Question about your loved ones belongings

Hi, I was wondering if you were the person to sort through your loved ones things when they passed? If you were, I have some questions... how long did you wait to decide what to keep, donate/give away, or have a sale? If it was a parent, if you have siblings, how involved were they? Did you have to make a decision about their house (if you were not living there)? Also I don't want to push people (my sisters) before they are ready but at the same time everything sitting there is starting to get to me.... thoughts? Comments?

25 Replies

  • Hi Lperica10,

    Firstly, I'm very sorry for your loss. I lost my father a number of years ago, then my grandmother, and last year, my grandfather. I was the one to go through my father and grandmother's things. Going through my father's was a little more difficult than my grandmother's, so I'll start with her things first.

    For me, my situation was a little unique. My aunt was the one that cared for my grandparents when they each passed. She held on to the boxes of my grandmother's stuff, but didn't go through it. When I moved to where my aunt lives, she gave them to me to go through. I didn't move until 2 years after my grandmother had died, so her stuff had just sat in storage. I found that 2 years was more than enough time for me to have moved on enough to go through her stuff, but it was still difficult. The way the family went through her things was in this order: Aunt #1 didn't want anything and gave all the boxes to me; I went through and pulled out what I wanted then gave the boxes to my mother; my mother went through all the boxes and then gave them to Aunt #2. I have no idea what Aunt #2 did with them, but they were pretty picked over by that time and she was never close with my grandparents as I, my mom, and Aunt #1 was, so she probably just donated the rest. If everyone is pretty invested in your loved one's things, it might be best to coordinate the time to go through things with them so that you all feel ready and no one develops resentments.

    My father's belongings were another case entirely. When he passed, he was still living independently in an apartment. We (my mother and I) boxed up his belongings like his clothes and items we knew were important to him, then held a garage sale to sell the furniture I did not want. It took me a year to be able to go through the boxes. Even then, it was difficult deciding what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to donate. Over the years I have gradually pared down what I have of his as I have moved farther and farther from the event. I am an only child, so I did not have to worry about siblings.

    None of my loved ones owned any sort of assets at the point that they passed except my father owned a pickup truck. It was transferred to me after his death, and I gave it to my mother as I can't drive a manual. I'm sorry I don't have any advice on that question.

    The answer of the length of time will depend on the person and the relationship. Children who are estranged from their parents may find that they don't need to wait as long, or may need to wait more as they might regret the estrangement. It all depends.

    I hope this helps.



  • Thank you so much for taking the time to share Jennifer. And I am sorry for your losses as well. That helped me a lot. I know there is no right or wrong answer to some questions I just wanted to hear other people's experiences so thank you! We already gave away furniture that was old and worn, a bed, appliances, clothes. I took a dresser to my house. It's just hard to do things like the house itself and memorabilia. We are paying for the house out of his estate. My one sister doesn't want or care to have a say. And my other sister is undecided. And I say let go of the house (if no one wants it) but my sister keeps saying she wants it but has taken no further action. Touchy subject to bring up. He passed away in October. Or she'll say she'll meet me to go through things and either 1 cancel or 2 cry and say she can't do it & leave. Other things were easier to decide and agree upon with each other- she asked for his wedding ring (he was divorced from our mother), I wanted his worn out wallet, and my other sister wanted his vintage tee's. He did not own a car at the time but has a motorcycle in his garage. Thanks again!

  • When my father died suddenly, I put my mother in a nursing home and sold my parents' house and furniture. I kept their artwork and silverware. It was a three story house and required the help of our teenage son to empty it. When my husband died, I gave his clothes to the nursing home he lived in and saved his photos, Bible and M

    asonic ring. I often wear the ruby ring that belonged to my husband's brother who died at 26. Those were stressful times emotionally. Everyone who has to do this should ask for help.

  • Thank you. This helps.

  • Hi I am sorry for your loss. When my mum went into a care home me and 2 of my sisters picked everything we thought she would need and gave it to her. Then because the housing benefit said they would pay the rent for 6 months in case she went home we did nothing else for ages.

    When the 6 months was nearly up we went round and sorted the flat out. We sent some things to an auction house, others we did several car boot sales for to raise some money for her, and what was left went to the neighbours and the charity shop. Obviously we picked out anything we wanted eg I wanted her electric fire and a painting and my other 2 sisters took what they wanted.

    Unfortunately none of us had power of attorney so what we were doing was technically illegal but if we hadn't done it for her it would have meant social services being involved, and none of us wanted to go down that route. She was our mother so we sorted it.

  • Thank you for sharing. Hearing other people's experiences helps me.

  • I must admit we couldn't face our tasks until we had no choice and did leave things as late as possible. But as long as it's done then that's ok.

    Good luck with your sorting etc.

  • Thank you! I did some last night and then felt better. And now I'll take a break. Can't do too much at once.

