Managing Your Stuff Is a Gift to Your Family

Is your home a showpiece, with art, pottery and knick-knacks filling the walls and every surface? Often these are the items that make a house your home and give you pleasure every day. Beyond the main living space, do you have other rooms, such as a basement or attic, piled high with extra things you no longer use but don’t have the heart to throw away?

While it may seem a little uncomfortable, take a moment to consider who will have to go through all of your things once you are gone. If you want certain items to be passed down to your heirs or donated to a particular charity, let your wishes be known while you are able to make these decisions. Taking care of this necessary chore sooner rather than later is one of best things you can do for your family.

You can convert this seemingly overwhelming task into a manageable project by giving it some thought. Tackle one room or area at a time. Organize your things into five groups: donate to charity, give to family and friends, sell, throw away or keep for now.

Items going to Goodwill or the church donation box should be in good enough shape that someone will want them. Household items are usually good to donate, as your family and friends probably have all the kitchen utensils and pots and pans they need.

For items you want to give to friends and family, write down people’s names with the items you want them to receive. Talk to them first and find out if they really want those things. Don’t be offended if they tell you honestly that they would never use the sterling silver. Another family member may cherish the silverware, or perhaps you can sell the item to support your living expenses.

For items you want to sell, consider the best way to get your money’s worth. Enlist professionals, such as an auction house, or a company that can sell things on the internet. Of course, there’s also always eBay. It is often much easier to buy things than it is to sell them. Collectibles are only worth what someone else will pay, so don’t be surprised if you get less than you had hoped.

The throw-away pile may be large, and you may find yourself loading up a pickup to go to the dump. This pile often grows as you reconsider items to sell or donate. Once you have decided to get rid of something, resist the temptation to bring it back into your house.

Dealing with boxes of paper and photos is another large task. Invest in a scanner so you can save all important files on your computer. If you are not computer-savvy, call on help to get you set up or even to scan the documents for you. You should always back up important files on your computer, preferably daily. Provide copies of relevant documents to those that will be in charge of managing your affairs. And share the photos, as they may be the most cherished item you can give.

We accumulate things that we like to have around us. When you have the storage space, it is easy to just keep buying and hard to get rid of things we no longer need. If you haven’t worn clothing or used something in the past year, maybe this is an item you can dispose of.

If your family has to spend weeks, months or even years second-guessing themselves and fretting over your wishes regarding your personal belongings, perhaps you won’t be leaving the legacy you would want. In fact, it may seem more like a burden. Be kind and do the legwork in advance. Soliciting your children and grandchildren’s help with this project can become a fun way to spend quality time with family.

This commentary originally appeared September 3 on

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The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of the BAM ALLIANCE. This article is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice.

© 2016, The BAM ALLIANCE

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Connie Brezik, CPA/PFS, CFP®

As a wealth advisor at Buckingham Strategic Wealth, Connie works with clients to form a comprehensive financial plan tailored to their individual circumstances, one that includes portfolio management, tax strategies, wealth transfer considerations, retirement analysis and education planning. She welcomes the chance to help clients work through difficult situations, finding solutions that they may not have thought of and guidance about what to do if their plans don't work out as anticipated.

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