After a close friend, family member or loved one passes away, it can be difficult to let go of his or her possessions because of the memories associated with those objects. It’s important to understand, however, that those memories originate with you and reside inside of you, in your heart and in your mind; you are the one who attaches feelings to objects left behind and imbues them with meaning.
Without you, those objects are just objects and nothing more. And even without those objects, you will still have the memories that you associate with them.
It’s also important to understand that there are risks with overly attaching yourself to a loved one’s possessions. For example, should something happen to any of those possessions due to a fire, a flood, a leak, an accident, etc., you risk feeling that you’ve lost the memory.
If you keep too many of a loved one’s possessions that you don’t have room for, you risk creating unwelcome clutter in your space. If you pay to keep a loved one’s possessions in long-term storage, it can be costly and it deprives you of the use and enjoyment of the items.
And keep in mind that possessions can be painful as well as pleasant reminders. We would strongly urge you not to keep items that engender bad memories, or, at the very least, restrict the number you keep and store them out of sight somewhere, so you don’t have to look at them on a daily basis.
To keep clutter at bay, we’d suggest only keeping a limited number of select items that reflect your loved one’s personality, positively embody his or her spirit or represent truly special memories.
Take photographs of the rest of the items to preserve the memories, if you feel the need, and let them go to places and people who can make use of them. Letting go may be easier if you remember that your loved one had the use and enjoyment of his or her possessions and would not want you to feel burdened or obligated to keep items you do not need, want or have space for.
Unless your loved one’s home needs to be sold or vacated quickly, my advice is to take your time organizing. It’s part of the grieving process, so sort through everything carefully to make certain that you don’t have any regrets later on.
Ask yourself the following questions when deciding what to keep. No one can answer these questions except you and it’s important that you do answer them to avoid keeping too many items or keeping items for the wrong reasons.
Be sure to check your loved one’s Will or with the Executor of the estate before you give away or dispose of anything to ensure that all earmarked items go to their designated beneficiaries. Here’s a few useful questions to ask yourself when dealing with possessions, and deciding whether to keep them or let them go – you could also check out our other recent post about dealing with ‘sentimental’ clutter.
- How would I like to remember my loved one?
- How would my loved one like me to remember him/her?
- If every item feels equally precious to me, what criteria am I going to use to decide which items to keep?
- How many items will be enough to help preserve the memory of my loved one?
- Does this item represent a general feeling that I have about my loved one or a specific memory?
- Does either the general feeling or the specific memory warrant holding on to this item?
- Do I believe that memories of my loved one will be forgotten if I let this item go?
- If I wasn’t afraid of forgetting a memory, would I be able to let this item go?
- Do I have enough space in my home to keep this item?
- If I keep this item, is it likely to become clutter?
- Do I like this item enough to display and/or use it?
- How much closet/cabinet/drawer/shelf/storage/display space am I willing to dedicate to keeping this item?
- Am I keeping this item because I feel guilty about letting it go?
- If I didn’t feel guilty, would I be able to let this item go?
- If I’m keeping this item solely because I feel guilty about letting it go, will I be creating the same problem for someone else in the future?