Grief and clutter series introduction

“I kept his shoes. He would need them, if he was to come back.”

Joan Didion, “The Year of Magical Thinking” 

My grandmother, circa 1945

When we lose a loved one we are only left with three things: our memories of them, the ways they changed our lives for the better, and the stuff they left behind.

The stuff they left behind is the only tangible thing on this list. This is what makes “grief clutter” so difficult to part with. It is the most emotional kind of clutter there is.

I’m very much still learning to deal with grief clutter. I was closer to my grandmother than I am to my father. She passed away over two years ago and yet I still have a terrible time bringing myself to even think about getting rid of many of Gram’s things.

I’m going to spend more than one post on this topic because hoarding is a coping mechanism in my family. Gram was very involved in all of our lives and nothing we’ve had to cope with in the last few years has been as difficult as her death. I know this event plays a role in my mother’s clutter-related behavior and mine. But whether or not you are a hoarder or the child of hoarders, losing a loved one is hard. Parting with their belongings is not easy.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be writing posts about dealing with clutter following the loss of a loved one. Some will be about strategies for parting with this “grief clutter,” and some will be about hoarding as a coping mechanism for grief and other stresses. Hopefully this series won’t be depressing but instead will help us realize that the truly important things our loved ones leave us with are the intangible ones.  

What objects have you held onto from family and friends you’ve lost? What have you gotten rid of? Why those objects?