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Downsizing After Losing A Loved One

Downsizing After Losing A Loved One

Downsizing — letting go of furniture, books and memorabilia that you’ve spent a lifetime collecting is rarely easy. Clearing out things that belonged to a family member who has passed — a spouse, parent, or loved one — can be especially hard to do.

Because everyone grieves differently, some people are compelled to start cleaning things out right away; while others feel more comfortable holding on to things for a long time. The right time to begin letting go of your loved one’s belongings is when you feel emotionally ready to take on the task.

Here are some things to be mindful of when you’re ready to begin:

  • Ask for help. Going through your loved one’s things is almost certain to be emotionally challenging. Support from a caring family member, friend, or professional will help keep you from getting overwhelmed by the task.
  • Start with things that are easiest to handle. Look for things that you don’t have great emotional attachment to, and put them in a donation box. Even if you only fill one box, you have taken that difficult first step and begun the process.
  • Try to follow the “OHIO” rule: Only Handle It Once. Decisions don’t get easier by putting them off. To the best of your ability, decide what you will do with something the first time you touch it.
  • Put your treasures in a place of honor. If you are holding on to something because you treasure it, put it in a place where you can see and enjoy it. If it’s going to go back into a closet, why keep it?
  • Resolve not to feel guilty about letting things go. There are many ways to honor someone’s memory. Holding on to things out of a misplaced sense of guilt is not one of them. Think about it: would you rather someone kept your things in a closet just because they were yours? Or would you rather they were passed on to someone else who would use and appreciate them?
  • Realize that your memories are greater than most object’s value. In today’s oversaturated market, few things — even antiques — fetch the kind of prices that people expect they will. You should absolutely hold on to things that have sentimental value. And realize that value will most likely exceed an object’s market value. So if you don’t love it, let it go.
  • Keep the things that make you happy. In deciding whether to keep something, ask yourself if it will make you happy to have it. Does it bring back a memory of a happy time?  Or give you pleasure use it?  If so, keep it. If not, let it go.
  • Give yourself time. You won’t be able to sort through everything in one day. Take it a bit at a time. And, as with all things, downsizing will get a little easier every day.
  • Check out for additional help on going through important aspects of the grieving process. (Our thanks to Open for Hope for their inspiration in compiling these tips!)
  • Visit for downsizing help in after someone has passed — or for any reason. You can also reach Maria directly at 650-740-4911.
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