#601 How to Sort Through a Loved One’s Belongings After They’re Gone Part 1

#601 How to Sort Through a Loved One’s Belongings After They’re Gone Part 1

601 – How to Sort Through a Loved One’s Belongings After They’re Gone Part 1

The loss of a loved one is a complicated road to travel. There are many layers to the grief.

One of those layers is what to do with the belongings of that loved one once they are gone. In today’s episode, Kathi interviews the author of the book Breathing Through the Grief, A Devotional Journal for Seasons of Loss. Nine years ago, Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young and her young daughters lost their 40-year-old husband and father to cancer.

In this part 1 episode, Kathi and Dorina talk about this delicate subject as well as:

  • When and how to start the sorting process
  • How to avoid decision-making fatigue in the grief process
  • How to involve close family members

Dorina also shares ideas for ways to remember and honor your loved one.

Grab a copy of Breathing Through the Grief, A Devotional Journal for Seasons of Loss by Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young.

 Sign up here to be notified when part 2 of this conversation about grief and clutter is released.

The Accidental Homesteader: What I’ve Learned About Chickens, Compost, and Creating Home

Homesteading [hohm-sted-ing]
1. an act or instance of establishing a homestead.
2. the act of loving where you live so much that you actively ignore the fact that your house is trying to kill you on a regular basis.

For Kathi Lipp and her husband, Roger, buying a house in one of the most remote parts of Northern California was never part of the plan; many of life’s biggest, most rewarding adventures rarely are.

Kathi shares the hard-won wisdom she’s gained on her homestead journey to help you accomplish more at home, gain fresh perspective, and give yourself grace in the process. Here’s a handful of the lessons Kathi shares:

  • Prepare before the need arises
  • Everything is always in process, including us
  • Your best household solution is time and patience
  • You don’t have to do everything the hard way
  • Be open to new and better ways of doing things
  • A lot of small changes make a huge difference.
    Highly practical, humorous, and inspirational, The Accidental Homesteader will encourage you to live with more peace, joy, and contentment.

Order your copy of The Accidental Homesteader: What I’ve Learned About Chickens, Compost, and Creating Home here.

Have you struggled with what to do with items left behind when a loved one has died? Do you have any creative solutions for those items?

Share your answers in the comments.

Let’s stay connected

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  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

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Meet Our Guest 


Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young is an author, speaker, Bible teacher, and spoken word artist.

Her passion is helping people discover God’s glory in unexpected places and flourish in their God-given callings. She wants you to become a glory chaser with her, running after God’s glory rather than your own. This has made a world of difference in every facet of Dorina’s life.

Her happy place is near the ocean with her people or running on a trail in the mountains near her home. A foodie, Dorina loves trying new recipes and restaurants. Tears, laughter, and good food are always welcome at her table. Guests are invited to come as they are.

Connect with Dorina at www.DorinaGilmore.com, where you can sign up for her Glorygram letter. You can also find her as @DorinaGilmore
on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Kathi (00:01.518)
Well, hey friends, welcome to Clutter-Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. And if you haven’t heard the story, I finished my book, Clutter-Free, on the morning of September 5th.

And about an hour and a half later, my dad passed away in the same room. And my dad is the reason that I was on part of the reason I was on this clutter free journey, because he was a hoarder. And I a lot of the stuff that I tended to keep was because of my dad. And I have to tell you, the struggle for decluttering and the removal of some of his stuff during that time of grief is one of the more difficult things I’ve gone through as an adult. And I am not an expert on this. I am not an expert on grief. I am very fortunate that I’ve had very few encounters with grief in my life, but that means that there are a lot of things to come.

And I thought I would bring somebody who has done the deep dive, who has walked through the grief, because either you’re a novice or an expert. And I’m sad to say that my friend, Dorina, is an expert, but she is so gracious that she is coming to share with us. She has a new book called Breathing Through the Grief, a devotional journal for seasons of loss.

Guys, it’s Dorina Gilmore Young. She’s an author, she’s a Bible teacher, she’s a coach. She is a master of many things. And Dorinna, first of all, welcome to Clutterfree Academy.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (02:10.542)
Kathi, it is a gift to be here with you today. Thanks so much for the welcome.

Kathi (02:15.758)
Well, and you know, it’s, I’m very excited and grateful for this new book that you have. But the path there was a very difficult one. Can you just tell us, you know, briefly your story of grief in your life? And then we’re gonna get into some practical things that all of us can do when it comes to this, this weird tension between stuff and grief.

