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When to Get Rid of Your Dead Spouse's Clothes

widow Oct 15, 2019

Originally Published on 7/25/19

The right answer is whenever you damn well feel like it and not a minute sooner. For me, the answer was over a year after he died. It’s not because I have a special attachment to his clothes. There are things I have and will always keep because they hold a special meaning to me about Jason and our relationship, but most of his clothes aren’t in that category. For some people it may mean a month after their spouse passes. It’s different for everyone, and you have to know that going in.

I have found more peace and comfort in redecorating my house this year than I have talking to an actual therapist. Moving things around in a room, getting new furniture and consciously deciding which knick-knacks I want to display, which pictures I want to hang and which memories I want to share has been more therapeutic to me than actual therapy. I literally go through every little thing in a room and decide whether to save it or get rid of it. It’s my own version of Marie Kondo, but with a layer of grief and loss attached. By consciously deciding what to keep, I have some control over what I allow into my life. I go room by room, and so far I’ve redone my son’s roomliving roompatio and I’m almost done with my office.

The irony is, Jason would love to see and hang out with me on our newly redecorated patio, but I couldn’t have decorated it this way if he were still alive. Our life together was not conducive to cutesy patio furniture and decorative pillows because there were so many of us in the space and we had so much to do with the kids and work, and so on. Jason would have LOVED to help build – or take lead on building, lezbehonest – the fort I made for my son. He would have made it way more awesome than I could have dreamed up, but we could have never done it when he was alive because all of the kids needed his attention and it would have become an outside “everybody” fort/playground, and rightfully so. It’s just interesting to think about how much Jason would love to be here in this life with me, but this life is only possible because he isn’t here, and because he isn’t here, I started down a new path. A path which he’d love to be a part of, but if he were a part of it, then the path would change course and become a completely different path.

Something’s been nagging me lately, though. My bedroom layout is weird – it’s because before, Jason used the office for himself so I had a desk in the bedroom and worked from there. But now that my bedroom office is just a bedroom, it feels like all the furniture is in the wrong place, plus the dresser he used is still full and my closet is overflowing with his clothes and my own clothes I never wear and need to get rid of.

This is how it always begins – with a feeling. I feel overwhelmed by all of the clutter and stressed that the room doesn’t feel right. The negative feelings and negative energy completely consume my thoughts and I literally can’t rest until it feels better in the room. I mean I literally have not slept well the past few nights because this is suddenly inexplicably hanging over me. Crazy? Maybe a little. But it’s how my brain has been operating this year, so I’ve been making changes, organizing and redecorating my way through it.

Now it’s time to finally go through Jason’s clothes, sort them and get rid of them. I started this week, and I’m sorting the clothes to pass them down to his kids.

I honestly thought going through his side of the closet would be easy. Remove the clothes, sort them, box them up and be done. Like I said, I don’t have any attachment to his clothes. The only reason I still have them is because it was easier to ignore them and work around them – that is until the weight of their presence started to feel like it was crushing me.

However, there was an unexpected mental road block.

His clothes still smell like him.

His. clothes. still. smell. like. him.

It’s been over a year since he was alive, and these are clean clothes that have been hanging in the closet. How is it possible that his clothes still smell like him? So as I took them off the hangers and folded them, with his smell came memories flooding back of seeing him in these clothes. The polos he wore to work toward the end of his life that were a size bigger because he had gained that happy-comfortable-marriage weight. The black and white striped polo he wore on our third date when he came to my condo after work and we went to that sushi restaurant I had a Groupon for. A receipt from Home Depot in a pair of his yard work jeans from when we had to buy a special tool for him to fix something last May. The red corduroy pants I thought were an interesting choice when he bought them on our trip to Austin, but he liked them so I didn’t say anything. His motorcycle jackets I bought him because I wanted him to be as protected as possible when he rode his bike to work every day.

Y’all, over a year later when I feel relatively healed and positive about my forward-moving life, this was still hard. I’m saying this because we all know someone who has lost someone, so my advice to you is not to push them. They may seem okay. They may BE okay. But there are still difficult things they have to do and go through, so just let them get to it on their own terms. It may take a month and it may take 3 years, but if it’s not their decision to start, then it won’t be a positive and cathartic experience.

If they tell you they’re doing something difficult, offer to help and mean it. Accept it if they decline your help and let it go. Show up with boxes, a sharpie and snacks if they ask for your help. Personally, this was something I wanted to do by myself, but I know my people would have been here in a minute if I asked them.

I have completely removed all of Jason’s clothes from my closet now and sorted them for the kids. Now I’m working on my side of the closet – getting rid of things that no longer suit me in my current life – because if I’m gonna clean the closet, then I’m gonna clean the closet gurrrrl. Once I’m done going through my clothes, I have some ideas about how to make my closet more functional and more ME – so stay tuned for that.

Once the chaos of cleaning out my closet is done, I’ll rearrange my bedroom to make it flow better. I’m gonna feng shui the hell out of it and it’s going to be amazing. Actually, I don’t know anything about feng shui, but I’m going to make it work better for my needs right now. Because this is what I do and this is how I move forward.

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