The heartache of decluttering after Abi died 

Ever since I had children, I’ve been bagging up clothes and toys for either car boot sales or charity shops, although it always seems the more I ‘recycle’ the more ‘stuff’ comes back into the house!

It’s been a long time since we did a car boot…  I say ‘we’ as normally Abi and I would get up at dawn to go and do one together, she really helped with setting up, tidying and selling – it was fun.

We’ve been meaning to do another car boot for ages, well two years now! The summer of 2012 passed by and then I fell pregnant so the car boot was delayed, when I lost the pregnancy it was the last thing on my mind, and then got pregnant straight away and this time lost the baby at 14.5 weeks in January 2013 – the loft kept getting fuller as we put things up there instead of thinking about what to do with it.

Then, on 6th February 2013, Abi died… so any idea of clearing things out were reversed. If anything more stuff went up into the loft as we didn’t want to throw anything away. Everything, every scrap of paper, everything she would have touched became more valuable than all our jewellery or expensive gadgets put together.

I got pregnant again and and gave birth, to our relief, to a healthy baby boy. When the baby turned six months, we knew we needed a bit of a declutter before the winter set in, or we’d be waiting another year, and as we want to do some big improvements on the house, the clutter had to go.

My hubby got the bags out of the loft. Most had the usual toys and bric-a-brac in but one had lots of Abi’s clothes in – not her ‘recent’ 2012 clothes, but her 2011 clothes.


Found in a bin bag! Abi’s much-loved maxi dress and headband, and her holiday diary

It was the headband and dress which set me off. She wore that headband a lot. I never even knew we still had it. I cannot describe the pain of seeing it again. The dress she wore on holiday, she looked so lovely, so grown up… a glimmer of the wonderful young person she would have been.


We also found a part-written diary from 2011. My hubby handed it to me, but I couldn’t bring myself to look at the words, to see her writing, her mind chattering in pen as though she were alive still.

But as we had brought down lots of junk we needed to shift it so I was determined to carry on. But it made me think how I’d put these things away to sell on as Abi had grown out of them. They were just possessions we had no use of anymore – once – but now I see them and I’m reminded of her so alive. My grief slaps me anew; again I’m questioning why she is dead. Why she had to go then. How it could be that she isn’t here anymore. My grief shifts back.

It probably didn’t help that on the sorting day I had a first aid course to attend. When I got back I went and held her dress and had a cry (a small one – always keeping a lid on it for the children, and my hubby who was irritatingly cheerful because his football team won – but just enough to ease the lump in my throat and put my brave face on). I noticed the dress was stained and smelt musty from storage so I’m washing them all and going to dry them and put them in the better storage boxes we have. This dress (and other items) are now precious memories.


I now have everything in this photo – except the beautiful girl!
I even have the holiday hair braid, which we cut off after the holiday, next to my desk.

The car boot itself went well, we did get rid of a lot of our junk. But a few of Abi’s things slipped through, a pair of shorts I thought I could part with found their way back in the car. I couldn’t let the people grab at them and turn their noses up, offering 20p. They weren’t her best shorts but I remember her wearing them, I remember buying them with her. They were worth more to me than making a bit more space at home.

I know she wouldn’t mind us selling her things this way, after all we had fun doing car boots together in the past, but no, I’m not ready to part with her things yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever be.

20 thoughts on “The heartache of decluttering after Abi died 

  1. Oh honey, I can totally understand you not being able to part with Abi’s much loved belongings. You did the right thing by keeping them xxx

  2. So with you on this.. Ella’s room is full of things that I would have happily parted with had we not lost her… but now everything has a meaning… My whole house needs de-cluttering so I am trying to get to everything else and create space to keep as many of her things as I want to. Big hugs. xx

  3. I think myself silly at times for holding on to things I once thought frivolous or useless. Now every scrap of paper has a different meaning. Wishing you peaceful days.

  4. Of my son’s 23 years worth of accumulated stuff, I have only been able to get rid of some generic clothing that was really nothing special. I still have everything else, I just don’t know what to do with it all. Much of it is still where he last left it, over 2 years ago. I even have all of his engineering notebooks that I can’t part with because all of the writing was in his hand, even though I can’t understand a single word or symbol.
    If he were still alive, I would, no doubt, have had no difficulty parting with most of it. It never ceases to stun me that I can have all this “stuff”…but not my son.

  5. I understand how you feel, I really do. My son has been in a persistent vegetative state since 2002 when he suffered a brain haemorrhage aged 12. I have parted with a few of his less personal items – books, games etc, but not until this year. I have absolutely no idea when I will be ready to part with more. Grief has no time scale. Sending you supportive hugs.

    • Oh my! Your comment touched me so much. I’m so sorry to hear about your son, it’s so cruel a thing to happen. It’s not an illness, an accident or a disease… it’s just a thing that happens for no obvious reason. I can understand you keeping his possessions, there’s no time limit keep them forever if it’s what keeps those 12 years close to you. Much love and thank you for reading x

  6. Looking forward to meeting you soon Kelly (Sally! lol) Just had to write coz apart from some very obvious similarities me and you share, I did a car boot sale this weekend and went through the exact same emotions! The clothes that really reek of Poppy are carefully stored away in pretty boxes. Can’t believe I used to obsessively declutter/recycle. ‘Stuff’ no longer seems important, certainly not the replaceable, material stuff, unless Poppy touched it, or wore it, or loved it. Then it has a magical quality…precious memories/mementos are priceless, we know that more than many xxxxxxx

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