It is one of the hardest things to do.
It took me three years to do it.
If it wasn’t for my moving from my house at the time, it may have taken me a lot longer or maybe never.
How do we let go of all the personal belongings and clothing of our loved ones who are no longer in this physical world.
For the first few weeks I would go in the closet and smell his clothes.
After a while they didn’t smell like him at all.
It was as if he had never worn them.
His shoes particularly used to make me sad.
I wanted them to start walking towards me.
I know it sounds weird to say.
But they just didn’t move.
His wallet with our pictures in it always left behind at home. He always had it with him.
The toothbrush stayed on the sink for a long time too.
Then it was time to move and I had to make decisions.
What do I keep?
What do I let go?
What would the girls want to have when they grow up.
And I started going through everything.
I bought these green plastic buckets to put in the things I was keeping.
And I went through everything with two things in mind.
What did he love wearing?
And what would the girls want to have one day?
I kept his diaries and wallet with my personal belongings, the rest inside the green buckets. He loved to ski and he had this very bright purple ski suit.
I kept that. And his favorite jeans and shirts.
The rest I gave to goodwill.
Since that day I moved three more times, including this last move to Austin.
The buckets have traveled with us every time.
And I have never thought about all the things that I didn’t keep.
I don’t even remember what I gave away now.
Selling his car was very hard.
He used to drive this little black vw golf.
He would tell me that even if we ever won the lottery he would still buy the same car.
I cried for a long time before I drove it to the dealership.
And when we sold the house we bought when he got diagnosed was painful but looking back at this now I should have sold it as soon as he passed.
It was so hard living there for another 3 years.
It was almost as if the house created this emotional darkness that I could never escape from.
So my dear friend if you are wondering what to let go of, or how long is normal to wait to go through the closet of your husband, wife, partner, child, mother, father, sister or brother. Here are a few things I learned along the way.
Wait for as long as you need to.
There is absolutely no right or wrong time to go through your loved ones belongings. When it feels it’s time you will know it. And for some people that time never comes. And that’s ok too. You make the rule book.
Alone or with a friend
When the time comes, ask yourself if you want to do this on your own? Or are you someone who feels ok crying with a best friend or family member. If that’s you, invite someone you trust to do this with you.
The questions to ask
What are your questions to ask while you are going through all of the belongings. Mine as mentioned were “What did he love?” and “Would the girls want it when they are older?” So write yours down. And go from there.
What to do with the things you are letting go of
Some people make quilts with the clothing. Others donate them to goodwill. Do what feels good for you.
I am going to tell my kids to give everything away but to keep my paintings, the books I write and to take care of the ideas I left behind in this world.
Anything else can go.
As I moved into my new house in Austin, TX this last week and saw the big truck with all of our belongings arrive I got sad. We have so many things we don’t need.
Things that mean nothing at all and yet we carry them along with us as if they are an extension of our arms and legs.
It is strange to me that Bjarne and I never talked about what to give away and what to keep, we knew he was dying for quite some time and yet we never had the courage to talk about his belongings.
But something tells me that he is pleased that I only kept these 3 green buckets.
And memories. And stories about him. And photos for the girls.
The diaries too, he knew I was going to read them one day.
He left them for us.
So, find what has meaning for you and hold on to it, and let the rest go.
With less and less,
PS. I hope you are enjoying my conversations at the www.dearlifepodcast.com