Less Work for Someone Else


This past year, my mother sorted the belongings of a deceased parent. This past month, my close friend oversaw an estate sale of a family as they transitioned into assisted living. This past week, I helped a family move out of their residence of 45 years. Hours and hours were spent going through boxes and boxes of belongings, room by room. Some things were kept, some things were sold, much was thrown away.

In each case, someone other than the owner of the possessions was doing all the work. Consider the fact that at some point in your life (or in your death) every single item of your belongings will be sorted by another human being.

You can create for yourself a less stressful life today by living a minimalist life and lessen the burden on someone close to you as well. For the sake of your closest friends and family, choose to live a simple, minimalist life.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Headed your way after reading Organizing Your Way. This is a great recommendation, and one I keep in mind while sorting and purging. “Will my children have joy sorting through this, or drudgery?” Usually the answer is the latter, and I toss or donate. We have gone through several estates and sold things online for others, and the massiveness of the job is often enought to make you cry! I am determined not to leave such a legacy behind! Great post :)

    • di says

      I’m old and disabled now. I wish I could sort through my things. It’ll be overwhelming for my daughter. I envision her bringing it all to Good Will.

      • Kira says

        Can your daughter help you with the sorting while you are alive? She may not look forward to it until you let her know she’ll be inheriting it all anyway :-)

  2. says

    Thank you for your thoughts- how true they are. I tell this to my parents as often as possible because, being the organizer in the family, I will most definitely get the jobof going through their things.

    As you said, all of us should understand how much work we are leaving behind for loved ones and friends. Sorting, contemplating, selling and making hundreds of decisions is the last thing we want to do when we lose a loved one. In addition to our physical homes and stuff, think of getting your wills and funeral arrangements squared away. It’s never too early to plan ahead to help your family during those difficult days.

    • di says

      Me, too. My brothers refuse to participate in cleaning out my parents’ home – even though our inheritance is being used to maintain the house until it is sold. It’s rather unfair.

  3. says

    This post, while correct and of course, inspirational, made me feel sad. I know that I own far too much stuff and I wouldn’t want to leave it all behind for someone to go through.
    I am young and I would like to think this means I have a fair few years to sort through it all however, we never know what tomorrow will bring – I guess this means I should start as soon as possible.

  4. says

    This means a lot to me since my Grandfather just passed away this February. My parents have been going through all his stuff and trying to figure out what to do with it…give it to the kids, the friends, the salvation army? It has been a blessing and a curse.. blessing because of the memories, curse of the time and effort it has taken. We are getting little mementos of Grandpa, but the best ones are the memories I have of him as a person…even though looking at an old clock or trunk might bring back a certain time something happened, who he WAS is a better gift.

  5. Kim says

    I cleaned out my dad’s unbelievable clutter twice a year until he passed. Then I cleaned out all that too. So much of my time was spent breathing dust. My mom’s house is like Goodwill. When she is gone, I’ll be cleaning out that too. Oh the misery parents put their kids through. My kids will thank me one day because I’m a minimalist.

  6. says

    We’re going to be doing this soon with my dad’s things. I have often wondered, if I pass this week – what kind of legacy my clutter will leave for my family? All the blessings will be watered down with the junk. And I can’t take any of it with me, anyway.

  7. Ruth says

    We recently spent a 2 week “holiday” helping my parents sort out their house from top to bottom (They live in another state, hence the reason for the short time frame). We hired a 4 cubic metre skip and completely filled it. We donated some furniture and also had a garage sale at the end of the two weeks and made about $350!

    As an aside, I couldn’t believe the stuff people were willing to buy and take home! Boxes of magazines and knick knacks which just gather dust, etc. Stuff we were glad to get rid of but I kept imagining it cluttering up someone else’s home.

    All this cleaning out comes about 4 years after my previous cleaning out of my parent’s house (another 2 week “holiday”). That time, we filled a 6 cubic metre skip!

    During this time, we were staying at my aunt’s house who has really minimalised her life without even realising it was a movement. It was just something she felt she must do to simplfy her life. I loved coming home to her lovely house every day and decided we had to do something similar or end up like my parents. That decision later led me to finding your blog which we have been using for ongoing inspiration. (We also had really interesting discussions about books and emotional attachments so when I read your blog entry on minimalising books I had to send her the link – she loved it!)

