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One of the most emotional and taxing tasks after the death of a loved one is, “What to do with all their stuff?” Once the family has rifled through everything taking what they want to keep – then what? It can be incredibly overwhelming and time consuming. Rarely, if ever do relatives minimalize toward the end of life. Often, it’s quite the opposite – more and more stuff accumulates.

Bring those collections to the Celebration of Life for guests to take as a remembrance of Patty or Paul. Display the collection on tables with a sign that says, “Patty would want you to have a ____________ on display in your home. May it be a reminder of her generous, loving spirit.”

Is it too daunting to haul all that stuff to the Celebration of Life Ceremony? Another idea is to have an “Open House” from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday.  Invite friends to stop by for desserts and select a memento from Paul’s massive train collection. He would want you to have something to remember him and how much he loved trains!

With anything that remains, find an organization that would appreciate receiving all those boxes of shoes, fabrics, dresses, crafts, etc. Maybe a local theatre or playhouse would appreciate the vintage clothing, furniture or antique clocks.  Perhaps a school or church would benefit from all those crafting supplies.

Used medical equipment? Yes! There are multiple organizations who will accept these items and put them to good use.

Remember, you don’t have to do all this yourself. Think about all those people who said, “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” Here is your chance to take them up on that offer. Recruit those helpers to pack and haul the items to the Celebration of Life for you and set them up. Let your helpers who are good researchers find the best places to donate items.  Where can I get rid of all this old china? Mosaic artists love old china! Go to the library and find out which groups meet there on a regular basis. A knitting group? That’s the best place for Aunt Bessie’s boxes of yarn.  A writing club? Perfect place to donate all those journals and pens. If these groups or organizations do not want your donations, they will most likely know of a place that will take them.

Maybe you prefer to have an Estate Sale or Auction. Again, enlist all those helpers to help you.  Yes, you have to give up control and “being in charge”, but isn’t it worth it? Accepting help makes others feel good that they are helping you. No one knows what to say or do in times of grief. Give them something to do and it helps you!

A few of the memorable takeaway items I have seen at Celebrations of Life: Jewelry, Art, Plants, and Shoes. Colossal Collections of – wood carvings, salt & pepper shakers, matchbooks, tea sets, coins, pens, four-leaf clovers, and stationery.

Closing Thoughts

When Aunt Alice died, my Uncle Ed threw all of her oil paintings in the dumpster and burned them. This made me so sad. I would have loved to have just ONE of those paintings. I know her close friends would have enjoyed having a painting too.  A local Coffee Shop down the street would have gladly put them on display. Uncle Ed was experiencing deep grief and did not want help from anyone. He felt it was a sign of weakness to ask people for help. Stubbornly, he insisted on doing everything himself and it took a toll on him.  He could not think straight and he just wanted everything gone that was a reminder of her. Dealing with dead people’s stuff does not have to be daunting. Accept help, make a plan and know that others will greatly appreciate all these treasures.

Anita Larson Denver Funeral Officiant

Anita Larson is a Ceremony Leader and Officiant who blogs about her experiences with Celebrations of Life. Providing uncommon ideas and encouraging her readers to "Think Outside the Coffin®" when planning a Fabulous Farewell.

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