6 Tips on Decluttering Following the Death of a Loved One

Grief is an important process in the wake of a loved one’s death and should not be rushed or judged. Each person grieves their own way. Dealing with the dearly departed’s possessions may be an element of that process. Stuhr Funeral Home, with locations throughout the Charleston area, knows that this can be a bittersweet experience that many people dread. They offer these tips to make the process as efficient and productive as possible.

1. Begin When You’re Ready

Processing your loved one’s possessions may require immediate attention, particularly if they owned a home that must be sold. Those left behind will have to start expeditiously. “In those cases where time is not of the essence, the best time to sort through their belongings is when you are ready,” says Catherine Stuhr, vice president at Stuhr. Because it may be a daunting task physically and emotionally, there may be no exact “right time,” so you do need to commit to getting started.

2. Understand the Time Commitment

Unless your loved one was decluttering guru Marie Kondo, sorting through their possessions is likely to take time. Commit yourself to a weeks-long process so that you aren’t disappointed to discover that it can’t all be done in one day.

3. Take it One Step at a Time

You can’t do it all at once, so find something small that you can tackle relatively quickly that will offer satisfaction on a job completed. For example, go through your loved one’s home and dispose of the unsentimental objects, like toothbrushes, magazines, office supplies, tools, etc. These are less likely to conjure memories that slow you down.

4. Take it One Room at a Time

There are several methods you can employ, but a simple one is to break down the whole task by rooms, starting with the easy ones and completing them before moving on. This again offers a sense of completion along the way, so you don’t become demoralized by the scope of the job. A guest bedroom and dining room can probably be handled in a day or less. Basements and attics are often painstaking and prolonged.

5. Give Yourself Time to Remember 

Though you may want to complete this task quickly, it is important to allow it to inform your grieving process. If you find something that sparks memories, indulge them. Don’t be afraid to feel sad, wistful or nostalgic about items you encounter.

6. Make Three Piles

When going through your loved one’s belongings, you will find some items that are sentimental or valuable to you or family members. These go into the “Keep” pile. Items typically found in the Keep pile are jewelry, dishes and cookware, furniture, equipment and knick-knacks that have significance to loved ones.

Next, make a “Sell/Donate” pile for those items you intend to add to a garage sale or donate to charity. Goodwill, Salvation Army and other worthy causes will take your “gently used” items and sell them for operating funds. Many of the same kinds of objects in the Keep pile may be found in the Sell/Donate pile, as would items from a loved one’s hobby that survivors don’t share.

Finally, the “Discard” pile is for anything with little or no value and should just be thrown away.

“Taking your time, maintaining realistic expectations, indulging your memories and using a system will help make the process proceed as smoothly as possible,” says Catherine Stuhr.

Stuhr Funeral Home, a trusted name in funeral service for more than 150 years, cares for families of those whose lives have ended. Stuhr Funeral Home is committed to providing quality arrangements to honor loved ones and family traditions. For more information about funeral services available, visit JHenryStuhr.com or call (843) 723-2524.