Organisation & People Performance Inspired Honey Blog

February 28, 2009

Decluttering and the deceased

Natasha, I do have a question, how do I tread delicately when it comes to things involving the deceased?  We have been to some funerals in the past and my husband feels a need to keep the order of ceremony(?) afterwards.  Especially in the case of Peter Brock – his hero – we have the funeral service leaflet, all old Auto Action magazines and a pile of books etc, is there a de-cluttering etiquette? 

Good question about dealing with clutter and the deceased. And one that comes up often for us.

Keeping an order of ceremony and funeral service leaflet is absolutely fine as a way of honouring the memory of that person. The problem is once again when there’s no boundaries. Keeping every ticket stub to every movie you went to with your husband, or every Peter Brock magazine is a problem. Why? When everything is important, nothing is important.

The other problem is the affect emotional clutter can have on the present. Those items with sentimental value remind your husband of the past. When he looks at it, he relives an experience. People usually worry that if they let go of the item. they will let go of those memories. And so families have piles of mildewed photos, stacks of crayon drawings, yearbooks, and orders of funeral services.

The question I ALWAYS ask my clients is: “How are you treating those items? Are family heirlooms hidden in your garage? Taking up space in your closet? Does the place this important item holds in your life, truly reflect the value you claim it has? If you respect it so much, why isn’t it in a place of honour and respect in your home?

I’m alittle harsh, I say to them, “either you value something – or you don’t. Either you have room for something – or you don’t.”  The value you say an item has – is that reflected in the place you give that item in your life?


If something is important: give it a place of importance

Learn to separate the memory from the item

Ask yourself: “can I remember a person without keeping ALL their stuff?”

Can I find a way to respect and display that memory? eg frame one or two of the best items.

Ask your children or husband to pick 4 favourite items and frame or display them under clear tablecloth on a table or hanging on the wall.

Of course you can always fall back on the ole faithful: having trouble letting go? Store it for one year and relook at it again, asking yourself if you ever enjoyed it during that time.

Hope this helps. Happy decluttering!


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