ready to sort through and let go of some of their spouse’s belongings. Unfortunately, if a move is planned soon, this may not be the case. Everyone grieves differently; I’ve had some widows ready to sort through things just a couple of weeks after their spouse’s death, while others are ready after a few months, and others after many years. When you begin to sort through a late spouse’s belongings depends on many factors, but you may find that working side-by-side with a professional organizer to guide you in the decision making process will be of great help.
Here some of my tips when sorting through your late spouse’s belongings:
Determine How Much Space You Will Have
If you are moving to a smaller home, independent living, assisted living or a retirement home, look at the floor plan, square footage of the new space, and available closet space to truly determine how much space you have to keep some of your loved one’s belongings. Once you have a clear space limit, it will be easier to narrow down how much you can keep.
Sort Items By Type
Before getting rid of anything, sort your late spouse’s belongings by type. For example, gather all of his hats together, all of his sweaters together, etc. At that point, if there are pieces of clothing that you hold the most dear, select a small number from each category to keep, a number that will reasonably fit in your place. Select the items that you have the strongest attachment to.
Take a Part of a Collection
If your spouse was a collector, only keep a small sampling of that collection, the one or two best pieces that can represent the collection.
Remember You are Not Throwing Away a Memory
When you give something away, keep in mind that you are not throwing away a memory, you are just letting go of an item that you do not need to use in your life at this time. Your memories of your spouse will always be with you.
Give to Others
Seeing others benefit from your late spouse’s belongings may make it easier for you to part with things. For example, if you have a family member who loves golfing, and you give your spouse’s golf clubs to that person, you know they will be appreciated and used. If your spouse had a large collection of clothes, and there’s a shelter in need of clothing donations, you will feel better knowing that the items that have been taking up space in your closet are now being worn by those in need.
Take Your Time
This process can be extremely painful emotionally, so if you are not under a time constraint to move, take your time going through these things. Do not plan to do this all in a day, because after an hour or two, you may be exhausted from making so many decisions, so know that it is alright to do a little bit at a time.
Take Care of Yourself
Self care is very important when going through a process like this. Rest or treat yourself after you’ve done a little bit of decluttering of your late spouse’s belongings. Whether that’s going out with friends, or watching your favorite movie, do something to reward yourself for taking these steps.
If you need assistance with decluttering after your spouse has passed away, a member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals may be able to assist you. If you live the Raleigh, North Carolina area and would like my guidance and assistance, please feel free to contact me.