The Clothes - what to do with the clothes & possessions when someone dies
Posted on 28th June 2018 at 10:21
I remember vividly within days of my husband Kevin dying being asked about his stuff. Honestly! You would imagine that there would be a whole host of other topics people would ask about before this, but no. Everyone wanted to know "have you done anything about the clothes yet?"
If you are reading this and grieving yourself I bet you will have immediately noticed that these possessions which sat next to his skin have been de-personalised. THE clothes, not his clothes. "The Clothes", as if they are wild animals which left untamed & uncaptured will riot around the house (i.e. your life) out of control.
What to do with the clothes
So having lived this, discussed this with dozens of other grieving people and read hundreds of accounts of dealing with these wild beasties here is my suggested way to go about it:
1. Don't allow yourself to be ordered/bullied/dictated to by anyone else as to when to get started. The right time to do this is when you're ready and not before.
2. Don't attempt to do this alone. You might think you're strong enough and you might be. You might also get overwhelmed so it is a really good idea to have someone there to provide an ear, a hug or a cup of tea as required.
3. Have 6 piles (or rails)
things you wish to give as gifts
things that you can sell (ebay, facebook, boot sale)
things to go to the charity shop
things to go to the homeless shelter
things you can't bear to part with
things to go in the bin
Put all of the things you can't bear to part with back in the wardrobe, preferably not the one in your bedroom. If you can't even bear the idea of them being in a spare room, put them back in your room for now. You can always move them another time. You might even find there is a sub pile - stuff that can go in the spare room and stuff that stays with you.
Put the stuff for the bin in black rubbish bags and put them near the door - ideally someplace where they will be in your way so they become a bit of a nuisance, which will encourage you to get rid. Leave them there for a day or two just to be sure you don't want to change your mind. Here is my cautionary note: regret usually comes when someone has persuaded you to make a decision, often by pointing out that something is worn out or damaged. This may be logical but your heart doesn't work by logic. So, if you want to keep it for now that's fine.
If you have always been someone who has pack rat tendencies, this process may be really challenging for you so take your time. Be sure to recognise that throwing away things is NOT throwing away memories or chucking out your loved one. You will keep all your memories whether or not you keep the socks full of holes or the jumper they hated and never wore.
After a few days you can put the bags out with the rubbish knowing you gave yourself the chance to save anything you wanted to.
Bag /box up the stuff for charity and put it in a spare room or cupboard out of sight. Once you are sure you're not going to want anything back take, or get a friend to take it to the shop or shelter. Remember, homeless groups will often accept stuff that the charity shops don't want such as socks, underwear in good condition, outdoor shoes and toiletries.
4. Every so often go back to the cupboard with all the stuff you couldn't bear to part with and see if it can now go into one of the other piles.
As it happened a good friend of mine told me about a young man who'd lost everything except the clothes he was standing in to a fire. By luck he was a similar build to Kevin and even took the same size shoes. He lived quite some distance from me and I had never met him and would never have to see him. It felt like this was meant to be. Knowing I'd helped him with a whole new collection of shoes, coats, underwear, let alone jeans & t shirts left a wonderful glow in my heart.
This encouraged me to carry on so that others could benefit from and enjoy the things that otherwise would just be lying in cupboards and drawers.
You might find it helpful to get a friend to take your stuff to another town so there is no risk of seeing them again. As I said at the start the key is to follow your heart and don't allow yourself to be rushed.
Think about whether some of things you can't bear to part with could be made into a keepsake such as a cushion, teddy bear or quilt. There are some really wonderful people out there who specialise in this sort of thing.
Keepsakes make it easier
This is Hugo - he is a memory bear made from Kevin's favourite shirt and I found him much nicer to cuddle at night than a photo. Although that, as they say, is another story - and you can read it here.
I would love to hear your comments and experiences dealing with your loved one's belongings - please do contact us using the form below.
If you have an idea of something you'd like me to write please let me know also using the comments box below. Please note that ALL comments are moderated so they will not appear immediately.
Help for Bereavement
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