What personal items to keep after loved one dies

What possessions to keep after loved one dies. This is a hard process to navigate so I thought I would help by sharing my experience. I will share examples of items I kept and items I decided to give away.

I also shared advice on how to navigate this process so please read that as well. Hope this helps.

What possessions to keep and what to give away

My husband had a lot of stuff and its actually a little funny now because we use to disagree about what he should keep and what he should get rid of. After he died all the things I hated him having now had value and it was hard for me to get rid of. It was laughable because we always disagreed on his stuff and here I was now not wanting to get rid of anything.

I for sure gave myself time before I was ready to even sort through anything. I had to really think about what I valued the most and what my boys would want. Did I need his college text book….no. Did I want his favorite shirts to make into a blanket.. yes. I also had to remember that stuff is stuff and at the end of the day the memories I have are way more important. Be patient with yourself and let go of guilt as you navigate this process.

When trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of remember to take your time, have support, have a plan, and get rid of guilt. For me personally I kept the things that reminded me of my husband and what I loved when he was alive. I also thought about my boys and what they might want some day.

Sort into categories

It can be overwhelming as you go through someones possessions. It can help if you use this list below and categorize everything into these seven categories.

  1. save for me
  2. save for others
  3. make into something (blanket or stuffed animal)
  4. sell
  5. donate
  6. throw away
  7. undecided (need time to decide what to do with it)

Ideas of items to keep

If you aren’t sure what items to keep here is a good list of some of the most important things you might want.

Documents and Passwords

This will be needed during the coming months after your loved one passes away. It would be best to digitize them to keep them safe.

Some examples of documents to keep

  • Password logins
  • Business documents
  • Home and utility bills
  • school records
  • passport and ID documents
  • tax forms
  • retirement paperwork


I have two boys so I knew they might enjoy wearing their dads favorite shirt or jacket. I kept maybe two bins of clothes for them to look through someday. I also gathered some of his favorite shirts he loved to wear and I want to make it into a quilt. I didn’t feel the need to keep things like shoes or pants. Only items I loved seeing him in when he was alive or items my boys would love to wear.

Photos and Videos

After someone dies you cling to photos and videos. This was the most important item for me to save. Photos and videos have always been a passion of mine. I feel grateful I have so many memories saved through photos and videos. You want to make sure you back up all your photos and videos to a hard drive and to the cloud. You need two back ups just in case you lose one.

It is a passion of mine to help people take photos and save memories. I have a course teaching you how to back up and save all your photos and videos. I just want to help people save those memories and never regret losing them.

Learn how to back up and save your photos and videos

Journals and letters

Obviously keeping journals and letters is so important. I highly recommend getting them digitally recorded. You can take pictures with your phone or scan them to your computer. I have letters that my husband and I had written each other during college. It seems so overwhelming to digitize them all. My sister in law said she would do that for me which will be a huge burden lifted. Maybe a friend or family member could do that for you.

Their passion and hobbies

What were their hobbies or passions. They might have loved photography so keeping their camear would be special. My husband loved camping and climbing. I kept all of his gear because I knew that would be something my boys might want some day.


Jewelry is a great item to keep because you can wear it or its special enough to pass down. I decided to keep my husbands wedding ring instead of leaving it in the casket. My boys might want it some day. I also kept his favorite watch to pass onto my boys. Special items they might want to wear.


If your loved one had their own artwork they made or had a collection this could be special to keep.


They might have loved collecting items and had a collection of something that was special to them. This would be special to keep or pass on.

How to store items long term

Vacuum Bags

If you are storing fabrics like clothes or blankets I highly recommend using vacuum sealed bags. My boys are four years old right now and they won’t be looking through his clothes probably until they are in High School. If you know you will be storing these items for a long time, use a vacuum sealed bag.

I washed all his clothes before and then stored them in the bag.


I first used the vacuum plastic bags to seal his clothes and then put that bag inside a big plastic storage bin. You DO NOT want to store any items long term in a cardboard box. Cardobard boxes can get water leaks and mice. They are not good for long term storage. Always go with a plastic bin.

Storage unit

If there is a lot of stuff you just can’t decide and you are not ready try storing in a storage unit.

Digitize photos, videos, and journals

Please please take the time to back up all your photos and videos. If you have physical copies of pictures make sure they are scanned and uploaded to a digital file.

Learn how to back up and save your photos and videos

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