Tuesday, April 9, 2013

His Belongings Belong to You Now... What's A Widow to Do?

Deciding what to do with your husband's clothes, tools, toys, books, vehicles, shoes, jackets, toothbrush, aftershave, on and on, etc., etc., is a daunting task for most new widows!

Let me "un-daunt" it with three little tips and technique that simplifies decision-making.

Three Tiny Tips

1. Don't fret. What's the rush? Unless you're moving and can't take it with you, you don't have to do this in a day---Do it at your own pace no matter what anyone says. Take your time. If you're moving, see the technique below.

2. Be choosy about who helps you. Don't let your Obsessive Compulsive or greedy friend or relative come in and "help" you with this the day after the funeral, or ever. Practice saying these three words: No.Thank.You. Only good and actually helpful people allowed.

3. Don't launder his clothes or pillowcase if you don't want to. And you have permission to use his old shirt like your very own blankie snuggler. We won't tell.

One Terrific Technique

Start with the following:
  • one (1) closet, workshop, man cave or garage 
  • three (3) boxes. Mark the boxes with a fat black crayon or marker as--- Save. Give Away. Throw away.
Enter the closet, workshop, man cave or garage. Memories might hit you with a big sweep, but that's ok. Take along some Kleenex for crying. Then take some deep breaths in and let them out slowly. Start at one side of the room and work your way around for as long as you want. Five minutes? Five hours? Either time is fine. You're doing what you can do and it's good and it's enough. You don't have to do it all today. Anything is better than nothing and will put you one step further.

Pick up the first item you come to. Put it in one of the three boxes.

Throw Away Box
Eeew, you say? Throw it away in the "Throw Away" box. Don't worry about recycling right now. You have plenty of years ahead of you to save the planet.

Hmmm, an old sock? You're doubtful you want to part with it. That's ok, this is not a time for argument. Put it in the "Save" box. All questionable things go in this box. You can decide for sure later on. Other things you'll instantly know you want to keep. Put them in the "Save" box too. 

Give Away
Or is it something you've always hated but it's in perfectly good condition? Put it in the "Give Away" box. Or you might know the item means nothing to you but it will make someone else happy. Guess what? Giving it away will help make you a little happier. Put it in the "Give Away" box.

Continue with the next item, and so on.

So that's it. You have three boxes. They will fill at varying rates of speed. When one is full, close it up, and put it in it's designated area. Some go out with the trash, some go in the car so you can take them to the thrift store, some go back in the closet/workshop/man cave/garage.

Work at your own pace. Eventually his important stuff will be in boxes marked "Save." And eventually, months or years from now you may choose to go through those belongings again. Simply repeat the techinique. The beauty is that this is a simple way to sort through tough decisions and you can take it at your own pace.

Deciding what you want to keep is your own business. You're the one who knows the stories behind these items. You know what's meaningful, what's not. Relax and don't worry about this part of your journey, you've got it boxed up.



  1. I am right now dismantling our bed to sell to a sweet little family tonight. 3+ years ago, a distant family member tried to forcibly take our bed, and I (quite understandably) freaked. Fast forward, and I feel strangely unattached to it. All of which to say ~ if it has a charge, hold on to it. There may, or may not, come a time when it is truly perfectly okay to let things go. That is the "decider" for me - the presence or absence of panic when I think of the objects in question.

  2. That's a good tip, Megan!

    I immediately started cleaning out the closet the week after John died. He had far more clothes than I-he LOVED shopping! So the walk-in closet in our bedroom was ALL his clothes! I was relegated to the hall closet. LOL Plus, he was a big man, which required us to shop at expensive big & tall stores. I knew I had to give his clothes away, if for no other reason I knew how hard it is to find clothes for a big guy and how spendy they are. My brother-in-law was a big guy, but not as tall as John, so I gave him all John's shirts. The pants, shorts, shoes and belts I took down to Salvation Army. I kept his ties, only because our eldest son is a bit taller than John and will need the extra tie length. People kept telling me to have a garage sale, but I don't have the patience for such things. I don't even like GOING to them.

    No matter when you do these things, you will have critics. If you do too soon (in THEIR eyes), you'll get "Wow, already?" and if you take too long, you'll get comments like, "When are you ever going to let go?" Personally, I was blessed not to hear any of that, but I've heard some ugly stories.

    Great advise Ferree (as always)!

  3. Megan that is so true---if it's emotionally charged it's not ready to go. And then I went to your blog and see that you're moving! You are right in the middle of boxes.
    Everyone---Click on Megan's name in blue and you'll get some firsthand in-the-moment sense of what its like for her, the sorrows and surprises of letting go.

  4. @Kelly--so true what people will say. The song kept going through my head "Can't please everyone, just go ahead and please yourself." I wanted to add too---do Not attempt a garage sale unless you love them, know what to realistically expect, and have lots of help. Rude and obnoxious strangers pawing through your stuff, and then challenging your price, is not what a widow needs to expose herself to.

