Laura Gilbert, a professor and author from Minnesota, recently retired to help take care of her mother. Traveling frequently between her home and her mother’s in Florida, Laura had plenty of time to think about something she had put off for a while: “What are we going to do with all this STUFF?!”
Laura’s mother, a 95-year-old Big Band-era musician, didn’t get rid of anything. In fact, she is the type of hoarder so “paralyzed by her relationship with stuff” that many visits from her daughter were also attempts to begin paring down the volume of items collected over the years. Unfortunately, with her mother’s age has come a failing memory. Seeing her triggered by objects from the past and recollecting a story or person’s name, Laura knew she had to preserve the history, but not the clutter.
This year Laura published “The Stories We Leave Behind”, a book detailing her “legacy-based” approach to the sometimes daunting task of helping a loved one reduce and re-home items acquired over a lifetime. She urges everyone to find a few themes for their life, and focus on retaining things related to those themes and letting go of the rest. Downsizing and decluttering are the outcome, but the real goal is embracing the things you want to leave behind.
When the time comes, Laura envisions a Discovery Half-Day for her family. After the funeral, when they walk into her home, they can find exactly what they need (like important documents) and discover the themes of her life, so all the big decisions can be made in a half-day. In this way, she is leaving a legacy of her passions and hobbies instead of boxes filled with old receipts. Unburdening her family like this will give them plenty of time to reminisce while looking through photo albums and not be overwhelmed searching or organizing.
Tackling this much work is best done over time. Start with a drawer or a cabinet, and think about what story is being told when you are through. If you don’t know where to start, ask Your Own Home! We can help you take stock of what you have and plan themes to guide your cleanout efforts. This can be the first big step towards leaving a legacy reflecting your life and accomplishments, not just your stuff!