Make a to-do list and set timelines
Prioritising and setting goals with realistic timeframes is a good place to start.
Some tasks such as those relating to financials are more pressing than others. Perhaps your loved one ran their own business or had a lot of bills and outstanding insurance paperwork. In this instance, it’s advisable to address these items first.
In saying that, if your house is full of belongings that are no longer sensible to keep, then perhaps dealing with those may be a better option.
Though the practical items might have deadlines and consequences if not quickly addressed, it is equally important to give precedence to anything that will help your mental and emotional health.
Go room by room
Sorting through a house full of belongings and mementos can be a daunting prospect, and a very draining process.
Breaking it down, room-by-room, is a good way to help minimise those overwhelming feelings.
Take as long or as little time as you need
Some people feel like they need to bag things up immediately. Others want to keep things in their place for as long as possible to help preserve precious memories.
Everybody handles this differently, and it’s important to work through the process at your own pace and do what feels right for you.
If you don’t want to delay the sorting process, just remember to take breaks and be kind to yourself. Your wellbeing is what’s most important.
Consider asking family member or friend to help
Asking a trusted family member or friend to help you work through the practical items and review possessions left behind can be a godsend.
They may be able to assist by taking care of certain ‘administrative’ tasks on your behalf. Also, an extra set of hands and a shoulder to lean on can be an invaluable source of support whilst sorting through your loved one’s belongings.
You may feel strong enough to tackle the bigger items, but too emotional to throw away the half-empty shampoo bottles or medications. Telling your support person what you want to get rid of and asking them to physically dispose of the item/s is often a huge help during this difficult time.
Whilst divvying up your loved one’s possessions, it’s a good idea to create categories and set aside boxes or bags for each. You may want place colour-coded sticky notes on larger items to reflect which category they fall into.
Here are some categorisation suggestions:
- Save for me
- Save for others
- Save for later
- Throw away
- Not sure
Try to focus on being realistic. Although it was a favourite suit, if no-one in the family is going to wear it, it may be better to place it in the ‘donate’ box rather than the ‘save for others’ box.
There may be items you’re not sure you want to keep, but also can’t bring yourself to throw away. This is completely normal and that’s why a ‘not sure’ box is suggested. You can always revisit this down the track.
Plus, there may be items you’re not ready to face sorting through just yet. These could be anything from a half-knitted scarf to a favourite mug, and they can be categorised ‘save for later’. Pick a room you don’t often use and store the ‘save for later’ belongings there until you are ready.
Be careful when deciding who gets what
Throwing or giving away items that were of value to other family members can become a source of conflict. Often an item that has little meaning to one family member can have significant sentimental value to another.
Speaking to your loved one’s nearest and dearest will give you a clearer idea of what is important to who. This will help you decide how the possessions are best distributed, and hopefully avoid any resentment or ill feeling.
There is a lot to think about, but we hope these tips help you sort through your loved one’s belongings.