Too Sentimental?

My Mom wants me to go through my Brother’s things and all of the stuff that I or the family really have no use for to donate them.
I have been trying for a few days but I can’t bring myself to get rid of his stuff, it is mostly his clothes and shoes that I can’t fit. I took his stuff to a thrift store and instead of donating it I took it all back home and folded it and hung it up.
I have other siblings that can wear the clothes but that hasn’t completely solved the problem.
Then there are other things like old homework, I can’t even throw that away.
My brother wrote his name on the inside of the bedroom door and my step-dad painted over it and I had a fit but later I apologized.

I don’t know quite what I’m asking but how do I get rid of my brother’s stuff without feeling guilty and what should I keep and what should go?

A lot of families have a friend go through things for them for this very reason. It’s hard to look at the things someone you love owned as merely objects. If it’s not too painful for your mom, can you hold on to the stuff for a while and let yourself get a little distance before you go through it again? It’s a little soon to expect you to be objective about any of it.

When the time does come that you feel you can go through them again, try to remember that these objects, while they were his and they remind you of him, were not actually part of your brother. Your memories of him and your love for him will not be lessened by giving some of his possessions away.

When my stepdad passed on a couple of years ago, we had some relatives over from out of town, for the funeral. The wife of one of them immediately started cleaning and rearranging everything, to the point of even taking some candy of mine out of the cupboard (where in was hidden) and putting it into a dish. When asked to tone down, she refused. I look back and see that we were too emotionally weak to resist strongly as I would today.

Thankfully, she didn’t get to everything. As it is as we speak, a lot of the items are simply a part of the house as it has been for years and years. To change that (even without pretext of death) against our will is silly.

Things have been moved, since, but only after six months or so at the very, VERY earliest, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, either. A period of adjustment, in my case, was totally necessary, and for sure it occurred at no time within the minimum window I specified—that is, over things that which we eventually found our footing to stand up over.

As it is, the only real painful memories I have resulted from the sudden, unwelcome rearranging of familiar surroundings.

Hey there START, condolences about your brothe. hug

I’d say give it a rest and keep the things for now - even if it’s just packed away in the attic somewhere. In time, it will be easier to sort “usefull” and “not usefull” - and the guilt will not be there when you donate the rest of the stuff to charity.

From my own experience (when my grandad died in 1996) nothing was thrown away at first - everybody wanted a little piece to in the least to remember him by. As time has gone by and people realise it’s not really the things that matter, all the unusable things have been discarded…

So I guess all I’m saying is if you have the time, wait - and if you don’t have the time, trust that in time you won’t feel guilty - as you are a Christian*, see it as helping out someone who could really use your brothers’ stuff maybe?


*You’ve mentioned this in many previous threads so…

START give it some time. Eventually you will feel like going through your brother’s stuff and deciding what to do with it. Nothing says you have to do it now. We waited about three months before going through my father’s stuff after he died last year. When mom was ready, we did it. When you’re ready you’ll do it. It’s perfectly understandable if you don’t feel up to it right now. Give it the time you need.

I wouldn’t get rid of it.

My sister died in a car wreck at age 22. I was 13 at the time.

Take everything and box it up and put it away somewhere - in the basement or attic or whatever. Keep out a thing or two that really mean something to you, and let others do the same. But don’t get rid of anything, at least not right now. In a year or two, you’ll feel like looking at that stuff again, and maybe someone will need or be able to use some of it. But don’t give it away or throw it out right now.


This is always hard. You are not strange to want to keep everything and ironically another ‘normal’ reaction is to throw everything out.

Give it another week or two and then have a go. Right now, everything seems precious. Later, that board game you played together or his baseball glove or whatever item you have a special connection with will stand out from the stuff that isn’t so important.
Take the step when you are ready to do so.

START, you’re perfectly normal. You’re still early in the grieving process. As you can see from the other posts here, everyone has a different period of time that they need to wait till it feels right (or at least not so wrong). If you can pack things up for later, do that. If you can leave some or all of his things where they are until you’re ready to deal with things, do that. Just don’t rush it. Try to do what’s most comfortable for you.


Are we supposed to guess your brother has died (as some here suggested?), as I didn’t get that impression from your question. If Brother just left town, then you might keep really personal things, like journals, photos or music collections. The books and clothes, though, can go. If he has died, then it can all get tossed or be kept by anyone who wants it. If you want 10 cases of souvenirs of Brother, that should be okay, as long as they are out of sight to those who are hurt when they keep running into them. Store them until you are ready to separate from them. I’ve still got about 1/3 of my dad’s old tools rusting in the garage, and won’t toss them until the next time I move.

He died, According to Pliny. You must have missed the thread.

START, I didn’t say anything in that thread, but I’m sorry about your brother.

As for his things…well, my mom and I had to go sort through my dad’s stuff and clear out his apartment after his death about 12 years ago (we lived in another state, so it had to be one trip) so I didn’t have time to mull over what to keep and what not to. I kept some stuff, and later got rid of some of it, while some I’m never giving away.

