Have you spent time thinking about what happens to all of your stuff if you or a loved one passes? It can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. In today’s episode, I’ll bring you three simple considerations for organizing your belongings as a simple practice in caring for your family.
When I was a kiddo, we would go visit my grandparents in Claremore several times a year. But usually once a year all the family would visit at the same time: meaning that five adult children with their children of varying ages would descend on this home in wooded northeast Oklahoma and the perfect amount of chaos and laughter would commence. I remember on a few occasions my grandmother handing my parents a sticky pad and a pen, and they would just disappear into the house. I later came to learn that this was a practice when everyone arrived together—to literally stick your name on the belongings you wanted when my grandparents passed.
I can still remember my grandmother explaining this to tiny Taylor and shushing my initial shock--
“Well, sugar, we’ll all die eventually. They might as well get what they want out of it.” And that was that.
My grandmother kept a very straightforward view of mortality when talking to me that isn’t particularly common. And while sometimes I tried to reign her in, she just knew it was bound to happen. My grandparents were deeply prepared to posthumously navigate the allocation of their assets through a legal will and communication with the executors of the estate. This is rare, and a model of familial kindness that I have deeply engrained in me since watching it play out after my grandfather and then grandmother passed years ago.
I learned many things from the way they managed their physical and financial assets, but here are three simple considerations for organizing and managing your belongings as a practice in caring for our families:
Number 1: Take regular inventory of your belongings and their value within your family.
We didn’t sticky note every year. But I imagine that it was a way for my grandparents to assess what they had that was valuable to not only them, but their family members. Instead of assuming that their sons would all want the golf statue in the living room, they literally asked. It also likely led them to make choices about what to sell or donate—if an item wasn’t serving them and wasn’t seen as highly valuable to their family, what was the point of keeping it? This inventory and assessment process provided them with not only the most accurate information for maintaining their will, but also for decision making in life.
Number 2: Even when you consider physical allocation of your assets as a regular practice, you will still probably leave behind a lot of decisions to be made.
As I mentioned, my grandparents were truly model decision makers when it comes to expressing their desires in their will. Does that mean that they decided where all 20 sets of beautiful white lace-trimmed sheets would end up? Or who would receive each individual teacup that was given to each granddaughter or great granddaughter? Or how to divvy up the junk drawer of their home? No. They didn’t. And while that’s fine, it would have been completely overwhelming if they hadn’t made any of the decisions previously. Making decisions in writing before you pass is a deep act of love for your family and can preserve the relationships of your living relatives.
Number 3: Pay attention to what items hold the memories.
I am grateful to have only a few deeply, deeply meaningful possessions of my grandparents’. My grandmother’s letters are more precious to me than gold, and the green quilt that is in our guest room sat at the foot of the bed that made me feel like a princess when I slept in it, even in my twenties. The few other things I received from my grandmother, and items that were decided after her passing, hold deep, deep memories for me. Because they are few, they are more precious, and because they are precious, I am able to be extremely grateful with few. Their sofa wasn’t valuable to me because we watched TV there instead of talking. The sand toy that I can’t even describe? That’s what my cousins and I played with and used to imagine mountains and oceans in far away lands. Memories are valuable, so pay attention to what items hold those memories for your family members. Ask them what their favorite things in your home are, and why. You might be deeply surprised.
Everything we own will have to be dealt with if we are suddenly gone. Considering the impact our possessions have on our family members with this in mind can actually go a long way in loving our families beyond our time here.
Organized YOU! host Taylor Vogel is the Owner &
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