    I really don’t want to burden my son with all our stuff. We have started our minimalist journey and have really enjoyed reading your blog from the beginning over the past few weeks. Thank you!

  8. Marsi says

    This is close to home, literally. I moved back with my parents and my sister moved back in with us a few years later. Within a few years I lost both parents and my sister, I purchased my parents home and at first was productive going thru all the items. Then emotionally it became overwhelming and I stopped in the midst of the work. For the last year I have left everything where I left it. I am blessed to have friends who have offered, and I have accepted, their help in going thru the house in increments. We set up a time limits (2 hours on Sunday, etc) and we just work together, It has been uplifting and has renewed my goal to lighten up so that I can live a simple life on all levels. There is such a tie to the material aspect left behind by my parents and sister, but I have come to the point that I can keep what is very special to me but there are so many others who could benefit from me donating the items,

  9. Cheryl says

    My 93 year old aunt died in January. She was the oldest living family member. I was able to make the trip to another state to attend her memorial service and to help my only cousin go through her mother’s belongings. It took me a week of purging, sorting, organizing, and packing–but it’s done. My aunt had been married for 58 years and had been a widow for 10. She had sold her home and moved into a small condo in a retirement community. As I was going through her belongings I realized what an amazing experience I was having and what a gift it was to be entrusted with the task. Everything in that condo meant something to my aunt. She had kept it because it was important to her. Sure, there were things that went in the trash–but I do feel that I have a much deeper understanding of my aunt now. I love history–especially family history and genealogy–and have spent many, many years researching my ancestors. I had several boxes shipped home. They were filled with family photos (the oldest going back to the late 1800s), slides of 25 Christmas celebrations at my grandparents home, birth certificates, death notices, newspaper articles, 8 quilts made by my two great-grandmothers in the early 1900s, my aunt’s high school diaries–and two shoeboxes full of letters still in the envelopes my aunt and uncle wrote to each other while he was serving in the Marines in the South Pacific during WWII. Four years worth. My aunt saved every card and every letter she received from other family members–including me. All these things I will keep. I am ready to let go now of the meaningless stuff. Since I’ve been back home I have reduced my book collection, cleaned out 3 closets and I’ve made 3 trips to Goodwill. This is going to take some time–but I know it will all be worth it.

  10. Jackie says

    Last year my mother passed away, my sister and I went interstate to pack up her belongings. My mother had prepared for her death arranged her funeral, paid off all her debts and cleaned out her entire house only leaving the things she would need in the few months before her death, and left the paperwork we would need to finalise her funeral. It actually took my sister and I one day to pack everything up into boxes. She had also left a package for each of us four children with jewlery, photo’s ect of things she thought would have a special meaning for us.
    As soon as I returned home I cleared out my whole house, donating, selling everything I hadn’t used in the last year, Got rid of paper work, magazines, ornaments ect. now I am living a minimalistic life. I have also cut back on working to free my time for the things that I enjoy in life.

  11. lilian says

    My dad is decluttering now as my mom’s Parkinson’s has left my parents no choice but to move to a 700 sq ft condo from a 3000 sq ft house. The clutter of 36 years is a huge burden. I can’t help him as only he knows what he wants to keep. I know he is sad with all the memories and wouldn’t do this if given a choice.He keeps wanting me to take the stuff but I refuse. He even told me ” I want to teach you how to collect things”. Horrors! I have a good 15 years before retirement but I am starting now in reducing my stuff and be free from the shackles of consumerism that had me in their clutches the first 30+ years of my life.

    • Barry says

      I used to refuse to take stuff from my mom, too, for the same reasons. Now when she offers me something I thank her a lot and then decide what to do with it. It is usually put in the trash, sometimes donated, and on rare occasions kept. I only keep items that I will use, not the items that would sit in the basement. I don’t feel guilty because mom has often said in the past that she should give everything away because she had too much stuff. I find a lot of people agree with the concept of living with less but have a tough time practicing it. I have also found it’s a lot easier to reduce my own clutter by reducing someone else’s.

  12. says

    Very simply, that is a strong and sad point. I’ve been there and don’t want to put my children there except for the things that will bring them joy. I’m loving your site and pinning it all over my Pinterest. Thanks.

  13. Larry says

    I’m 23 years old. I personally want to go through life with as few ornaments as possible because I don’t want children and I don’t know if I’ll ever find love and marry.

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