7 tips for deciding what to do with your spouse/partner's belongings

How do you know when the time is right to clear out your spouse/partner's belongings?

This important decision has few clear guidelines. Well-meaning family and friends may pressure you to "get rid of" cherished possessions you don't feel ready to let go of. Or you yourself may feel anxious to "get rid of" painful reminders of your loss. But what's the rush? We urge you not to dispose of anything before you first consider these tips:

1. Trust your own instincts about the right time to tackle this difficult process. Take your time and don't rush. The hasty decision you make today may become tomorrow's regret.

2. Ask a trusted family member or friend for help in packing things up and/or making arrangements.

3. Set a realistic timetable for completing this process. Make allowances for how grief is affecting you. Assume there will be times when, despite your best intentions, you won't feel up to dealing with this.

4. Start by first getting rid of items you feel least attached to. Try to imagine what your spouse would want done with their possessions.

5. Don't kid yourself into believing that by getting rid of painful reminders, you can avoid the pain. Allowing yourself to feel the loss is an important part of getting through it and is actually emotionally beneficial in the long run.

6. Hold on to whatever possessions give you comfort right now.

7. Move items you're undecided about to another location, such as rented storage. This allows you some breathing space before making more permanent decisions.

Be sure to give yourself the time you need and trust your instincts about what's best for you.


Anonymous said...

After my husband died, I made a decision not to make any major decisions for at least a year. You feel very differently about certain things as time goes on. If you are at all "on the fence" about something keep it and revisit it at a later date. I do not have an emotional attachment to "stuff". There was a lot of paperwork that I needed to deal with right away for legal and financial purposes-so I got it done and checked it off my "to do" list. The things that belonged to my husband that were important to me fit in a shoebox. Clothing and other personal items I gave away early on. The only thing I have not been able to go through yet are several boxes of pictures. When the time is right and I am ready, I will tackle that project as well, but I don't put any pressure on myself.

Laurie and Ruth said...

Your choice to give yourself lots of time before giving away your husband's things was a good one, Deb. Sounds like you're able to pace yourself and not add more pressure to decision-making. Not easy to do. We're impressed!

Kevin G. said...

Two months after my wife died, I gave just some of her clothes after I saw an ad asking for clothing of a certain size for an orphaned high school girl. Her advocate came to my house and picked some items-some were new with tags still on them. The advocate left the closet and drawers neater than they were. I felt really good about giving those clothes away. I cried after they were gone but felt better later. I still have most of her clothing items. I am selling her kitchen counter top appliances slowly, some of which I gave to her for Christmas. That doesn't seem to be painful for me. I feel good that they are going to people that will use them.

Laurie and Ruth said...


We're glad you've found a meaningful way to deal with a difficult part of loss.

While it sounds like you're taking your time, please don't feel you have to dispose of everything this soon after your loss. As we say, "Where's the fire?"

Thank you for sharing your experience with us.