Sorting Through – what do I do with all this stuff?

Sorting Through by Christy Hansen, LMSW, Grief Support Specialist at Kansas City Hospice

When you must sort through a loved one’s belongings, it can be an overwhelming and emotional task. Whether it’s a home that holds a lifetime of memories or a shared space where many objects are a painful reminder, approaching the process with a plan can help soften the difficulty and make it manageable.

Kansas City HospiceThe 4 P’s of Sorting


Who is best suited to help you with this task? Is it one that would be better tackled alone?


Are there time sensitive things that must be done right away? Are there things you can put off until you have more time or feel more ready? Look for tasks that can be saved for later.
You can always box up pictures or mementos to sort through later when the pressure is off.

I know someone who has a box of her mom’s things. Every once in awhile, she opens it to see if she’s ready. Up to now, she’s not, so she shuts the box to think about it another day.


Break down your sorting into smaller tasks, starting with what feels easiest. Does cleaning out the linen closet, pantry or medicine cabinet feel like a smaller, more doable task? Maybe that will help you build confidence and momentum.

Pace Yourself

Work in chunks of time, no more than three or four hours. Plan meals so you don’t find yourself hungry, tired and emotional. You might also plan a “buffer activity.” Do something enjoyable, relaxing or soothing after a session.

Find Ways to Avoid Guilt

Sometimes it’s easier to part with belongings when you know they’re going to good use.

  • Give sentimental items to family members as a remembrance.
  • Give items to charity to benefit others.
  • Try to not feel guilty about discarding items past their usefulness. Everything has its time.

Take Care of Yourself

In the midst of any overwhelming task, give yourself grace and gentleness. Remember, the goal is not to finish quickly, but to feel you’ve done well. Honor your loved one and yourself in the process.

Top Drawer Resale Boutique

Did you know that proceeds from Top Drawer Resale Boutique benefit families served by Kansas City Hospice? Staffed entirely by volunteers, they accept gently used clothing, accessories, home decor, and art. 9433 Mission 10-5:30 M-F

Plus, the Jewelry for Hospice program turns old (even broken) jewelry into unique new creations!

I have a friend who agonized over throwing out her mom’s “treasures” — bits and pieces of old jewelry saved for sentimental reasons by someone who grew up in the Depression. Knowing they would not go to the landfill made Jewelry for Hospice the right choice for her.

What & where to donate 

Clothing and household goods:

Top Drawer Resale Boutique

Donate and shop at this boutique that benefits Kansas City Hospice. Staffed entirely by volunteers, they accept gently used clothing, accessories, home decor, and art. Plus, the Jewelry for Hospice program turns old (even broken) jewelry into unique new creations!
10:00-5:30, Monday-Saturday. 9433 Mission Rd, Leawood KS. 913.642.2292

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Will pick up clothing and household items, you can call to schedule and they will pick up from your home  816.561.5269

Towels and Blankets

Many animal shelters  as well as the Humane Society will accept donations of towels and blankets for the animals they serve.


Most local police stations accept prescription medications, as well as many Walgreen’s Stores.  Call ahead to make sure that the location you choose has this available.


Many banks and financial institutions will accept shredding on-site. Check with your bank to see if this is an option. Many UPS stores also accept shredding for a small fee.

Unused Medical Supplies

Cancer Action will take many unused medical supplies for use for people currently dealing with cancer 913.642.8885

Business Clothes and Accessories

Dress for Success, 300 W Linwood, Kansas CIty, MO 64111 816.561.5115

KU University Career Center (on KU campus) 785.864.3624

UMKC Career Services (On UMKC Campus) 816.235.1636

More Grief Resources

Visit more grief resources on our website at

Find more grief articles on our blog!

The mission of Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care is to bring expert care, peace of mind, comfort, guidance, and hope to people who are affected by life-limiting illness or by grief. And, our vision: each person in our community is valued from life through death and each family is supported in their grief.

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