Tips for sorting a loved one's possessions after they've passed away

Sorting through a loved one’s belongings after they have passed away can be an emotional process. Certain objects can evoke emotions you weren’t expecting. If you are faced with a deadline, you may have to move quicker than you want to. Coordinating with family can add another level of stress to the entire process.

Here are a few tips for working with your family while sorting through a loved one’s belongings:

Talking ahead of time - Before you begin sorting, discuss your expectations with your family. This includes any timelines you need to follow, the expectations you have for the process and even the feelings you’re currently experiencing. For some, seeing personal items is too, and for some, those items serve as reminders. Discussing how this process is making you feel will help your family to understand better what you will need at the moment.

Compromise - This process is already emotionally-charged, so it’s best to have a plan of action for compromise. Your family may want to sell things or throw them away. It’s important to respect each other’s wishes and find common ground.

Prioritize - Find a system that works best for your family and prioritize what needs to be accomplished first. If bills need to be paid, you may need to go through your loved one’s office or desk first. Or maybe it’s as simple as one person starts in one room, and you start in the other.

Give yourself time - Give yourself as much time as you can to go through these items. If you come across an item that brings back specific memories, it’s okay to stop and look at it. This process is emotional, and you may need to give yourself breaks. You can even create a “sort later” box where you put items to go through at a later time.


Sorting through a loved one’s items is no easy task. Using these tips, hopefully, you’ll be able to ease your pain while making the process run a little smoother.