Getting it All Done While Grieving

by | Jan 12, 2024 | Decluttering, Next Chapter Planning, Organizing, Parents

Losing a loved one is hard. Very hard. Whether their passing was expected or sudden, grief is an emotional rollercoaster that can have you laughing one minute, and sobbing the next. Unfortunately, when a loved one passes, there is difficult work to do—and while some of it can wait, some of it can’t.

First things first.

Secure important paperwork. Find important paperwork, such as a birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage license, military records, car titles, bank and other financial paperwork, insurance policies, passwords, and bills. Most importantly, be sure you know where the will is.

Secure the home if no one will be living there. If your loved one lived alone and the house will be vacant, it can be a good idea to change the locks on the home and perhaps install a video doorbell. Make sure outdoor lighting works, and put a few lamps on timers to come on in the evening.

Once you have secured the important paperwork and the home (if necessary), you can take a breath, then consider these things.

Know what the Will says. Your loved one may have bequeathed certain possessions to friends, family members, or organizations. Before cleaning out anything, make sure you know what the Will says and how it will impact the estate cleanout.

Set a timeline. There is no perfect timeline that fits every single person or situation. You may be ready to clean out immediately or you may not be able to go through your loved one’s possessions for months. If you are unsure about what timing might work best for you, talk it over with a trusted friend or family member.

Start slow. If you have the luxury of time, start slowly and simply. Clean out the refrigerator and pantry. Get rid of medication and partially used toiletries. Sort through clothes if you are able.

Take it one room at a time. It is definitely daunting to think about going through an entire house. Take one room at a time, complete a room inventory, take a break if needed, then move on to the next room.

Go through everything. Check every pocket. Go through every drawer. Flip through the pages of books. You never know where something unexpected may appear!

Set a time for family walk throughs.  Once you understand what the Will says, and have done an inventory of the home, set a time for family members to come and take items that are special to them.

Enlist help. Going through a loved one’s home and possessions can be emotionally exhausting. Enlisting the help of a friend or family member, or even organizing experts, can make the job easier. It can be extremely helpful to have an outside, unbiased perspective to help you think through what might be most meaningful to keep and what might be useful and helpful to give to others in a way that honors your loved one. What is the best piece of advice you have for someone facing the difficult work of going through a loved one’s possessions? Comment below.


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