But tell us a little bit about your journey.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (02:47.215)
Yeah, thank you for the invitation. So I could tell many different facets of a grief journey that I’ve endured in my life, but probably the most prominent is nine years ago, my husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer. And at that time he was 40 years old. I was in my late 30s and we had three little kids. Our daughters were ages two, five and eight. And we received his diagnosis

May of 2014 and he went to heaven in September of that year So even though the days felt excruciatingly long for me as I watched him suffer and his body deteriorate It was quick. It was over the course of a summer for a lot of our friends And you know sometimes you kind of check out because people are traveling and doing different things during the summer and so for friends and family it was very shocking it was a swift battle with cancer and

Kathi (03:32.558)
Yeah, that’s…

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (03:47.089)
been a journey that has had a windy path as it always is. Grief is more like a tangled ball of yarn than it is a straight path, right? But I’m also so deeply grateful for the ways that God has been present with me on this journey.

Kathi (07:10.558)
that while Dorina has gone through something absolutely, you know, life changing, something that most of us in our 30s and 40s would never ever have to deal with, Dorina has a beautiful life. You’re remarried, you have three beautiful daughters, but there has to be this walking with joy and grief that you’ve gone through and continue to go through.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (07:41.359)
Definitely. And you know, I think I’m very passionate about normalizing this conversation about grief because all of us are constantly walking that line. It’s like kind of like a train track between grief and joy. Those do not come separately. They often coexist in a given day, in a given hour, in a given minute sometimes for all of us. And so when

Kathi (07:51.819)

Kathi (07:59.298)

Kathi (08:02.786)

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (08:11.313)
with a recognition that God has brought great rejoicing and redemption in my life, but it also means I deal with triggers and the journey of grief daily, and that’s nine years out.

Kathi (08:25.066)
Yeah, okay, so let’s talk about triggers because I have to imagine the things in your life, the things that were your husband’s, the things that you shared, the things that are significant to your three daughters. How do you start to deal with some of those things? Because I know for my mom,

she wanted to get rid of a lot of stuff very quickly. With my dad being a hoarder, this finally gave her permission. That was not your story. You’re surrounded by all these things that bring back good memories, I have to imagine. But we also can’t continue to live with all of that the whole time. How did you start?

to detangle the, you know, I don’t want to call it decluttering, but maybe the curation, the collecting, the downsizing of some of those things. When did that start for you?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (09:33.263)
Yeah, that’s such a good question to reflect on because my husband was not a hoarder. So it is a different story. But at the same time, we lived in a home together where he actually had been a bachelor living for many years. And then we moved. We lived on the mission field in the country of Haiti. And so there are things that you sort of accumulate along the way. And then there are the treasures from someone’s life that you have to figure out when you’re the person kind of left.

Kathi (09:38.39)
No. Yeah.

Kathi (09:47.168)

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (10:03.217)
behind, in my case I was the widow, where it’s like, okay, how can I measure right now what’s going to be important in the future and what are things that just need to be downsized and decluttered because we have to live our normal life and we can’t keep existing in the past. So I feel like I had to start going through that journey slowly. One of the things that expedited it is that I moved

Kathi (10:12.547)

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (10:33.137)
home where my husband died to a new home with my daughters about a year after his passing. And so I’ve actually written about this a little bit on my website, my blog as well, but I had to decide, okay, what can I emotionally handle to declutter and what are some things that I need to just give myself permission to do at a later time. And one of my sweet friends was brilliant.

Kathi (10:52.014)

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (11:03.057)
of this process and she got a huge cardboard box and she wrote with a sharpie on the outside time capsule and it was just a thing where I had this box where I could put things into it that I could make a decision about at a later time.

Kathi (11:12.631)
Oof. Hmm.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (11:23.407)
And then there were the things where it was like, okay, I’m going to donate this, or I’m going to throw this away, or I’m going to get rid of this. But it’s so emotionally exhausting, especially on a grief journey. You get this kind of decision fatigue that happens pretty quickly. And so, you know, by the end of the first, I’ll call it sorting, I had 10 boxes remaining that were his things. And then the next time I moved, it was less, you know, and so I just kind of gave myself permission along.

Kathi (11:23.776)

Kathi (11:43.909)

Kathi (11:47.874)
Oh wow. Okay.


Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (11:53.361)
the way. But still, even today it’s so interesting. It’s like I gave away so many of my husband’s clothes thinking those were probably not important. I saved some special flannel shirts that we made into pillows for my daughters and some special t-shirts and that kind of thing. But still, my daughters today, just because of the way style is and because they love thrifting,

Kathi (12:19.585)

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (12:23.281)
all the things that I gave away of my husbands or something sort of in that genre. And I’m like, well, why didn’t I keep, you know, those sweatshirts that were from college that I didn’t think anyone would care about five years ago or seven years ago. And now my kids are looking for that very thing at the thrift store. So it’s really kind of a funny process.

