Healthy Living

Organizing After The Death Of A Parent

02/08/2017 08:21pm ET | Updated February 9, 2017

One of the toughest things to organize is the client who has suffered a loss of a loved one. We all suffer from a death at some point in our lives. We all deal with it in different ways. Often grief and clutter go hand in hand. Along with all the planning of funerals and dealing with the financial estate there is also the possessions of the deceased. What if you are the person who must figure out what to do with all their stuff?

Remember that grief is different for everyone. You may be able to go through everything in a weekend and come up with a few items to keep. Your brother may not be able to make any decisions and keep everything for five years. And your sister may not show up at all. We are all different.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when going through the process.

Keep only what brings you joy. Chances are there are those few items that you truly love and the rest you are indifferent about. Really focus on the things that bring you the joy and be ok with getting rid of the rest. If you are the person where everything brings you joy, you may need reevaluate and come up with a scale of joy and keep only the top two percent. When my grandma had a collection of miniature porcelain animals that she kept on the top of the door frame walking into the kitchen. I would grab a chair and stand and look at those animals forever. When she died, I didn’t receive those miniatures, but if I did they would bring me joy.

Don’t let the stuff you keep overtake your space. I have seen entire rooms and basements in houses filled to the ceiling with deceased parents’ belongings. They just cannot move past getting rid of anything so they have sacrificed their home for this make shift homage to their departed family member. Piles of dusty books and records is not a good way to honor the person. Store what you have room for in a respectable way in the limits your space allows.

Don’t keep items because of guilt. Remember the possession is not the person. Often, we get stuck in getting rid of nothing because of a sense of overwhelming responsibility. Perhaps you don’t want to hurt the person who has died. I am certain that they do not want you to keep things that you do not find useful. I give you permission to donate the items.

Don’t rent storage to house the items. When a parent leaves a full household of items behind it may seem easier to just move everything into a storage unit until you have time to process everything. Chances are the items will stay in the unit much longer than anticipated. Instead try to go through items as quickly as the grief and time allows.

Ask and don’t assume what others will want to keep. We all have different memories attached to things. If you think your son may want grandma’s dishes, make sure you ask. A great way to do this is to take pictures of the items as you go through them and send text messages of the pictures. You will get instant answers and can keep moving forward in the purging process. The added benefit is that you may hear some lovely stories about an item that you can then cherish.

Don’t take anything personally. When you hear that your children do not want grandmas living room furniture, do not make them feel bad. Just accept that they don’t want the items. Now go back to the above point that we are not our possessions. Remember you should not keep anything out of guilt and you should not force anyone else to do the same.

If you have aging parents, you might want to start the process of reducing now. Be proactive. This is not a fun procedure, but one done with love can be successful. Sometimes an expert is needed to help with this process. A professional organizer can help without the emotions attached and can bring clarity.

If you are looking for an organizer in your community visit the website for a listing. And remember we are not our possessions.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing, MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things!

Melissa’s e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.