How to Store Items & Declutter After the Death of a Loved One

Losing a loved one is never easy, but decluttering, sorting and storing their belongings can help the healing process.

When someone close to you passes away, the last thing you’re thinking about is all the paperwork and practical responsibilities involved.

But aside from being a time of sadness, exhaustion and emotional pain, it’s often a very confusing and stressful time. What do you do with their possessions after they’ve died?

Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll have to consider when decluttering and storing belongings when someone dies.

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Dealing With the Loss of a Loved One

It’s never an easy time when a close family member or friend passes away, and you should take all the time you need to grieve for that loss.

And if you’re wondering what’s ‘normal’ when it comes to grieving. Well, there’s no one size fits all. Many have a particularly hard time doing day-to-day activities, whilst others find solace in keeping busy and having something to do.

There’s several ways to cope during a bereavement and ultimately, you’ll find something that works for you.



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Decluttering After Someone Dies

The thought of going through a loved one's things after they’ve died can be heartbreaking. And it might be something you try to put off for as long as possible.

Although decluttering can be a very sad thing to start (as it brings back all the memories of when your loved one was around), it can actually begin a healing process. It can bring about a method of acceptance and help you deal with the reality of what’s happened.

In fact, going through a loved one’s possessions after they’ve died can bring good memories to the forefront. As you rifle through pictures or their favourite keepsakes, you’ll no doubt have a good story or something joyful to remember in the process.

Boxes and Suitcase On A Bed



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When should I start?

One of the most difficult ideas you’ll be battling with is “when should I start sorting out their possessions?”. Is it too soon? Is it something you should be doing right away?

There is no right or wrong answer here. Whenever you feel ready is when you should dispose, sort out and declutter a deceased person’s belongings.

Should I dispose of a deceased person’s possessions?

It’s perfectly normal to feel guilty about getting rid of some of their belongings. In a way, it may feel like you’re trying to erase them from your memory.

But that’s not the case. In fact, it could be a healthy decision for your mental health.

Sometimes being surrounded by their things might bring about difficult emotions. And so getting rid of some things may help. You’ll especially need to declutter and dispose of things if you're dealing with their estate or their home is being sold.

On the other hand, try not to be hasty and get rid of absolutely everything. You'll no doubt want to keep hold of valuable items. So, take your time to really figure out if there are things you’d rather keep, as further down the line you may regret getting rid of certain things. Think about renting a storage space to keep your loved one’s possessions until you’re ready to sort through their things.



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How to Declutter After Someone Dies

So you’ve made the decision to go ahead and get started. But where do you start decluttering and how?

  1. Start off with two piles. Sentimental things (items of particular value) and non-sentimental things (these could be everyday bits and bobs). Go room by room and start piling the sentimental items and non-sentimental things as you go. Use boxes or Post-It notes to mark items clearly.
  2. Ask friends and family if there’s anything they would like. There are many things that a dead person’s will won’t cover, so decide amongst yourselves if anybody would like particular items you’re thinking of getting rid of.
  3. For all the sentimental and non-sentimental things that don’t have a new home as yet, think about donating them to charity. Although there will be some items like furniture that you may want to keep hold of for future use, for children or grandchildren to have. If that’s the case, renting spare space means you can store those items until you’re ready to give them away.
Heirloom Old Pocket Watch

Holding onto a deceased loved one’s belongings can often make you feel closer to them. However, decluttering and sorting through their things can actually help you through your personal bereavement. Whilst storing their possessions can clear your mind and help you move forward, no matter how hard it may be.

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Updated 14th Apr 2023

Written 27th Apr 2022