When I had my hip replaced some years
ago, I spent a little time reflecting on my life (couldn’t do much else for a
week or two) and I realized that I probably was no longer interested in putting
up a Christmas tree and that the entire top shelf of one closet was devoted to
Christmas tree ornaments and festive decorations. Hmm. When my cousin, who had
two young sons, came to visit, I offered her anything and everything she wanted
from this collection with a few exceptions. We spent a wonderful afternoon
telling stories about the decorations, especially the ones I’d bought with her
mother. She went home with two huge bins of ornaments and I gained an entire
shelf in my closet. We were both very happy to visit the site ..
In contrast, another cousin and I were not so happy clearing out her parents’ home. They were not exactly hoarders, but they did keep a lot of stuff. Like back issues of magazines. And clothes. We were heartbroken to discover that vintage clothes and other potentially sellable items had been destroyed by an oil leak. And not too excited to throw out years of food and craft magazines along with a few projects her father never got around to completing – a Dotson rusting on the lawn and a partially restored organ. Similarly Marianna Montgomery, a friend spent a month clearing out her sister’s apartment.
So what does this mean for me?
George Carlin said something about your
stuff being someone else’s trash (cleaned it up a tad). No, your kids probably
don’t want your Hitchcock chairs or the family silver or even your favorite
china figurines. It’s simply not their taste. Ask. Confirm. Get over it.
Montgomery planning and Disposing – A short List
Make a will and a plan. Please. Even if
you think you don’t need one. And name an executor. It’s impossible to sell
your car or deal with bank accounts if there isn’t an executor. Yes, you’re
going to live to 110, but you’ll be too busy doing the tango to want to be
bothered with this stuff. Make a plan now. Here are some ideas to get you
Give things that you don’t use away now.
I had my great grandmother’s gold watch. It was beautiful. I wore it maybe a
half a dozen times over twenty years ago. I gave it to a cousin who also may
never wear it but will appreciate it and pass it on to her daughter. I gave a
niece my grandmother’s diamond ring and she turned it into a lovely pendant. I
also gave her some antique coral beads because she enjoys chunky necklaces.
Ask people what they might want of the
things you’re ready to pass on. Send pictures before sending stuff. That saved
me the trouble of sending my niece some lovely china plates that she didn’t
like or lugging a bronze tea towel rack out to my cousin. It also gave me the
satisfaction of seeing my great aunt’s inkwell every time I visit my cousin. Or
knowing that another cousin has the family bible. I also got to sell some
unloved gold jewelry with no regrets.
Get rid of as much paper as possible. No
one wants those articles you so painstakingly xeroxed in college. Or old term
papers, course outlines, work-related materials that are outdated. Or
newspapers. Everything in those old recipe magazines that you really will cook
can be found online or can be scanned into a file. This does NOT mean throwing
away treasured old letters or cards. Store them neatly.
Transfer everything you can to the Cloud.
Set these files up as private. This makes it easy to share photos with the
whole family but not the whole world. Get your old tapes converted to DVDs.
Give away, donate, sell or throw away a
lot of old books. I recently got rid of four shopping carts worth of books.
Some I gave away to senior centers and shelters. Most neither thrift shops nor
the library wanted. All my thirty year old research books and training books
went into the trash.