Whether you’re 45 or 85, planning for the future can be the biggest gift you give to your family members, even while you’re still here to enjoy the present. According to a study by Caring.com, 40% of people surveyed did not have any estate planning in place because they “just haven’t gotten around to it.”
Beyond the obvious financial aspect of planning, one often overlooked piece of business is just what to do with your belongings once you have decided to transition to a smaller home, or are no longer here to enjoy them.
If you are considering downsizing, here are a few ideas that can be practiced now, as a “gift” to your family members and yourself, by lifting the burden from them – and you – down the road.
- Start gifting. During a holiday gathering or other meeting in your home, ask each of your family members to pick one thing that you possess that they really like. Make a note of it for future reference, or present it to them right there if you are willing to part with it. If you plan on gifting it to them later, note this in a small notebook immediately, so there is no question about it later. Being clear with your intentions could alleviate some tension among siblings as well. Repeat this process as needed, and you can lighten your load considerably.
- Choose a charity: To engender a feeling of accomplishment and altruism, ask your family members for input on what charities they like, and then consider donating to those with the actual items or with the proceeds of the sale of any goods you don’t wish to keep and they do not want.
- Manage your paperwork now. Many of us keep unnecessary paperwork for years, “just in case” we need it later. According to Finra.org, there is a finite amount of time you need to keep certain financial records. Go through them now so the task of sorting out your finances and other important documents doesn’t become a mountain your family members will need to dig into. Be sure to dispose of documents securely, and check with your own accountant for guidelines about what to keep and what to discard.
- Find a home for collections that are no longer as meaningful to you, and that family members don’t want. Whatever it is you collect, there is likely a group of like-minded individuals who may want to buy or would appreciate the collection. A little online research will likely yield local organizations who can take them off your hands willingly.
- Let it go. Understand that not everyone may want what you have, so don’t take it personally. The use of formal dinnerware is on the decline by young people. Ditto for family heirlooms. It’s best to have an alternate plan for their dispersal, if you don’t wish to keep them for your own use as you transition into smaller quarters.
- Consider hiring help to downsize now. Busy schedules and the demands of small children can add a layer of stress to adult children who are tasked with assisting their parents during housing transitions. Having outside help from a Professional Organizer or experienced Move Manager can relieve the stress for all parties involved.
Spending even a few minutes a day on these activities can produce significant results over time. For more information on how to get started, sign up for one of our free monthly downsizing workshops.