Face it, everyone downsizes their worldly possessions at some point, either voluntarily or involuntarily. You either do it before you die, or after you die. And you either do it yourself, or someone else has the burden of doing it for you. Which do you choose?
Here is a tool to help you decide.
Click here to print full-sized PDF.
My Personal Inventory
My own Personal Inventory was born from having moved to Albuquerque from Los Angeles in 2005. Rather than label boxes and plastic bins with their contents, I like to number them and create a searchable spreadsheet that I can refer to. This is based partly on it being no one else’s business what’s in the containers — movers, primarily, but also visitors to my home – and the fact that maybe not all the boxes will get unpacked right away, or ever. So, later, if I wonder what’s in Box #5, or if I need my college diploma for some reason, and can’t remember where I put it, I consult my spreadsheet.
When I started thinking about legacies, and what would happen to my stuff when I die, I added items to the list like my grand piano, and a column that tells who (if anyone) I would like to give them to.
Your Personal Inventory
Here is a partial sample chart. Mine is in Excel, but you can just as well use a Word table, like I have below. Learn how to search it (Command F for Mac, Control F for PC), and you’re in business!
For that matter, you can make your inventory on paper, and keep it on a clipboard.
Keep in mind that there are only so many choices for the disposition of any given object: Gift, Donate, Sell, Trash, and Recycle.
You don’t need to list every single item of clothing or individual kitchen gadgets. You can lump them together like I did for furniture and household goods in this example:
Click here to print full-sized PDF.
The Family Auction
When my mom died in 2001, we all gathered in Boise to help my aunt (with whom she lived at the time) decide what to do with her stuff. We went around the house putting sticky notes with our names on them on the things we each wanted. (Actually I think we each had a different color….either way, whatever works…) There were remarkably few things that multiple family members wanted, and there was little discussion needed to resolve the conflicts that arose. But not all families are so congenial, and not all families can get together to do this in person. So, there are apps – of course there are! – to help you do this. I haven’t personally used any of them (have you?), but Fair Split is one example.
Who gets it?
I recommend, when designating who gets what, that you write the person a note. Keep the notes with your will. (You do have a will, right?) Explain what the item is, why it is special to you, and why you chose them as the recipient. Make it clear that you are not trying to burden them in any way. Let them off the hook and tell them they don’t have to keep it forever. Make it clear if it’s something of great monetary or historical value. Give them options: Keep, sell, give to another family member, donate to a historical society, etc.
What’s it all worth?
There’s no putting a price on sentimental items. However, when it comes to selling, or even divvying up material items fairly (after a death, or well before a death), people tend to think their things are worth more than they really are. Here is a link to a wonderful article about how to determine the worth of your stuff (or your parents’stuff) and what to do with it.
Don’t panic — you don’t have to get rid of anything today!
The beauty of creating Your Personal Inventory is that you don’t have to get rid of anything today! You’re just evaluating your stuff and making decisions now while it’s easy, instead of later when it’s hard. Whenever I want to create space for something new in my home I refer to my inventory and think: “Hmmmm…..maybe it’s time to donate Box #7 full of the books I never unpacked, am not reading, and am not even displaying on my bookshelves.” Easy. Decision made. And if I get to Box #2 in the example (unsorted old papers) before I die, I will simply cross it off the list. So, Your Personal Inventory also doubles as a To-Do list!
What about you?
Have you had to downsize yourself? Someone else? What was your experience like? Do you think you’ll create Your Personal Inventory?
Please share with us in the comments below!
Copyright 2017 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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