A final gift from Mom

My step-mother, Jacquie, died last week. At almost 94 years of age, it was not surprising she did not fare well after major surgery. Jacquie was an exceptionally caring, and generous person. Over the years she gave me many thoughtful gifts. But her final gift has done more to provide support and comfort in this difficult time than I could have ever imagined. What was that gift? A well thought out, detailed, plan of what to do when she died.

She discussed with me and her two sons the information we would need at the time of her passing and where to find it. She wrote her obituary which spared her survivors any lingering doubts that we might have inadvertently omitted important information about her life. She indicated her preference for burial arrangements. A document specifying the division of personal property eliminated any potential squabbling over ownership of treasured possessions.

Jacquie knew that it was my intention to have my father, who has dementia, come and live with me and my husband. She had a list of his medications, dosages, and times to take them. She also left me contact information for his doctors. Every detail to make the transition from life with her to life without her was well thought out, documented, and made known to her family.

My stepmother was always after my father to work with her to downsize and get rid of possessions they were not using or would not need in the future. By so doing, she sought to ease the burden of disposing of their belongings. That being said, it took our family five days of working flat out to sort, divide, and dispose of what was left in their apartment.

Now that I know from first-hand experience the value of preparing and planning ahead for end of life issues, I am hard at work making sure my wishes are known. I have started the process of getting rid of things I don’t use in a responsible way. I am determined the disposition of my assets and possessions will not be a burden for my family.

Here are three things you can do to minimize “stuffication” (being suffocated by your “stuff “):

Regularly schedule purging of possessions

My husband, Chris, and I have lived in our home in Colorado for nine years. There are still boxes in our basement we never unpacked. If we haven’t used something in nine years how can we possibly justify storing it? We can’t. It is time to sell, donate, or throw it out. The best way to stay on top of purging possessions is to schedule time to do it. Designate one day a month, like the first Saturday, to work on this task and stick to your schedule until you are satisfied with your results.

When you let possessions go, don’t replace them.

Whenever I am shopping, either alone or with my husband, and there is an item that catches our eye before buying it I ask the following two questions: Where is it going to go? What are we going to get rid of to make room for this? This prevents us from acquiring things that we don’t really need.

Determine what is worth selling and what is not

Your excess possessions have value and some may be quite valuable. Craig’s List, Ebay, Facebook, Pinterest, and garage sales are places to sell more valuable, unneeded, items. If you donate items to charity, make sure to keep a list of your donations so you can claim a deduction on your taxes.


Kathryn Avery

About Kathryn Avery

When Kathryn Severns Avery’s husband, Chris, began contemplating retirement in 2014, she knew they had to quickly come up with a multi-faceted plan. They spent the next year discussing, sometimes heatedly, what they would do once he stopped working. On paper their plan looked exciting. They would head from Colorado to the 1891 sea captain’s house they bought and renovated in Rockland on Maine’s midcoast. But the reality of planning and implementing retirement was much different than expected. Kathryn has worked in radio, television, marketing, and public relations. She is the author of five books and has written articles on interior design and crafts for national and regional publications including Romantic Homes, Log Homes Illustrated, The Rocky Mountain News and Colorado Homes and Lifestyles.