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Decluttering and grief

Decluttering and grief


Decluttering is a brilliant idea. Always. Seriously, I can’t really come up with a reason not to do it.

I’m a brilliant declutterer when it comes to physical stuff. I don’t need Marie Kondo’s help. I simply have a relationship (or lack there of) to ‘stuff’ that is different to most people’s these days.

My motto is “if in doubt, chuck it out”. I’m ruthless and have been for years. Getting rid of stuff ‘sparks joy’ for me. I love the process and I adore the result. Ahhh space, room to breathe, simplicity.

If you need a room decluttered, just call me. Actually no, don’t. You might find it far too brutal!

But cleaning up someone else’s stuff after a death is a totally different kettle of fish than regular decluttering. Depending on the relationship, you may quite likely have ended up having to go through their stuff, deciding what to keep, donate, give away, throw away. Some people find this pretty easy, seeing no real exisiting link between the dead person and the stuff they’ve left behind. But many, many people struggle with this.

In the past I have recommend to these people that they wait until they’ve completed their healing-from-grief work (I only write for those actively on a healing path). The reason being there can be so much emotion, so much pain, so much struggle tied up with the idea of cleaning out someone’s cupboard/room/house after they’ve died, and pushing through all that while in pain just doesn’t make sense. No need to make things harder than they are. But when you’ve healed from grief then the emotions around them have completely changed, and so too have the emotions around their stuff.  It gets a  whole lot easier to do then.

And, while this advise stands, I’ve realised there is another piece to add. Because I forget that it isn’t just the grief that can be the issue. That plenty of people – maybe even most people – find it hard to even declutter their own stuff, let-alone throwing in a death and grief to boot and making it about someone else. And so that for these people, decluttering will still be a stretch even after they’ve completely healed their grief.

If this weren’t the case then Marie Kondo and her book would not be so popular and famous right now!

So if this applies to you then I’d like to introduce you to the simple decluttering game.

You can do this at any time – no need to wait until you’re healed (though it’ll get A LOT easier once you have).

Here’s all you have to do: every day throw out/recycle/donate one item of theirs.

Now the point here is to gently get into the rhythm and habit of this, and gently work through that general resistance to getting rid of stuff at all.  So don’t pick anything challenging or get too ambitious. Make it as easy as possible.

Today throw out one paperclip, for example. Seriously.

Tomorrow make it a piece of paper.

The day after maybe a utensil from the kitchen that you know you won’t use (maybe you don’t even know what it is).

If this is easy then maybe you can get rid of a whole bag of paperclips, a stack of papers, or a whole kitchen drawer full of stuff….but only if it’s easy. Otherwise just the one easy thing every day.

A single sock with holes. A pair of rusty toenail clippers. A plastic bag.

Pay attention to how you feel as you do this, but simply to allow the feelings, not to let them control your  behaviour and stop you in your tracks.

The more you do this the easier it will get.

So try this out. Be gentle on yourself but do stick to it.  Letting go of stuff, your emotional attachment to stuff (and the idea that stuff is somehow part of a person who has died) is always worth the effort.