“We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.”
Once you have already done the first step of the process, which is collecting the stuff, you’re ready for Part 2. For more information on the collecting phase of dealing with stuff, please click here.
I hope you’ve given yourself some time to reflect on your partner’s belongings, and what they mean to you. I know it may seem daunting to say goodbye to the stuff, to turn the page on this chapter of your life, particularly when so many of the things hold a story or memory for you.
In doing the reflections of the earlier phase of collecting – examining the questions, “What does it mean to let go of this stuff?” and “What is this stuff’s value to me?” – you created the space to get ready for the next phase of sorting and purging the items you have decided to let go of. Well done.
And it bears repeating that you, and only you, are the one who gets to decide when the time is right for you to go on to this next phase – sorting and purging.
Saying goodbye to the stuff
When you have the inner prompting that you are ready to start the process of sorting through your loved ones belongings, deciding what to do with them, and beginning the purge, here are some things to think about in preparation for the big day:
Decide what kind of help you want and ask someone to help you.
Having the presence of another person who knew and loved your partner can be so helpful. Having them hold for you while you make the decisions about each item can really help lighten your load, and provides an opportunity to share stories and memories together. Energetically speaking, having this kind of support can mean the difference between completing the process with grace and ease and getting bogged down in sadness and lethargy and giving up. The more supportive and grounded this person is, the better it will be for you.
Consider who you’d like to help you and if you don’t feel comfortable with someone who has offered assistance or have a question about their motivation to help, it’s ok to decline.
Pick a date (or few dates) for the sorting process. Remember, you don’t have to do it all in one day if there is a lot of stuff to go through.
Start out small – take baby steps. If you get too tired or overwhelmed, it’s OK to stop for the day.
Begin with the easy stuff. Sorting the things that have been spoken for or you already have decided what to do with them is a great way to gain momentum and motivate yourself to keep going.
Keep only the things that YOU want and/or need to keep, not what you think you “should” keep, or what you think they would have wanted you to keep. If you don’t like it or need it, it’s OK to let it go.
Steps to follow on sorting day
- Put on some music that creates the mood you want.
- Have a bottle of water handy and drink from it every 15 minutes.
- Put the timer on for 60 minutes and take a break when the time is up.
- Open the space where the items are stored and dive in. If you’re not sure where to start, begin at the top left of the space and work down and across to the right. Work with each item/box of items, one by one.
- Sort the items into 5 categories:
- Definitely keep
- Maybe keep – this is for anything you are not sure about and you can come back to sort through these things again later
- Give away
Once you have gone through and sorted everything, take another look at the “Maybe Keep” pile. You might have more clarity now on what to do with these items. If you are still not decided, place them in the “Definitely Keep” pile. You can always come back to revisit this pile later.
Purging – Sometimes it makes sense to do this on a different day. I do recommend that, if at all possible, your move the “Donate” and “Give away/toss” things out to their new destinations right away to free up your space.
Things like photos, tools, collections, etc., may be more difficult to decide what to do with. If you are not clear about it in the moment, put them in the “Keep” or “Maybe Keep” pile.
Letters, journals/diaries, e-mails and other intensely personal items are a subject all on their own. There may be communications that your partner wrote that they never intended to be shared with anyone or even seen by you. You may want to really consider how to approach these personal and private areas before diving in. A good rule to remember is that it’s really difficult to un-see what you have seen. See resources below for a great article on this subject.
Emotions may come up
Create the safety to feel your feelings as they come forward. Give yourself permission to slow down or stop if you experience a wave of grief. The emotional associations with your partner’s things can take you by surprise when you are sorting through them. You may experience sadness, anger, laughter, gratitude…just know it’s really normal for this process to be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. And, it’s OK to feel exactly what you feel. There is no need to put pressure on yourself to keep going if you want to stop to process or talk through the feelings that are coming up.
Your loved one is not their stuff. It’s important to remember this. Often what we will miss most about our partners has nothing to do with possessions.
At the end of the day, celebrate your wins, acknowledge and appreciate yourself for what you have accomplished.
*Below are some links to resources to assist you with the sorting and purging process:
Love and Blessings on Your Journey,