  5. im at nine months and thought i would have a garage sale for all the stuff in the man cave.i hate to do this but i need the money and the garage is getting full of spider webs and to painful to look at.getting rid of his stuff feels like im getting rid of him.isnt that strange ?as far as his clothes that will go to salvation army if i can go into the closet and do it.not sure how to do all this.i dont want my daughters helping me as it would be to painful for them.not sure who to ask.i dont know anything about selling garage stuff.is it creepy to sell that stuff or should i give it away?

  6. Mar, It's not creepy to sell his stuff, and I'm sure that's what he'd want you to do if you need the money. I'd let the daughters decide for themselves if they don't want to help you, because its really not something a person should do alone. It's a huge job and you always need someone to watch the stuff while you're busy with customers. But don't give up. Maybe there are consignment shops you could place it in, or sometimes the newspapers have free ads for certain things. Just be very careful. This would be a good topic for Lifeboat.

  7. I am a quilter so knew I wanted to make quilts for our daughters from my husband's shirts. I wasn't ready to cut into them until a few months ago, two years after his passing. I now have the two quilts started. They will be a hug from their dad when they wrap themselves in the quilts. I am also making teddy bears from the shirts for our two grandsons. I am saving shirts to make more teddy bears for any future grandchildren. If this appeals to you and you are not a quilter, I am sure you could find someone to make them for you.

  8. Kristi, What a beautiful idea! If you have pictures you'd be willing to share I could post them here. These quilts will become family heirlooms and a precious remembrance. thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Ferree,

    As you know, this is what I needed read and it's something that's been hard for me to work though.

    I saw that had you put this up yesterday. I avoided reading because this is something that...well...I've been avoiding.

    I seem to be truly gifted in the area of avoidance. :)

    Someone (I would never mention Helen's name here) sent me the link and made me print it out.

    I have to say that I'm glad she did. It's harder to avoid a hard copy.

    I like your Terrific Technique of just one closet and three boxes. I like the idea that if you can only handle it for 5 minutes; then that's ok.

    Anything is better then nothing? So true!

    As always - Thank you Ferree!

  10. I am so proud of you my Sister, Ms. Swans Forever! <3
    And I thank you Ferree! As always, you have the greatest blogs! Much love!

  11. And I'm proud of all y'alls. (Did I say that right?) If not, just 'bless my heart.' <3

  12. Let's ring Carson and have him bring us some tea. :)

  13. My husband had not even been buried and was still in the Funeral Home and well meaning (I suppose) christians at my home visitation made (un-necessary comments) such as........"Oh just wait until you get to clean the closet, that's the fun part" and letting go of his tools"

    Another asked two weeks after his burial " dodi, I know it may be a little soon but can I have Tom's christian Library books" (I yeilded) then another minister entered my home and saw a 24 volumn set of Charles Spurgeon Library Books and asked could he please have them for his son" (I yeilded) I was sooooo very vunerable, I gave away soooo much stuff (some expensive) I felt stripped, raped, and then angry. (I was so out of it & dismal) I believe it's because all my strength and resilsency had been zapped and sucked out of me, I was only going thru the robotic motions of living.
    I had zero fortitude. I felt like a new born baby just beginning to crawl not knowing where to crawl to.

    If I could say one thing to widows RE:dis-assembling your husband's items...{please don't think you're strong enough to make current decisions (only unless you feel you're up to it.......everything is so dismal & foggy and when you try to be strong you only become weaker. I felt like a helpless little infant)
    I'm more frustrated w/ myself than I am with those well intentional coveteousness (dis-respecful people).

    However I do believe they were WRONG to come around so soon and start asking for this and that......not to mention disrespectful to me and my daughter and to Tom.

    You're left feeling totally stripped, naked and helpless.

    I've asked and sought God's grace to PLEASE help me to get back up and begin again.
    I was so, so frail & vunerable at this particular time in my life.

    One of my favorite scriptures in God's word is where God is speaking to Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and God ask's him "Son of man do you think that these bones will live"? Ezekiel says "Lord thou knowest" and then God breathes back life into the dry bones and puts flesh back upon them and picks them up out of the valley and puts them back together and they get up and start over again.

    I prayed and asked God to please breathe life back into my dried bones and lifless spirit and help me to get back up again.

    Ladies I know that you know , this journey is one experience that will forever change you from the inside out. Love to all of you who are going thru the sifting of stuff, my prayers are with you.

    Pray and ask God what you should keep and what you should let go of. I promise he will help you and guide you through this painful episode.

    God promises us in his word he will not break a bruised reed.
    In God's day bruised reeds were counted worthless and thrown aside, they were of no use & had no value after they had been bruised, they were pitched aside to dwindled away, But God saw these bruised reeds and restored them back to wholeness, as I believe he will all his precious trusting children.

    The quote from (those who have it all together is) which has pierced me the most is when the tears come (unexpectedly)and well meaning family members say... "it's time to move on" This makes me so angry and I respond by saying....I'm not ashamed of crying or my tears and if it bothers you then maybe you need to move on.

    God Bless


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