New year - Tidy up their things?

Cleaning up your loved one's things can be a difficult task. The finality sinks in more deeply. My son was killed in a crash and we had to clean out his possessions in his rented home immediately. Though it was gut-wrenching, it was a blessing in disguise.

At first, opening the closet to see their clothes, or their toiletries in the bathroom usually offers a sense that somehow — they are still there. But grief is fluid and changes.  Later on, those same things can begin to accentuate the pain of loss and weigh heavy. 

We might wonder if tidying up is dishonoring and if putting away their things means that we might forget about them. But forgetting someone who we loved and was a key part of our life is impossible. The best way to honor them is by taking care of ourselves, including slowly processing and releasing the pain of the loss which takes us into a new way of thinking and feeling on the other side of a loss. It would honor them to see us live again and to make our life beautiful.   

The freshness of this New Year offers momentum for facing that daunting task of tidying up.  Consider removing the bulk of their things from your environment, like clothes, shoes, and toiletries and store them in a different area.  It helps lift the emotional weight of seeing their things at every turn.  Some researchers claim that possessions have a vibrational fingerprint and energy, that can be felt, like a reminder of them and that make recovery harder. However, if you are in early grief, their things are often a comfort. Wait a little and don't rush yourself.

Many people pack up a lot of their loved one’s things but may keep out a few things out like a couple of pictures and their cozy shirt or even wear it themselves.  Pack the rest up but do not permanently dispose of them.  That way, you can always go back and get them later on.  In the meantime, getting it out of your immediate environment can give you a little space from teh intensity of anguish and grief.  Later, when your mind and heart are in better shape and recovering, unpack what you know you would like to keep. Do not feel guilty about discarding or donating things. You will always keep your memories. The “stuff” served your loved one well, but you don't need to keep it forever.

Cleaning out our son’s home very early in the process forced us to make those decisions quickly, while everyone was there.  We gave away many things to his friends at the funeral who appreciated them.  Maybe it seems odd to you, but one of the mementos I kept in my spare room closet was his stinky rugby shoes - for when I need to just to smell his sweat again.  Then one day, I packed them up too and put them in storage, along with a bin full of his travel journals, childhood teddy bears and hockey trophies and I have not touched them in years.

In grief, the timetable is very personal including for tidying up. When you do, it helps you clear some emotional space that makes it easier to design new patterns and hopes for your life as it is now. There is hope for the future, and a light at the end of the tunnel but sometimes we have to move some of the rubble aside so we can see the possibilities more clearly.  

May the New year hold many unexpected blessings,

Big hugs and love, 


If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at

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