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Honoring A Loved One - Without Keeping All Their Stuff

I got a strange message the other day…it was from a thrift store in Chicago. My Great Aunt Sophie’s guest book from her funeral had ended up in a donation box there. The store employee assumed it was a mistake and took the time and effort to locate a family member to see if someone would want it back. Surely she thought this book with special handwritten messages was still wanted by someone…my first thought was yes, we want this. It was an emotional reaction and I suddenly had a hard decision to make.

The truth is it’s the stuff we hold onto that we think we need that adds clutter and stress to our lives. People often hang on to everything they can to feel connected to a late loved one or a past season in their life: possessions, pictures, or paper. The old shirt in the back of the drawer can become almost sacred. The clothes in the closet may have a familiar scent or trigger a beloved memory.

There simply is no one-size-fits all answer. Those decisions on whether to display, pack away or give away possessions are almost always influenced by the intertwined qualities of sentiment and value with practicality.

There are many beautiful ways to honor the lives of those we love who are not here anymore by creating a memorial garden, planting a tree, releasing butterflies, creating something artful with jewelry, or creating a scholarship in their name.

Sharing that beauty with the world can impact quality of life instead of the very real potential of space gobbling in your home. They become items collecting dust in your home and not being appreciated. It is common to feel some guilt if we don’t keep an item from a late loved one. We don’t need to feel obligated to keep items that belonged to our late loved ones unless they bring us joy or it is something practical that we will use.

But if there is an accumulation of items that belonged to someone else in your home then one key to organizing is to keep the items that bring happiness and try to keep it contained to a single storage container or a beautiful trunk.

I realized I don’t need my Great Aunt’s guest book to remember her, I have pictures and stories to help keep her memory alive and to honor her.

by Michelle Groogan for Control the Chaos Organizing

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