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You have Lost a Parent - Where to Start to clear those Possessions?

A person's daily possessions form a kind of exoskeleton, and the act of disposing of them is another stage of mourning and letting go. Never does this become more apparent than when dealing with the lifetime of possessions accrued by a loved one, which their nearest and dearest must somehow deal with once they have died. The secret of dealing with the emotional attachment that clings to material objects is all in the timing. At one end of the spectrum is the person who can let nothing go. At the other end is someone who can select just a few objects to embody the person they have lost.

Nothing prepares you for the emotional force of the things people leave behind when they die. It's nothing to do with monetary value. You can be expected to value your mother's engagement ring but who knew you'd be paralysed by some old kitchen spoons or your father's broken tool box? It's funny to think we live on in a favourite mug or a sewing box, but we do.

Many are simply overwhelmed by the task; to part with a loved one's material possessions feels like a secondary loss. But when the right amount of time has passed it no longer feels like a betrayal. Letting go is the right thing to do, even if it causes an emotional wrench. We value storage, but we can't keep everything. Nor should we.

There is a very practical process to go through when you find yourself clearing a loved one's house after their death but the emotional process is different and can take years. I've seen friends incapable of clearing and selling a property. I've seen the contents of a parent's house cramming a daughter's dining room to the ceiling. If you have storage space you can defer decisions but you might simply be passing them on to your own children.

Do not feel guilty about discarding or donating things. The important things to keep are your memories. The rest of the "stuff" served your loved one well, and it is not your responsibility to keep it forever and ever. Your loved one filled his or her home with objects that were pretty or useful to him or her. If they are not pretty or useful to you, donate them without guilt.

This may be the most emotional aspect of cleaning out the house. Experts say it hastens the process if you seek assistance from an independent person who can help you make decisions with empathy and who work with you through the process and decision-making.

Call Margaret for a free consultation on 0800 22 88 24