August 2011
The Anticrastination Tip Sheet

From Rita Emmett
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook and
The Clutter-Busting Handbook
Quotes for August

Emmett’s Basic Clutter Fact: If you plan to get organized tomorrow, then you’ve got to de-clutter today. -- Rita Emmett in The Clutter-Busting Handbook

There is an immediate emotional and psychological payoff to getting our house in order. -- Sarah Ban Breathnach, "Simple Abundance"

The wise man does not lay up his treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has found his own. -- Lao Tzu

Message from Rita

Legacy of stuff (Part 3)

The past two Tip Sheets discussed what to do with the "stuff" left behind by someone who passed away. It was hard to write and hard for you to read. Now let's move into an even MORE difficult area -- the stuff that WE will leave behind. (By the way, I can't find any material already written on this subject. Apparently, everyone else also thinks it's hard to write about.)

If you plan to leave something to the next generation or to your friends, do some very good communicating with them now to see if they would want it. If not, realize that your cherished items might be more burden than bounty to people you love. Most of all, let them know what is important or valuable, so they don’t decide everything you own is clutter, and toss it out.

Here is a true story that will get you on board more than anything I could write. George, a fire fighter, told of being at a holiday gathering shortly after his beloved Aunt Nora had been moved in to a nursing home. Her idea of living a frugal life was to never throw away anything. She had no children of her own, so everyone in the family pitched in to clear out her house. It was exhausting work; emptying the basement alone filled two huge dumpsters.

These workers were mostly adult nieces and nephews who adored their Aunt Nora, but they had families of their own, jobs to go to, lawns to mow, and they were running out of steam. By the time they started on the first floor, they didn't have the energy to make great decisions, so they gave away and tossed out most of Aunt Nora's stuff.

At the gathering of the clan, George heard a lively discussion going on in the living room with several of Aunt Mary's sisters who were visiting from California. Then his cousin walked into the kitchen looking ghostly pale. She turned to her husband and said, “You know how we all thought Aunt Nora was poor as a church mouse? Well, all those boxes of glass contained extremely expensive Waterford crystal that was almost one hundred years old that she inherited from her mother.”

George said, "I don't remember who we gave all those boxes to. Do you?" She replied, "We tossed every one of them in the dumpster."

Isn't that heart breaking? But that happens in many families. Sometimes items tossed out weren't of financial value, but the family didn't realize that the lovely candlesticks they gave to Goodwill were brought over from the old country by their grandmother.

We had something like that in our family. I was out of the country when my cousin started emptying his mom's house after she moved to Assisted Living. By the time I joined him in the work, he had tossed out every box that was in the basement and crawl space. Then we discovered that he had thrown out the only photos of his little brother who had passed away. He, his mom and the rest of us all felt terrible about it, but he just didn't know. The box wasn't labeled.

Difficult as it might be, it is crucial to tell people what is important.

Yes, I do know that nobody wants to talk about what will happen with their stuff when then die, but you need to tell someone the stories that go with family treasures. Tell them what items are an important part of their heritage. Tell them what is valuable. Tell them who should get certain items. Ask them if they want that item.

Maybe you are the one who cherishes the family history and you have ALL the family photos. But if you tell your kids about it and nobody wants it, wouldn't it be better to pass that on to a relative would love to keep those pictures for future generations instead of having your kids toss them out?

Danielle, my wonderful literary agent, tells of how her grandmother taped cards on back of things -- letting the family know who gets what, and any stories. For example, she wrote: "I received this lace in 1947, it came from my aunt." Once you know something like that about an item, suddenly it becomes precious, doesn't it?

You might think this sounds creepy or scary or morbid. But it simply is facing reality. Do you believe that if you don't think about dying or speak about it, then you won't die???

When we are gone, family might sell some things, keep others, but who do you think should get your cherished items? Your books. Your music? Your collections. Your creations. The special things you cook with or work with or play with?

We will continue this conversation next month. If you have found, thought of or used ways to communicate with your relatives and friends what you want to happen with your "Legacy of Stuff", please email and tell me about it. Maybe we will include your ideas in our next Tip Sheet.

Dear Rita,
THANK YOU SO MUCH for sending this very intelligent, carefully thought out tip sheet (about "Legacy of Stuff"). Even though I am not in this situation personally, I find this very useful in helping me with other things I am still just hanging onto.
It is SO true, once some of these things are gone, you really don't miss them. I always find that very amazing!
My husband once told me a similar story of someone he knew that had a fire in his home. It destroyed a lot of stuff he really didn't need and he had no regrets that those things were gone.
Chris Thompson

Please share this Tip Sheet with 2 or 3 friends who would be interested. And feel free to use this message in your blog or newsletter, as long as you include my bio and contact info:

Rita Emmett
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook,
The Clutter-Busting Handbook and
Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress: A Handbook for the Overworked, Overscheduled, and Overwhelmed
2331 Eastview
Des Plaines, IL 60018

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