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March 20, 2014

What Do I Do With Their Belongings?

What Do I do with their belongings?

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Memory Box

What do I do with their belongings?  I remember when my grandmother passed away, this was the question on our lips.  She had a lifetime of treasures and memories collected over the years. Those precious items, although not of great material value had locked away in their DNA recollections of who my grandmother was. This is one of the most difficult tasks to deal with when a loved one dies.  Generally, disbursement of Assets is generally taken care of as part of the estate.  What do I do with their belongings that often have no great material value but have priceless sentimental value, that have become a part of who this person was? Some have the ability to take their time to sort through possessions, due to circumstances others need to go through this process quickly. Cherish Funerals hope that the following practical guide on “What do I do with their belongings?”

Before you start

Do you want to sort through belongings alone or will you have others to assist
  • Create a “Participants List”
  • Split the participants list in to two categories
  • Decision Makers and Helpers
  1. If not all family members can be present ask what specific items they would like? Make a list of names to receive certain items and buy colored sticker dots, giving each person named on the list a color. This will assist you when sorting you can place a colored sticker on items to represent where who that item needs to go to.
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    Label items with colored dots

  2. Organise the process of cleaning out – have a plan. Room by room tends to be the logical options. Prioritise which room needs to be sorted first. When that room is empty use it as the sorting room.
  3. Plan breaks and how long you would like to spend on each area.

The five categories

Create five sections for items to be categorised in.
  1. Keep – This is where those colored dots become useful
  2. Dispose – Depending on what needs to be thrown away you may want to organise a skip or trailer for a tip run.
  3. Donate – You may wish to donate some items to personal contacts or you may have chosen a charity. For personal contacts use the sticker system. If you are donating to a charity contact the charity to ensure they are able to take the items you wish to donate. Confirm whether they will collect from the house or if you need to organise transportation of goods.
  4. Sell – There are a number of selling options for items – Ebay, Gumtree, Garage Sale , Private Sale, etc.
  5. Not Sure – This is for all those treasures you are not ready to part with. You may need to go through this section a number of times. It can take a while to decide on items that have particular sentimental value.
Other suggestions include creating memory boxes for relatives, grandchildren and or friends. Generally a shoe box size with treasured items of sentimental value. Sometimes there are already biscuit tins, special boxes or containers in the home.
  • Letters
  • Photos
  • Postcards of places travelled
  • Small items of significance
  • Perfumes
  • Music CD’s or a DVD Movie
  • memory box


Family and friends generally want to offer condolences and ways to help you through this time. Do not be afraid to allocate tasks to those who wish to assist. Set up a working bee if needed
  • Someone to provide boxes, tape, newspaper for packing, the colored stickers, markers
  • Someone to provide their strength in lifting and transportation of goods
  • A friend or family member to keep lists up to date
  • Someone to provide meals and breaks
  • Helpers for the clean up afterwards – The cleaning crew
  • Someone for emotional support to assist you in the hard decisions of parting with items
  • It you have a number of family members making decisions on items. Prior to sorting through items agree and allocate the role of final decision maker to one person. This maybe a family member or an impartial friend of the family.


Ensure you have a neighbour watching the house during this process. Thieves can be very resourceful. Better still, have someone stay at the home until it is emptied.

Be kind to yourself

Finally, be kind to yourself. Ensure you have enough rest, that you are eating right and that you take breaks. Although this can be seem a daunting process, take time if you can to remember, reflect, smile, cry and allow those memories to come flooding back of precious times shared.