  • It's easier if you have someone to share the tasks with. I don't think any of us could have faced it alone. Take it easy.

  • Sorry to hear you're going through this difficult time xx I lost my mum last year and I had been living with her as her main carer at the time. As it was housing association they wanted it back quickly, one woman even suggested a week was standard !!!! I refused and said I would be keeping it for six weeks as it had been my home too. TBH I did very little over the first few weeks, I was too busy organising the funeral and notifying family, friends and multiple health care workers, agencies etc. I then tried to sort through things but my mum had so much stuff ! I set up envelopes for my three siblings and put relevant things I found for each child in their envelopes, photos or cards that were specifically to do with them.

    My sister helped a couple of times as she lived locally but didn't seem to want as much as I'd thought she would. As i had no home to go too I knew I couldn't keep loads but didn't want to regret giving away anything. My brothers rarely called or visited my mum over those two years and didn't help sort anything but did live far away. My one brother asked for my mums recliner which initially made me angry but then I realised I'd rather it was kept in the family than given to a stranger. I tried to put some things on gumtree and gave away several items. I also sadly had to take lots of ornaments and clothes to charity but I kept a few items of significant or favourite clothing and offered some to close family and friends.

    I kept all of her personal papers, diaries, special Ornaments, jewellery, handbag etc as well as lots of other things. I did feel pangs that perhaps I hadn't kept enough but I think I have most of the main things. It's a year next month since I lost mum and I'm hoping to go back through all the boxes etc soon, there might be things I no longer feel I need to keep and it would be good to look back over everything.

    Best wishes with it. I advise wine and tissues and good company xx

  • Thank you so much that helps a lot. I am so sorry for your loss. How are you feeling as it comes up upon a year?

  • I have to say the first ten months were very difficult. Although my mum had a degenerative condition I lost her quite suddenly and unexpectedly so the shock and aftermath of grief hit me badly. Plus I had to move and find work etc and so I didn't feel I had time to just deal with it all. But I am starting to come out the other side at last, the last few weeks I'm starting to go longer without thinking of mum, although makes you feel a bit guilty in a way. And I'm able to genuinely laugh and feel like socialising again and now spring is here I feel like I can get through it and although I still miss her every day, life can and does go on. Anniversaries are a bit weird but a few good friends and ways of coping are good. There's a website called muchloved where you can set up a memorial page and I used that as my kind of online journal to write to mum whenever I wanted to and that helped a bit too.

    Sorry to ask but have you lost a parent also? Hope you have support and are taking it day by day x

  • Thanks for replying. Yes I lost my dad 10-12-16. So 7 months have gone by. I am starting to feel okay. (Spring has helped me as well). Staying busy with work has helped me too. I did go to therapy after and up my anxiety/depression pill and check in with my doctor. I have a lot of support which I am grateful for but I just miss him so much! He was my dad! I think about him so much and like you said you do feel guilty if you don't sometimes. I know that is only natural and nothing to feel guilty about but it's still hard! My dad was ill and we knew we would loose him (just not WHEN) but it hurt so bad when it happened and became real that it was final. I still have trouble sometimes thinking I can't believe all of this happened.

  • I'm so sorry to hear that, I think the pain of losing a parent is something you only truly understand when it happens to you. It changes everything. I'm glad to hear you've had lots of support and your GP was helpful too. I signed up for counselling with Cruz in September but am still waiting! I thought about asking for anti depressants but tbh wine and crying lots eventually got me through!

    I always wonder 'what if' too, and wish things had been different. I'm hoping to get an engraved plaque on a bench at our local beach and want to scatter some of mums ashes if I ever see the northern lights. I Think doing little things like that help.

    I can understand you wanting to sort your dads things, it's nice to see what they kept and treasured and to look through the memories. Do what you can when you're ready to. One of my best friends put all of her mums things in the attic after she passed and hasn't looked at them since. Although I can understand it's hard to deal with and brings back sad thoughts I do think it's good for you to sort and see what's there and let the emotion out! X

  • What a nice idea for your mom with the bench! Where do you live? And yes because I was already on antidepressants upping them a dose helped (something I tried to just get through without doing ) until I couldn't stop crying mos after. It was a little delayed. Saw my gp right after his death bc I had an appt anyway. I was "fine". Then called her mos later crying uncontrollably. How old was your mother? My dad was 63.

  • I live on the coast of South Wales so hoping to get bench there but it's a popular idea so bit of a list.

    Think it hits people at different times in different ways. Plus maybe the anti depressants kinda hid your emotions for a little while. I think you have to lose it and cry at some point otherwise it just bottles up.

    That's so young to lose a parent, I'm so sorry. My mum was 70 and that felt too young! Especially as I work with older patients in hospital now and so many of them are in their 90s!! Seems unfair some get so much longer but i guess I'm lucky I had my mum for as long as I did.