Kathi (12:32.066)

Kathi (12:44.85)
Yeah, but you’re so right. We try to make those decisions about what’s going to be important in five or 10 years in the midst of grief. I love that you had levels. There were things that were obviously easy to give away or throw away. But, you know, there are some people who are stuck in the thought that if I do anything with their belongings.

It’s dishonoring. And we know that’s not true. In our head, we know that’s not true, but in our heart, that can be really, really tough. Did you encounter any of that and how did you help process that?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (13:33.263)
Yeah, I mean for sure it felt stressful. I had some anxiety over this because I knew that I wanted to honor my husband and I knew I had these little girls but I did not know what was going to be important to them in the future. And I think some of what helped me was brainstorming ways to remember and honor him but not necessarily keeping the physical item, if that makes sense.

Kathi (14:01.766)
Yeah. Dorina, what was his name?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (14:03.951)
Eric Lee. First name was Eric Lee. So good southern boy with two names in the first name.

Kathi (14:05.554)
Eric, okay, okay. Okay, oh, Eric Lee was his first name. I was like, I don’t see Lee in your last name because you have four names. And so, okay, Eric Lee. So you brainstormed how to honor and keep his memory alive without it being stuff. So tell me a little bit more about that.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (14:29.999)
Well, and honestly, I collected some of these ideas along the way from other friends and from books I read and blog posts. But one example would be like making a photo memory book. The photos are just so valuable. And so I really spent time with my girls kind of curating photos that we already had. And now we’re in the midst of like printed photos, which he had from his childhood versus digital photos. But then there were even things that we knew we didn’t want to keep, but we took photos of them, like little treasures of his so that we could still kind of have those in our memory. And so that would be my advice to people is like create a sort of best of album, whether that’s digital or something you want to print, you know, through Shutterfly or another service. But you can take photos of some things that maybe don’t have, you don’t have space for in your home but you can still remember like oh you know he won this medal for running when he was a young person or he had these special shoes or you know those types of things where it’s like okay that’s actually gonna sit in a box in my garage forever or I can take a photo of it and my kids can remember it as a treasured relic that represents their dad.

Kathi (15:47.821)

Kathi (15:56.126)
I love that. Okay, so speaking of kids, were they involved in this process at all? They were pretty young when your husband passed, but you know, I’m just wondering, were there safe and comforting ways for them to be involved? Or did you pretty much have to do everything and

leave your kids out of the, not leave them out. That sounds like it came with a judgment, which it absolutely 100% did not. How old were your girls when you were going through all this?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (16:31.759)
So when he died, they were two, five and eight. So yes, they were very young. Probably my oldest was the only one who could really kind of enter into some of that decision making with me.

Kathi (16:35.562)
Yeah, very young.

Kathi (16:43.624)

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (16:44.111)
but I kind of chose certain things where I did want to include them. So I mentioned like the memory pillows. I had a friend who loves to sew and she offered to do this for us. And so I let each of the girls pick out one of his flannel shirts. And that was something special that it’s like, they got to have daddy’s shirt. And I mean, they’re teenagers now and they still have their daddy pillows as we like to call them. And, you know, one of them I can think of, it was a flannel shirt

Kathi (16:51.528)

Kathi (16:59.694)
It’s amazing.

Kathi (17:11.071)

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (17:14.065)
in the last family photo that we took for Christmas. And so every time I see that pillow, I think about that photo shoot. I think about the fun that we had with our friend who took our photos. I think about him wearing it. So there is such a layered kind of memory that is in this little pillow and I didn’t have to keep 25 shirts. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I should have, like I said, cause my kids are thrifting all this stuff right now.

Kathi (17:17.131)

Kathi (17:21.464)

Kathi (17:38.477)

Kathi (17:43.682)

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (17:44.207)
at least we got four of his special shirts. And I actually did keep some of his other clothes in a box. And I’m so grateful that I did because my girls wear their dads sweaters and sweatshirts that we did keep now as teenagers, which you know, at two, five and eight, they really didn’t care about that. And it would have looked like a dress on them. But now they do. And so I think it’s like choosing sort of a small quantity of the actual stuff that you want to keep and then doing

Kathi (17:47.972)

Kathi (18:02.471)
Right. Yeah.

Kathi (18:12.078)

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (18:14.161)
special that maybe this represents dad, like the pillow or the photo album where we can still kind of return to those things without filling up our garage.

Kathleen Lipp
Friends, I hope you’ve been getting as much of this conversation with Dorina as I have. Whether you’ve already gone through the process of sorting through a loved one’s belongings or it’s something that we are all going to have to do in the future, I hope that with her graciousness and her care and her love and her honoring, we can all find better ways to honor the memories of those we love while taking care of ourselves at the same time.

Please come back next week where we’re gonna finish this conversation with Dorina and she offers even more hope and more healing through this very difficult process. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Cathy Lipp. And now go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.