Organizing Your Legacy

Is there anything that you wouldn't want others to deal with after you're gone?

Is there anything that you wouldn’t want others to deal with after you’re gone?

Don’t you hate cleaning up after other people’s messes? Anyone who has a roommate may have had this experience – dishes left in the sink, wet towels on the bathroom floor, laundry half done in the laundry room. What a drag to have to take care of other’s people’s stuff that they could have dealt with themselves!

How does this relate to organizing? Many times we’ve worked with clients who have brought us in to organize their homes after having dealt with cluttered estates of their parents or other relatives. They’re very aware of not wanting to leave behind the same mess for their children or friends.

It’s easy to think that’s a “someday project” – the reality is weeding is MUCH simpler and easier when it happens regularly, not put off and saved until accumulation is overwhelming.

Here are some key areas to weed regularly and keep under control:

  • Paperwork –Wading through decades of accumulated bills, account statements, articles, contracts, etc. trying to figure out what is important is a nightmare for a survivor.
  • Personal documents – Any surprising information in those old diaries and journals that you’d be loathe to have someone read after you’re gone?
  • Collections of value. If you collect anything of value, have it appraised and take care of it while you are around so when you’re gone it’s easier to deal with as a collection.
  • Collections of sentiment or hobby – If you collect things that are valuable to you but not necessarily on the open market keep the collection organized and reasonably sized. Identify a friend or organization that may make use of it after you’re gone.
  • Garage and storage areas – These are easy to get out of hand because typically there’s lots of space and it’s easy to just let older items linger in the back corners. This includes household hardware, glue, rope, paint, tools, sport supplies, wood scraps. Make regular trips to the household hazardous waste center.
  • Toiletries and cleaning supplies – Old makeup, shampoo, travel size items, specialty cleaners…these easily accumulate clogging up valuable storage space and creating a disposal chore when you’re gone.

As you are weeding, extract and keep these items separate and easy to find:

  • Key Financial Documents – Current insurance policies, bills, and estate information need to be immediately accessible if something happens to you. Purge old copies to avoid confusion.
  • Will/Trust – You do have one, right?
  • Safe Deposit Box – Information and key

If this feels overwhelming already, get help!

Utilize family and friends, hire an organizer and consult with an estate attorney. Two great Bay Area estate attorneys we recommend are Richard Lee of Blythe, Lee & Associates, 510-272-0200 x304 and Alexandria M. Ayoub of Ferguson & Berland, 510-548-9005.

What small action could you take this week to help take care of your own business so others won’t have to when you’re gone?

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2 Comments

Filed under Decluttering, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, Memorabilia, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Storage, Strategies

2 responses to “Organizing Your Legacy

  1. One of the most valuable notes from my junk drawer. The title hits home too. My aging father has done that for our family in every way. Finances. Legal matters. Streamlining the stuff at home. He also has valuable collections that he has listed descriptions, value and procedure for eventual liquidation. Now it’s my turn. Thanks again! Jack

  2. Wow! What a give your father has given you!

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