A highlight of cleaning his apartment was finding his porn stash. I’d had no idea he had one. :slight_smile: Silly innocent me. It went to a friend who could…um…appreciate it.

I’m assuming you’re living at your Mom’s place; I haven’t followed the prior threads.

Different people grieve in different ways and at different rates. Having your brother’s things in their accustomed places may be giving you comfort every day, but may be torturing your Mom every day as well.

The first step is for everyone who lives in the house to talk openly about this. Wanting to leave everything exactly as-is, or wanting to put it all away in the attic for awhile, or wanting to get rid of 95% of it & pack away the rest forever are all reasonable and valid (and loving) responses to the situation.

Until you all can talk about this and you all can accept that the other parties’ different responses aren’t mean or uncaring or worse, …, well you’re going to continue to have recriminations and crises and everybody will be making each other miserable on top of the grief.
The most workable compromise is to store away almost everything. Even if space is tight at the house, all his possessions will fit in a rented storage unit costing just a couple hundred a year. If you want to save out some things to construct a memory / memorial, that’s great. Put it in your room, make it important to you, but understand that it’ll be painful to the others who don’t want the tangible reminder every day.

If you’re a part-time resident in the house (e.g. gone away to school except on weekends or the summer), then it’ll be even more important to compromise in the direction of the desires of the people who live there every day. If you are living there part time, take note of the fact that they see the tanginble reminders in their house 24/7, while you only see them every X days. Even setting aside idividual differences in grieving, your reaction to your brothers things will be evolving at a much slower rate than theirs will, just due to you not seeing it/them every day.
When my Dad died, we initially couldn’t stand to change a thing. A couple months later, his presence (and absence) through his stuff was becoming oppressive. A couple months later we got rid of 99% of it (he was a lightweight packrat), and felt much better with the few select things we’d kept than with the random melange of stuff that was the accumulation of his life up to the week before he died.
This isn’t an easy process; each of us must muddle through as best we can. The key is to understand that the concerns of the living outweigh the concerns of the dead. This is about making you, and your Mom, and anybody else in the house, as comfortable as possible. Regardless of your religion, or lack thereof, your brother isn’t going to be displeased with whatever you do as long as it’s done to make both you and your Mom happier.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to deal with your brother’s loss. Others here have given excellent answers. It’s not “wrong” to throw most everything away, but it’s also not “wrong” to want to keep it all. The problem is when one person’s idea of “right” gets to trump someone else’s (also perfectly reasonable) idea of “right.”

I think the quick rush to throw everything away is a hasty and rash thing, but then again, I’m a packrat. I still feel regret and anger at my mom, who basically gutted my dad’s possessions the day after he died, giving stuff away, throwing stuff away, and putting it on the curb. She gave away all my dad’s precious Army stuff, including his uniform, something my sisters and I would have loved to have had. We did reclaim his Army overcoat, but the rest of it was gone. It still pisses me off.

It wasn’t wrong for her to do that, if it was just her that was affected. But she (in her terrible grief and shock) tried to tell the rest of us that we were silly and foolish for caring about his stuff. That was wrong. I understand how she felt, but it was wrong to not take into account the feelings of others. Like others have said here, some compromise should be made.

One of the worst things that is done to someone who is grieving, I think, is to have someone else tell them that they’re not doing it “right.” Usually the person admonishing the grieving person is really having their own issues.

I was treated like crap by at least one friend after my dad died. She desperately wanted to supress my grieving, because it made her uncomfortable. (She even went so far as to tell me that my dad was a grumpy old goat so I shouldn’t miss him that much.) She had her own unresolved issues that would take too long to go into here, but I realized later that her treatment of me had little to do with how I behaved, it was all about her. She was freaked out, and I was a reminder to her of unpleasant things. She wanted to get me to “snap out of it” so she wouldn’t have to be reminded that we all have to confront loss and grief.

I’m just telling you, you might encounter a few people who do this to you. Don’t let them get to you. It’s not about you at all. However you want to feel, however you want to grieve, it’s fine. You obviously loved your brother very much and it’s going to take a while to feel some semblance of normalcy. Take your time.

No guilt. What you keep and what you throw away is your choice. Your mom asked you to do it.

My brother lives a couple hundred miles away so a lot of the sorting out of my parents stuff was left to me. It took a while to get up the courage to dig into the really personal stuff. Like Dad’s wallet.

I agree with what everybody else said, try to pack it up and do it later. The grief isn’t as acute. I still have a half finished crossword puzzle from Dad. He would get mad when I would go by the coffee table and fill in a word or two he was hung up on. Every now and again when I run across it I look at some of the blanks I could fill in and quietly think to myself, you dummy how did you miss that?

You’re not alone, talk it out with your siblings, they might understand better than your parents right now.