The funeral is over. The friends and out-of-state relatives have returned home. You're left with the quiet of an empty house. You try to decompress from the hectic activities that followed the loss of someone close to you. The task of planning and executing the final tribute is now complete. Your new task is sorting through your loved one's things, but you're unsure where to begin.
Being selective when it comes to clearing out the items owned by a deceased loved one can be a tricky thing. You probably don't want to just discard the items. Instead, you'd like to do it with mindfulness and care. There is no need to rush this process. Take your time so that you won't have any regrets when looking back at this period, knowing that you took great consideration.
Here are some things to consider when sorting out all that was left behind:
1. Give to Family Members as Mementos
When a loved one passes away, it's hard for everyone. If you're the one in charge of going through the person's things, it adds an even greater burden. The emotional toll that it takes to sift through clothes and other personal belongings is great and prolongs the terrible feeling of loss that you feel. Why not consider giving close family members something that belonged to the person? This will ease the difficulty of this daunting task, knowing that a close friend or relative will cherish the item. At the same time, it will allow them to hold the person near as the item will serve as a special reminder of the time shared together.
When my mother died, I wanted very much to give each of her grandchildren an item that belonged to her. I don't' believe in discarding all that a loved one owned with haste. It should be addressed with deliberation and mindfulness, focusing on securing the items that told a portion of the person's journey. Over the years, my mother collected lots and lots of rosary beads. Throughout her life, she focused on nurturing her spiritual health and, thus, picked up a rosary wherever she traveled. Ireland, Rome, the California missions, you name it. If there was a gift shop selling rosaries, she was sure to return home with one. So, following her death, I decided to distribute these special prayer beads to each of her nine grandsons. I took the few that were broken to a local jeweler where they were quickly repaired, and I placed each one into a white gift box with a black satin ribbon. As for my mother's three granddaughters, I selected a piece of pottery for each. Over the years, these beautiful pieces were displayed in the corner curio cabinet of my mother's home. Most of these were acquired during the few trips that she took to Europe. These would prove special enough to place in the hands of her grandchildren and stir within them a memory of her that will resonate for years to come.
2. For the Craft Lovers - Do Something Creative!
Turn Clothes into Blankets and Pillows
For those of you blessed with the gift of creativity, using the clothes of the deceased to make one-of-a-kind quilts and pillows is something you should consider when tasked with clearing out a closet. When my Aunt Kay passed away, her daughters couldn't live with the idea of parting with their mother's expansive wardrobe. Remembering her was to remember a little lady, just short of five feet tall, making her way to the petites section of her favorite department stores. The soft floral prints and summer ginghams were too precious to discard because of how much they reminded them of their mom. They decided to recruit their sister-in-law, the only seamstress in the family, to put these clothes to good use in the form of a beautifully patterned quilt for each of them. Now, each time my cousins curl up with a good book on a blustering winter night, they'll have the memory of their mother keeping them warm.
Repurpose a Loved One's Belongings: Furniture and Appliances
If you're handy with a sander and a paintbrush, then another idea to consider is repurposing or "upscaling" furniture or other household items. For instance, I turned my mother's bookcase into a wine rack. You can do this with dressers too. There is an endless number of ideas for those of you who are handy with tools. Simply search "repurposing furniture" or "repurposing kitchen appliances," and you will be amazed at the creativity that's out there. Search ideas on Pinterest or check out this helpful article to get you started: 21 Ideas to Repurpose Old Furniture - Architecture Lab
3. Garage Sale or Estate Sale
After managing to thin out the supply by gifting to family members and using your crafting skills to assemble memorable items, you can consider holding a garage or estate sale for the remaining things. What is the difference between a garage sale and an estate sale? It really depends on the types of items you are selling.
A garage sale is generally conducted for the purpose of purging items that are no longer wanted. Therefore, the quality or worth of the items may not be as good as those at an estate sale. Although, one person's trash can be another person's treasure! Additionally, the prices at a garage sale are much more negotiable than those at an estate sale.
The purpose of an estate sale, on the other hand, is to discard items that belonged to someone who recently died. If not for the death, therefore, the items would have been kept. Because of this, the items may be of greater value than those at a standard garage sale. Keep in mind that the prices at an estate sale are usually nonnegotiable.
If you still have many valuable items, such as antiques or furniture, then an estate sale is the way to go. You can always hire a professional to help you plan the sale, which is generally conducted over a few days, and the items are priced for you. If, on the other hand, you have items that you would be just as comfortable donating, then a garage sale would be the better option.
Whether you conduct a garage sale or an estate sale, you are giving the items new life in someone else's home. With this, you are doing a good deed.
4. Donate - the best organizations to donate to
Donating the remaining items that once belonged to your loved one is another fantastic option. By donating, you are helping those in need, clearing your crowded space, and recycling things that would otherwise add to a landfill. Why not give your loved one's belongings to someone who will put them to good use? There are plenty of people in your local community who could use everyday items such as kitchen appliances, furniture, and clothing. I would first inquire with churches or other local not-for-profit organizations where the items go directly into the hands of those in need. Some of the global non-profit organization include Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and The Salvation Army.
5. Electronics Recycling
If your loved one left behind electronics that you are not able to keep, sell, or donate, then the best option is to find a facility that will recycle them. Throwing such items away in the dumpster is not only bad for the environment, but it can also lead to a hefty fine. By recycling electronics, you are once again giving the items a new purpose. For instance, the zinc and aluminum from a laptop can be used for making jewelry and art. Click here to find your local recycling center: Electronic Recycling Near Me | Local E-waste Recycle Locations (recyclingcenternear.me)
Whatever you decide to do with your loved one's belongings will be one step closer to finding peace in the aftermath of your loss. Knowing that you took your time and acted with deliberation and mindfulness will set your heart at ease.