Cleaning out a loved one’s home after they die is most often an unpleasant task that many people put off doing for months. The emotional toll that grief takes may leave you feeling unable to face the physical challenge of sifting through your loved one’s belongings. When you clean out a loved one’s home after their death, you are literally and metaphorically making space for healing to begin. This is an essential part of the grieving process, and it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming undertaking.
- Ask for help.
Clearing out a loved one’s possessions, especially if they owned a lot of things, can be a time-consuming and physically draining task. Ask close friends and family members for help. There’s no need to tackle such a daunting job alone.
- Set a deadline.
Try giving yourself a reasonable timeline to finish clearing out your loved one’s things. This is especially helpful if you find yourself repeatedly putting it off.
- Make a list.
If you’re cleaning out an entire home, start with handling just a single room or closet. Give yourself plenty of time to neaten each area before moving onto the next.
- Divide items into categories.
As you clean, it’s helpful to label each item something like: keep, sell, toss, or donate. Having a practical approach to cleaning can help you be more objective and come to decisions faster as you go.
- Be diplomatic with special physical remembrances.
As you clean, remember to be kind to yourself. Hold onto the items you think you may wish to keep. Some people tend to throw away their loved ones’ things out of frustration or sadness only to discover later that they wish they had kept them.
- Get your camera ready.
Studies show that taking a photo of an item that holds sentimental value may help
you more easily let it go. As you purge your loved one’s belongings, get out your smartphone and snap a pic of any and everything you wish to capture.
- Check in with close relatives about certain items.
Just because you may not wish to keep something that belonged to your loved one, someone else you know might. While you’re cleaning, if you come across something you think may hold sentimental value, set it aside for a family member who might appreciate having it.
- Let yourself express emotion.
Going through a loved one’s things and cleaning up their space after they’re gone is an emotional experience. As you go, let yourself cry and express your feelings however you see fit.
- Take a break when you need to.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, let yourself take a break from cleaning. Step outside for a walk or grab some lunch then return to the job later once you feel calmer.
- Do something special once you’re done.
Perform a ritual to mark the completion of your cleaning and to promote a sort of closure to the event. This can be as simple as playing your loved one’s favorite song or lighting a scented candle in their honor.