  • Yes the last bit is essential! I am surprised the housing association was so harsh as my mother was with one - Raglan, and they were brilliant and paid the rent for 6 months. Maybe it's changed now with all the cutbacks.

    We did want to keep a lot more of her stuff ourselves but unfortunately one of our sisters had, unknown to us, been stealing all her money systematically and we didn't find out until too late. It broke our heart to sell her jewellery and so much of her stuff at car boots, but it was urgent that we raised some operating money so she could get her hair and feet done as well as the drinks and chocolates she liked and anything else she wanted or needed such as new clothes etc. It made a heart breaking situation much worse. I remember how awful we felt when we sold her wedding ring and a few other nice pieces.

  • I was in Northamptonshire at the time and might just have been unlucky with person I spoke to. They wanted to charge rent for the weeks I stayed there too but after the initial invoice never followed it up.

    Oh no! That's so sad! Your poor mum, I'm glad she had you for support and to do what you could for her.

  • Well 1 sister and I did all the work after we discovered what had happened and kicked the other sister out from dealing with anything. We did all agree that mum would never know as the shock of being in debt for the first time in her life would have killed her. I wanted to call the police but my other sister said mum would find out then, so we didn't in the end.

    The number of mornings me and my other sister were up at 5 in the morning lugging her stuff down from the first floor into the car to do the car boots nearly finished me off as I have mild lung disease as well as a bad back. I was determined to do my full share otherwise it wasn't fair on her, but it really took it out of me and knackered me up for days afterwards.

    The thief sister doesn't even appreciate what we went through and seem to think it is all in the past now. But we cannot ever forgive or forget what she did and it has changed our view of her forever. She is not capable of understanding that. She is now disabled and both of us could do more for her but we don't.

  • Oh you poor things! That's a horrible thing your sister did and I totally u sweats d why you didn't want your mum to find out. But that must have been so stressful for you, I hope your health has managed to recover a bit now.

    I also don't blame you for not having much to do with your sister! If she can treat her own mum like that then it's hard to be compassionate in return! My sister lived a few minutes drive from my mum and visited once a fortnight for a quick coffee. She left me to all the care, paperwork, everything and only got involved after mum died as a long standing will named my sister the executor (she was the oldest). She'd taken money periodically off my mum over the years, but she'd ask for it and plead poverty and my mum would feel guilty so give it to her. But I dont speak to her now as I can't forgive her for not doing for my mum and leaving me to provide all the care 24/7.

    You find out the true nature of people when someone's ill or passes away and it's when you really see who the good and bad people are!

    I hope you are okay now and that you still have one sister for support x

  • Thank you it was very hard and we were gutted to find out what the sister had been doing. Because we were working most of the time and she wasn't, she did go round to my mothers every day for years getting her shopping for her and keeping her company. Consequently my mum had given her the bank card....

    We knew she was giving her some money weekly but my mum had a fair old whack and apparently told her to take some to pay off her debts. My mum thought she was around £2,000 in debt when in actual fact it was more like £20,000.

    Meanwhile my sister was living with my dad and he was basically keeping her. It wasn't until he died 8 years ago that she used my mum to keep her and fund her gambling, taxis everywhere etc. She did pay off some of her debts coz she was being chased for them quite aggressively.

    Unfortunately she lives in the downstairs flat from me and I can't live in a war zone so had to keep the peace. I have very little to do with her though. If I hadn't been living so close I would have mainly cut her out of my life for good.

    Oh well it's old history now and I don't blame you for being so annoyed with your sister. It's not fair is it? Take care.

  • Good question.....I started a little before....I gave away many things I knew he would never wear again....This wkkd I tried to clean out the shed....My kids are all " you can't give that away!" so so much for my pursuit for minamalism but I read that you should give yourself a long time before giving it away. if it was your loved one ie husband wife... there may be things that bring good memories...keep it for awhile.....My husbands robe will be with me forever..... all his Grateful Dead t shirts are staying....stuff like daily shirts , pants socks etc are already gone. Infact I will probably keep more than I give away....but thats only because of the kids....

    Hopefully there was some form of a will. If not then maybe a family conference even one with a lawyer if there were many assests would be advised. My mother in law has people put their name on items they might want one day.....they are still alive but have ALOT of stuff so if they can rid themselves now it will be alot easier when the day comes....

    If anything is learned from all of this , is make sure you have a will or some sort of agreement with the kids when your time comes.....too hard to put on those left behind.....


  • Thank you! No no will, it is up to my sisters and I. He had an appt for a will but passed right before. We will figure it out it is just quite overwhelming. Thanks again.

  • I know, a big empathetic hug to you


  • That will likely be me. Maybe a little support. Only been recent bereavement though.

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