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Organize now to avoid heartache down the road

“I’ll let my kids sort through all my stuff when I’m gone.”

“I told my niece I want her to have this special heirloom when I die.”

“No, my photos aren’t labeled, they are stored in boxes all over the house. I don’t even know who many of them are.”

“I need to get my will written.”

“I don’t want to be hooked up to any life support system.”

“I should get my finances organized so my spouse knows what we have.”

What do all of these statements have in common? They are all ways you can be disorganized during your lifetime that could significantly impact your family when you die. Wouldn’t you like to have your life in order to make life easier for those you love when you are gone?

Think about all your stuff that is sitting around in closets, attics, and basements — unused, and maybe even unwanted. Your family would not be happy renting dumpsters to throw away broken, worthless stuff that hasn’t been dealt with over the years. Rather, you should go through what you own and discard worthless belongings and donate what you no longer use so your loved ones don’t get stuck with it.

On the flip side, let your family members know the memories and history of things you consider special so they may also be important to them. This also applies to old photos that are worthless unless they are labeled. My mother had two beautiful quilts but because my sisters and I didn’t know anything about them, they were not important to us when we found them after she had passed away. We did frame quilt blocks she had made growing up that never became a quilt, those being very special to us because we know the story behind them. I also sat down with my father every time I visited him in Nebraska until all of the old photos were identified.

As you are decluttering and downsizing, make sure to ask if anyone in the family wants what you are saving for them. As a professional organizer, I have seen frequently that parents save items for their children, whether it is their own belongings from growing up, or things parents want them to have, only to discover their children have no interest in any of what they have held onto for years.

Wills are another important item to have when you are organizing your life. Saying what you want means nothing if it is not in writing and signed by you. You may know your intentions, and loved ones may assume they are getting what you told them you want to give them, but bad results happen way too often. My father assumed his seven children would sell his farm to the son who farmed it. But he did not make a plan for us to do so and many years later, it still has not happened as one sibling won’t agree on a price. Had my father had it spelled out in his will, it could have been easily settled.

Organize your papers now! Make sure you write down and sign end-of-life wishes and even funeral intentions so that when you die your family is not guessing what you want to happen. Many people have their gravestone bought as well as arrangements made at a funeral home but the family has to know these plans. My parents each had favorite hymns for us to sing at their service, which was very special to us. Put these important papers in a file that your family will have immediate access to so they won’t be scrambling in their grief to even know if there is anything in writing. Another file should include financial records, insurance policies, and anything important they may need, including computer passwords, to make their lives easier. They will thank you for doing this even if you are no longer living.

You want your children and family to love you when you are gone, so get your life in order now and get organized for your sake as well as theirs. You are not too young to start.

Doris Puls, of D & O Decluttering and Organizing, is a professional organizer whose mission is to make a difference in the lives of the people she works with in homes and businesses. Contact her at Organizealpena@gmail.com or at 989-356-9545.