A Suggestion about Your Stuff

Attention, please. This is a public service announcement. Please, please, please, if you are in a position to do so, determine how you would like to dispose of your stuff when you are ready to downsize - or even before - or upon your demise. This is not being morbid, it's being responsible. You decide what you want to give to whom, thereby unburdening your loved ones of the job of either trying to figure out what you would want or just getting into controversy and even fights about it. Everyone will be happy if you do this.

I say this as someone who is pleased that her mother is doing just that. It's her stuff and she knows what she wants to do with it, and she's doing it. She is not letting other people's expectations or superstitions or fears get mixed up in her work. (Won't you miss this? What if it turns out that you need it? Didn't so and so give you that for your birthday in 1968? I thought you loved your owl collection.) She's keeping the things that she has special feelings about, she's passing on things that she wants to pass on but still keep in the family (because they are considered family things). And the other stuff - even stuff she has had great affection for - she is ready to say, "I enjoyed that for XX years and now it's time for someone else to enjoy it." And since she is disposing of things herself we are not invited to intervene and squabble over any of it. Yes, if there was a huge pile of decorative items just sitting there for me to paw through, I would probably suddenly feel an urge to keep about three-fourths of it because of the memories. And then a few years later, I would look at all the clutter and wonder, why do I have all this stuff? Probably I could just take a picture of it and be done.

It is important for me and my brother and the other relatives to recognize that my mother deserves to dispose of her property in the way that she wishes to dispose of it. She does not owe us anything and we should not presume that she does. Again, her dealing with it herself forces us to recognize this and come to terms with it. I believe this is the way a healthy family should behave. (Knowing full well that we have had our turn at dysfunction in other times and places.)

I believe her desire to deal with her own property stems from negative experiences she has seen other families go through, and probably her own. I recall her saying that certain things of her grandmother's were supposed to go to a particular family member but that other family members disputed about them and there were hard feelings (and maybe still are). So she's pre-empting that scenario and making sure my brother gets what she wants him to have, and also the grandchildren, and me, and whoever else is on her list. And the rest she will sell or trash or otherwise dispose of properly herself.

Obviously she is keeping some things, furniture and photographs and decorative items and housewares, to have in her new place, but even those things are to be distributed when the time comes, according to a list she has made.

So, please, take counsel. End of announcement.