Organize for your loved ones while you still can

Today’s column may make you squirm a bit because it’s about death. The statistics regarding death are the same for all of us. We have a 100 percent chance of dying.

Death is a big reason why people hire me. I have worked with clients who were very near to their own death, spouses whose partners had fallen ill or passed away, and adult children whose parents died leaving a mass accumulation of clutter and collections.

In an effort to help you make better decisions now while you’re healthy, I’ll share with you what I have learned from working in these three scenarios. This advice will leave your loved ones with more peace of mind once you pass.

In most of cases, people think they have more time than they do. They tell themselves, “Someday I’ll deal with all my unnecessary things and dispose of my clutter once and for all.”

Sorry to be blunt, but the obituaries are full of people who thought they had more time. You need to bump up your “someday” to now, and donate or sell items you no longer need.

Several of my terminally ill clients have said things similar to this, “I regret not getting organized sooner. I would have enjoyed my home more and felt less overwhelmed.” Learn from them. Don’t wait to get organized.

Once you can no longer care for yourself or you pass away, it is heart-wrenching for your spouse to make decisions about all of your belongings. I once worked with a woman whose husband had dementia. She was downsizing to a more manageable home, but felt incredibly guilty parting with her husband’s many belongings while he was still alive.

This elderly woman was doing her best to care for him, while dealing with an entire household all on her own with only my help. Do the loving thing. Care more for your spouse than your piles of unused stuff. Pare down to the necessities and the things you absolutely love. Spare your spouse from making many painful decisions regarding your stuff.

One scenario is you could continue to ignore the clutter, and leave it all for your kids to take care of. When this happens, this situation can occur. You are no longer healthy enough to deal with your stuff so your kids take over. Now you are upset because they are not doing it the way you would have done it. You get defensive and demanding. Your kids are trying to help, but all this resistance is very stressful and causes a rift in your relationship.

If you want certain things to go to specific people or locations, make the arrangements. Don’t expect your loved ones to have the time to drive all over town making deliveries or mail stuff across country.

Find out now if your children want any of your belongings. If you have no intention of ever using it again, give it to them. If they don’t want something, don’t make them feel guilty for not taking it.

In the end, your loved ones will be caring for you or grieving your death. Spare them the heartache by taking responsibility of your life’s accumulation of stuff.

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