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The Widow's Journey: Cleaning Out the Closet

men's clothing hanging in a closet

When do you clean out your late partner’s closet?

This question always leads to a lot of conversation. Some widows do it right away, some a little at a time, and some never do it. It is a very personal decision and, most importantly, should be one that you make on your terms. Do not let other people tell you what you “should” do. Losing a partner is an overwhelming experience, and when you’re also balancing a professional life, it can feel doubly challenging. Sorting through your partner’s belongings is not just about organizing or making space; it’s a deeply emotional process.

I have shared my process in a short video on Instagram if you are a visual person. Here is how I went about cleaning out my Steve’s closet. I did not begin right away. Initially my daughters liked to go in his closet where they felt they could smell him and be close to him. It was also dark and quiet, so that likely appealed to them as well.  

After many months, I started to identify some important items of Steve’s that I wanted to share with my daughters and other loved ones. His warm winter coat went to a dear friend, his Coach briefcase went to a friend’s son who was starting his career at Coach, his cigar collection went to another friend, and my daughters picked items that were special to them. Once I did that, I invited some of his friends to come over and ‘shop’ in his closet.  

Then, I was ready to donate the rest. I knew that I would be unable to do this on my own, so I enlisted a friend to come over and take the remaining items from the closet and bring them to the donation location while we were on vacation. Coming home from vacation to an empty closet was extremely strange and did have a sense of finality. But I was ready—it was just another of the many difficult steps and decisions that we have to make as widows. 

To help you navigate this cleaning out journey, I am sharing some suggestions to help you understand why and when to do it, and offer practical steps on how to approach it.

Why It’s Important

Emotional Healing:

Cleaning out your partner’s belongings can be a significant step in the grieving process. It helps in acknowledging the reality of the loss and can be a form of letting go, which is essential for emotional healing.

Creating Space:

Both physically and mentally, clearing out these items can create space for new memories and experiences. It can symbolize a step towards moving forward while still honoring the past.

Reducing Anxiety:

Having a cluttered space filled with reminders of your loss can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. Creating a more organized environment can contribute to a sense of calm and control.

When to Do It

There is no “right” time to clean out your partner’s belongings; the timing varies for everyone. Here are a few pointers to consider:

Emotional Readiness:

Listen to your heart. If the mere thought of touching their belongings brings unbearable pain, it might be too soon. However, if you feel a mix of sadness and acceptance, you might be ready to start.

Practical Necessities:

Sometimes practical reasons might prompt you to act sooner, such as moving to a new place or needing to repurpose the space. In such cases, it’s important to acknowledge the necessity while also being gentle with yourself.


Anniversaries, significant dates or milestones in your grieving process can be a natural time to start. These moments often bring reflection and can be an opportunity to honor your partner’s memory while also taking steps forward.

How to Do It

Start Small:

Begin with less emotionally charged items. Starting small can make the task feel less overwhelming and build your confidence to tackle more significant items.

Involve Support:

Having a trusted friend, family member or even a professional organizer can provide emotional support and practical help. They can offer a compassionate presence and help you make decisions when you’re unsure.

Set Aside Keepsakes:

Identify items that hold the most sentimental value and set them aside. These can be preserved in a special box or area, allowing you to keep a tangible connection to your partner without cluttering your living space.

Donate or Repurpose:

Consider donating items to charity or repurposing them in a meaningful way. Knowing that your partner’s belongings are helping others can bring a sense of purpose and comfort.

Take Breaks:

Don’t rush the process. Take breaks when needed and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up. It’s okay to cry, to laugh at a remembered joke or to feel a mix of emotions.

Reflect and Honor:

As you go through the belongings, take time to reflect on the memories associated with them. This can be a bittersweet but important part of the healing process. You might even choose to create a ritual or ceremony to honor your partner’s memory as you let go of their items.

Cleaning out your deceased partner’s belongings is a deeply personal and emotional task. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and it’s important to proceed at your own pace. By understanding why it’s important, considering when you’re ready and following practical steps on how to do it, you can navigate this process with grace and compassion for yourself. Remember, it’s a significant step in your journey of healing and moving forward, and it’s okay to seek support along the way or wait until you are ready.

2 則留言

It's hard to do


Thank you. I'm almost ready to start.

Jody Hello Portrait2.jpg

Hi, I'm Jody!

I’m a widow, grief expert, widow coach, and mom. I hope that Widows in the Workplace is able to provide you with comfort, support and guidance while you find your way with your grief journey. 

It is possible to Rediscover, Reimagine and Relaunch your Life again. You do not need to do it alone. 

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