Home Forums Challenges Sentimental Clutter Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

This topic contains 13 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  ritrgrrl 9 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #158221

    Not something I wish lots of people to have experience with, but do any of you have advice on decluttering after losing a spouse? It’s only been a month, so I don’t dare do it YET, but I’ve got probably six months tops to pack up this house and move to an apartment. I can’t/shouldn’t take most of his stuff, but I’m at a loss on how to decide what I want because I miss him and what I want because it might be truly useful in my new life.

    And when I’ve done it – what do I do with what’s left? I don’t know if I could emotionally handle a garage sale, with strangers picking over what’s left of my married life. Offer things to family/friends and donate the rest?

  • #160742


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    Wow, s.jennifer, first let me say that this must be incredibly hard for you and I’m very sorry for your loss.

    I lost a very close family friend when I was graduating from high school. He had been instrumental in my life and it remains the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with. It was very random the things that I saved from his home…a random lamp, some vintage sheets and tshirts, etc. In the end, the most important thing has remained the cards he gave me for birthdays and a photo of us when I was a toddler. There are a few other things that I’ve kept that remind me of him strangely (like the car emergency kit he gave me when I turned 18).

    I, too, think it would be hard to haggle with strangers over things that truly are not “junk” or “cast offs.” When you make decisions about his things, I think donating it might be best. Find a store you truly believe…there are lots of different thrift stores that support different causes (not all of them are just goodwill or savers). Maybe there is a shelter or other service in your area that might make good use of the household items, so you can feel that it’s truly going to good use.

    It’s probably okay to keep some things because you miss him and others because it’s useful. Try to separate “we had this together” to what actually holds a memory or is meaningful. Maybe the blender is something you just had together, whereas his afghan from college reminds you of him, etc.

    Best of luck…is there a friend or relative that could also help with this? It must be overwhelming and something where you could use a lot of support, as well.

  • #160749


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    simplyjennifer, My deepest sympathy. 6 months is not a long time to deal with your husbands possessions and move. I would suggest checking with your husbands parents and other family. I lost an adult son and the things that meant the most to me, his wife had no interest in. Thankfully, she let me have many of his childhood possessions.

    If that’s not the case with his family, then do whatever makes the most sense to you. Don’t feel bad about getting rid of his stuff. He would want you to be happy.

    Best of luck to you.

  • #160753


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    Wow, I am so, so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how hard this is for you already, but to have such a short time to have to deal with his things… My heart goes out to you.

    May I recommend getting a trusted friend or family member to help you with this (and a professional counselor to help you with your grief)? He or she could help you sort through the items and be a shoulder to cry on when an unexpected memory pops out at you during the sorting process.

    This may not work for you, but just in case: If you find something that you want to keep because of the memory, but really don’t want to have to store the object, consider taking a picture of it. Then every time you look at the picture of that object you’ll be reminded of that cherished memory without having to store the actual object.

    A family I know who lost their dad took all of his old clothes and had them made into quilts. Perhaps that’s another idea you could use?

    Above all, worry about sorting your feelings too, not just sorting his/your things. Some find that journaling helps… perhaps that could help you too. And may I suggest the Psalms from the Bible? Even if you’re not religious, they can be quite comforting—consider them poetry rather than scripture if that bothers you.

  • #160757


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    As a pastor, I empathize with your loss. While a spouse is very different than family members, I lost my father and grandmother within a year of each other. I had to handle both estates alone.

    What I learned is this: at first, just give yourself time to grieve. If you start uncluttering and it upsets you more, that’s not a positive result. If you really want to get started, just get rid of the things you KNOW you can do without, that are easy – for me it was medications, old papers, clothes that I knew I didn’t want or need. Some (like my fathers) I kept because I wanted to be close to something he owned and wore.

    Second, 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 60’s that was on my grandmothers door. She died three years ago. I was ready at certain times to say goodbye to certain things.

    Third, this will help the most I hope: once you’ve grieved for awhile, recognize that the objects you own that are his are NOT his love, or your relationship. They are simply things. Once you can say “This is not him, or his love for me. That will always be there, and I don’t need to hold this thing for that.”

    What I’ve kept is two small boxes – random collections of stuff, but those things which form the happiest connections to who they were. I love to go through the boxes now, because they make me smile and remember all the times we had together, and the stuff is no longer a burden.

    Good luck. God bless you.

