What Do I Do With the Belongings of a Deceased Loved One?

Losing a loved one can be heartbreaking, and sorting through their belongings only adds to the grief. While there’s no roadmap on how to deal with a family member’s possessions, we’ve put together some suggestions to simplify this task.

Read on to discover tips for handling a loved one’s death, declutter their home while honoring their memory and know when to ask for help.

Understanding the Emotional Process

Material possessions are inanimate objects, but they take on a new significance when you’re mourning. It can be challenging to go through things like clothes and jewelry, especially if you know they were meaningful to your loved one.

Sorting through their belongings on a day with no other commitments scheduled will give you freedom to contemplate your feelings. While some items may serve no more than a functional purpose, others may evoke vivid memories of family holidays, school plays and other special events. Give yourself time and permission to process these emotions.

Seeking Support During This Time

A loved one who passes away will likely leave behind a selection of yearbooks, souvenirs and other keepsakes. Asking a friend or family member to assist in sorting through these sentimental possessions helps you distinguish treasure from clutter. If your loved one rented a property, there might be more pressure to tackle this task sooner rather than later — sharing the load helps you take care of things within the given time frame.

Bereaved friends and family are often the best grief support group. However, there may be times when you want to unpack complex feelings and develop effective coping mechanisms. Working with a grief counseling professional helps you develop the strategies you need to work through the stages of grief while handling the administrative tasks associated with death.

The Practical Steps to Take

From heirlooms to takeout menus, people store all kinds of things in their homes. Some people even run out of space — 11.1% of American households pay for additional storage to safeguard their possessions.

The Practical Steps to Take

Decluttering someone else’s home may feel like a mammoth task, so establish a plan with deadlines at the onset. For example, you may decide to tackle the decluttering process room by room to experience a feeling of accomplishment. Consider hard-and-fast deadlines like rental contracts in planning your timeline to complete the work by the date specified in the lease.

Use precise criteria to speed up the process of deciding what to keep or part with. Establish three distinct sections of the home and separate items as follows.

  • Keep: Items in your “keep” pile may include objects of personal or monetary value. Photos, letters and keepsake pieces have sentimental value, whereas ornate furniture and jewelry fetch high prices on secondhand markets.
  • Donate: Household items in good condition and not needed by the deceased person’s family will benefit someone else. Check with the charity before dropping off items, as they may only accept donations with specific safety certifications.
  • Discard: Though one person’s trash is someone else’s treasure, some belongings may be broken, obsolete or unusable. Finding responsible ways to recycle or otherwise dispose of old appliances, magazines and paperwork is often the best solution.

Recycling Possessions — From Furniture to Jewelry

While throwing items directly into the trash may be convenient, recycling minimizes your carbon footprint. As up to 85% of textiles end up in landfills annually, clothing drop-offs are a more sustainable way to discard old T-shirts, pants and underwear. It’s also worth contacting your nearest recycling center to ask what they will and won’t accept. Alternatively, you could upcycle these items. For example, you can melt unwanted rings or repaint furniture to create new statement pieces.

Consider hiring a junk removal service or renting a dumpster if you need to dispose of numerous non-recyclable items.

Addressing Legal and Financial Matters

Your loved one may have bequeathed some items to family or friends, and you should honor their wishes after they pass. However, an executor must process the estate before these possessions go to their new homes. The reason for this is financial — there may be unpaid debt or other ongoing expenses the estate must settle at the time of death. If the estate does not have enough liquid assets, the executor will oversee the sale of items such as furniture and jewelry to compensate creditors.

Honoring Their Memory

Take time to mourn your loved one and celebrate their life while sticking to a practical decluttering process. Finding ways to repurpose some of their treasured items is a thoughtful way to memorialize them. Here are some ideas to try.

  • Handwriting: Framing a loved one’s handwriting captures their memory. Some screen printing companies will print a chosen phrase on custom items like shirts or tote bags.
  • Fabric: If your loved one reveled in wearing colorful, vibrant clothes, you could repurpose this fabric into a pillowcase or tablecloth.
  • Photos: While hanging pictures is a classic idea, you may soon run short of wall space. Consider creating a collage or digital photo album to showcase photographed memories.
  • Collector’s items: If your loved one had a treasured collection of things like stamps, coins or vintage teaspoons, consider repurposing them in an artwork or jewelry piece to give these beloved items a new life.
  • Assorted items: Finding innovative ways to use items will celebrate your loved one’s memory daily. For example, transforming a cigar box into a jewelry case will remind you of your loved one whenever you see it.

In addition to preserving items with sentimental value, finding ways to reuse valuable belongings can further your loved one’s legacy. For example, you could put an expensive painting up for auction at a charity event, with all proceeds going to needy people in your community.

Get the Support You Need at Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home

Get the Support You Need at Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home

Sorting through your loved one’s belongings while grieving their passage is a profoundly personal and challenging task. Remember to take it one step at a time, lean on your support network and don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance when needed.

Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home offers compassionate services to honor your loved one’s memory with a funeral or memorial service. Contact our friendly team today to get tailored support as you celebrate your loved one’s life!