My husband died almost four years ago, and I need to move on in life and also reduce my bedroom full of clutter. In my closet [are] my husband's Cub Scout uniform, my prom dress and two sets of silver. There are various old pictures under the dresser and a jewelry box from 1970 on dresser with old stuff in it (including my Brownie pin). It's never used anymore, as I have a new jewelry box. There are also various scarves from high school (1968) and whatever else I have never found a place for or simply thrown away!

My question would be how to stretch a small room???especially the closet. It is so outdated the racks pull out and the wood door sticks! Whatever you could do to help would be appreciated, as I seem to not be able to accomplish much myself.

— Lois

Lois, I am very sorry for your loss but also very excited that you can see that it's time to move on by dealing with the clutter that fills your home.

There are two things here that I think you need to address.

First, you have to accept the size of the room we're talking about—in other words, you only have the room you have. As you're decluttering, it's important to accept the space limits that the room places on you and to decrease the volume of stuff in the room so that the room is not overcrowded.

Secondly, stuff has power. Especially when we have lost someone close to us, it can be hard to separate the memory from the object. Use a digital camera to take photos of items that you'd like to remember but don't need to hold on to—especially items like clothing. You can upload these photos to a site like and have them made into a beautiful photo booklet.

Consider giving other items to family members who'd value a memento of your late husband or even donating items to someone who would value and use them.

With smaller items like brownie pins, consider framing these wonderful things in a shadow box so that you can proudly display them.

As you say, it's time to move on, and in every case where I worked with a family to deal with a deceased member's items—treating things that you're keeping with honor and respect and letting go of the rest—I've seen the family put grief to rest and gain a wonderful new perspective on life.

— Peter


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