Getting Older: Part 1. You Can't Take it with You

This week I want to talk about something that people rarely discuss until after the fact, but yet this touches every single person alive - the things left behind when someone passes away. Death and dying are obviously not the lightest of subjects to broach. However, after seeing this very recently as a recurrent theme in my clients', friends' and my own life, I felt it something that I had to talk about so we can bring this to light, think about it and hopefully make things easier. We love our friends and family and can make this burden lighter for them. I will talk about this in two parts. Today is about prevention and what can be done before someone goes. Wednesday will address what to do after the fact and preventing transference of emotional clutter.

A few weeks ago, I read a great article on what's left behind for the children of hoarders. The last line haunted me.

"There's simply no room left to grieve."

It's true, especially for the family of hoarders. It can still be especially hard for the family even if the person wasn't a hoarder. It's all the pain in the ass of moving, but without the direction of having somewhere to go. However, with a modicum of prep, the pain from the stuff can be lessened at least some.

  • First and foremost, get rid of things you don't need. Even when it doesn't seem that much to you, it may be more than someone who is grief-stricken can handle. If you have a lot of things you don't need, take care of it while you still can.
  • Make sure your benefactors know where all of your major papers are and what all of your major assets are. One woman I spoke to for this series had absolutely no idea that her mother was a true, clinical hoarder until after she'd passed away and they discovered THREE storage units her mother was hiding and hoarding.
  • Speaking of storage units, if you have some - get rid of them and everything in it!! Find inspiration here and here. I assure you that if it's in storage, you don't really need it.
  • Write down your wishes so that there's no wondering and potential fighting. Already know you want to give something to someone? Do it if you aren't using it. In the very least, find out if they want it because they may not. Hanging on to things just in case someone may want it? Put it out there and see if anyone does. If not, let go guilt free.
  • Are you a collector? Let your children know if the collection is just for your benefit (so they can discard guilt free) or if you mean for the collection to be passed down. (Don't forget to direct who it should go to.)
  • Two ways I heard about for the passing on of things: one woman who said her mother-in-law asked the family to come over and mark what they want with little round stickers with their initials on them. Another lady would mail a drawer-full of goods to her daughter because she couldn't part with it. The daughter would take the box, unopened, to charity. 

The earlier you get started letting go of the things you don't need, the more time you have to enjoy the new lightness of letting go of what you don't need. That your family won't be burdened with dealing with excessive things after you're gone will become an added benefit instead of the goal.


To overwhelmed to do it alone? Let me help.