  • #160758


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    I am sorry for your loss. I have a suggestion for clothing. After my Dad passed away, my Mom did the following. His pajamas were given to a daughter-in-law who transformed them into a stuffed bear that sits in the living room. His flannel shirts were turned into a quilt that covers her bed. The rest of his clothes were donated to Goodwill and family members. Good luck.

  • #160798


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I lost my husband in 1998 and had about a year before I moved. I definitely was not even close to ready to go through ANYTHING after a month. I actually kept his side of the closet and room as-were for about, well, until I started packing.

    It’s been 10 years now, and while I originally kept a lot of things, what has made it through the cuts is:
    his jewelry – watch, wedding ring (of course), his HS class ring (we were young)
    his favorite pair of jeans, favorite shirt, favorite hat.
    his jean jacket.
    his sports jersey.
    all of his artwork that I didn’t pass to friends.
    a few of my favorite shirts of his that I can wear now (to bed or whatever).
    his penny collection.
    a couple of books and cds that he loved.

    so really, I guess it’s not a lot, but it’s a few of the core thing that remind me most of him.

    Advice here is beyond hard, but I’d try to focus on getting rid of the easiest thing first (clothes with no specific memories, etc) and then just work towards the more meaningful things. Take your time and try to be as nice to yourself as possible.

    gmail calls me zalary, if you ever want to talk.

  • #160824


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    I am so sorryto hear about your loss. I agree with others in that its worth taking your time as much as you can and strting with stuff you know you won’t want to keep.

    You’ve really started me thinking about what I would do if I was in your situation (God forbid)and asked my husband what he would want. He agress that there isn’t much I should/would want to keep if that doesn’t sound odd. I would keep his wedding ring and maybe one of his silly t-shirts. I’d want himto keep my wedding ring. That’s about it. I wonder how differently I’d feel if it ever came to pass.

    Good luck with carrying on with what you have to do.

  • #160870


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    I just joined this group this morning and here it is early evening when I saw your post. We are both going through the same loss, at the same time. My husband died about a month ago, but I will not have to move from our home any time soon. Thank God for that. I would be a basket case if I did, so I know what you must be feeling. I was able to go through his clothes the first two weeks after he died. That did not bother me, but what really sent me into a crying jag was trying to write thank-you cards. Had to call for help from some of my family and I,m still not done. There lies my problem, putting off doing something I really have a hard time doing. My sister who lost her husband three years ago, was able to write those thank-you cards but still has not gotten rid of his clothes. So we are all different in how we handle grief.
    My thoughts and prayers go out to you. I know you will make it, as I know I will also.
    Oh yes, please ask for help from friends and family. When they make that offer “what can I do?”, tell them.

  • #160874

    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    I just wanted to thank you all for some wonderful suggestions. I also appreciate all the kind thoughts! 🙂

    Sharon – it’s funny – with my mom’s help, thank yous were a breeze, but I couldn’t even give away a winter coat he’d never even worn.

    And don’t even get me started on his video games and action figures. I know THEY need to go, but it just feels like I’m giving away his LIFE.

    Baby steps.

    Thank you all again.

  • #160875


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    I have yet to go done the basement where all his trains and cars are. Some will go to family, but will have to sell the rest. That shall be in the future and that will be hard to do. We are talking about many years of collecting and I bought him his first train our second Christmas.

  • #160886


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse


    Sorry for you loss. Sincerely. I have to share my mother’s story. My father died seven months ago and my mother has done a remarkable job giving away his clothes and things. On the day of the funeral, she actually asked me to throw away some of his things to make room for the family (I had a hard time doing that believe me). My grandmother died five years ago and her room in my mother’s house is almost exactly as she left it. I don’t get it, but that doesn’t matter because I know that both choices are correct for Mom. I know you’re on a schedule about moving, but please don’t feel that you have to please anybody but yourself.

    On a more practical note, when my grandmother sold her farm, she had an auctioneer sell the contents. She didn’t have to attend or haggle with anybody.

  • #160918


    Decluttering after Losing a Spouse

    Sharon & Jennifer, I’m so sorry for your loss. I don’t envy you, Jennifer, having such a limited amount of time to deal with things.

    When my sisters and I had to unclutter our mother’s things, we knew we couldn’t handle doing a yard sale either — so we hired someone to do it for us. The three of us went through everything and pulled out the things we wanted to keep. The estate sale people then priced everything and handled the sale at our home; at least one of us had to be there, but we didn’t have to deal with people picking through Mom’s possessions. Whatever money we made we donated to charity.

    One thing is key, though — get some help. Call family and friends who keep saying, “Is there anything I can do?” THIS is something they can do, they can help you through this.

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