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Legacy Decluttering: Simplifying Spaces for Cherished Memories

August 15, 2023

What comes to mind when you think of your legacy? Maybe it’s the collection of assets you plan to bequeath to your heirs. Or, perhaps to you, the term legacy means the kind of social impact you hope to have had on those in your community. But what if I told you there’s more to it? There is an often overlooked—but no less important—aspect of the legacy you leave your loved ones? And you can start building it right now.

I won’t pretend to imply that it’s glamorous; it’s decidedly not. I’m talking about organizing and simplifying your home. I know what you might be thinking – isn’t this something we usually discuss in January? The new year is our blank canvas, the time for fresh starts and good habits. Not August. But the truth is, it’s never too early to start thinking about how to simplify and organize your life. It is nothing short of a selfless gift to your loved ones: someday, they’ll be able to focus on what truly matters – remembering the happy moments they shared with you – instead of facing the impossible task of sorting through the decades of clutter and disorganized finances you left behind.

So, grab an empty box or two (or ten, I promise I’m not looking), and let’s leave a different kind of legacy for the ones who matter to us the most.

Step 1: Paring Down Possessions

One Room at a Time

Move through your home one room at a time – allowing yourself to take breaks as often (and for as long) as needed. Remind yourself that this is not a sprint; every little bit makes a difference, no matter how long it takes! Get yourself into a “keep,” “toss,” or “donate” mindset and ask yourself the following questions throughout the process:

  • Do I currently need this item/does it serve a purpose in my home and life?
  • Is this item meaningful and worth passing on to a loved one?
  • Might someone else get more use out of this item than I currently do?
  • Is this item broken or damaged (i.e., not worth saving)?

You’ll eventually tackle the big things, but first: start small. I find that the junk drawer in the kitchen is a great place to start for a few reasons—it’s small and, therefore, less overwhelming, and its contents tend to be junk that you’re not attached to. If you think that having an organized junk drawer isn’t exactly the legacy you had in mind, it’s not. But it gets the ball rolling. The simple act of organizing releases dopamine—the neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for feelings of pleasure—and motivates you to move on to the more significant tasks.

From there, start on a cabinet or a closet next. When you come across an item you are attached to, it’s okay to keep it—but first, try to imagine how someone else might love and appreciate it. And if you haven’t laid eyes on it in over six months or forgot it existed, it’s time to let go.

Focus on Furniture

Do you have any broken or damaged furniture (and not worth repairing)? Those pieces might be the first to go. Maybe now that you’ve whittled down some of your belongings, there are pieces of furniture that once served a purpose but no longer do. You might decide to gift certain pieces of furniture to loved ones. Still, for the rest, plenty of organizations will pick up your furniture donations right from your home, such as GreenDrop, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, and The Salvation Army. Remind yourself that you’re giving new life to things that would otherwise be collecting dust—and save your loved ones from having to do this work down the road.

Out with the old, in with the – well … not so fast

Once you’ve pared down your possessions, try to keep it that way! Shopping is not off limits, of course, but consider giving more thought to your purchases and what you bring into your home. When you buy new clothes, simultaneously pack up a box of garments that don’t fit or that you don’t wear anymore and donate them. Always think about function: is this something you genuinely need, something you don’t already have, something that will get used? Consider this the maintenance phase—you’ve done the hard work purging and paring down, adopted a new legacy mindset, and now you must keep it going. Your efforts will bring you peace from the simplicity in your home and will be very appreciated by your loved ones during a time of loss and grief.

Be sure to follow us to catch the next installment of how to leave a new kind of legacy for your loved ones, where we turn our attention to organizing our financial and legal documents to simplify the arduous amount of paperwork that inevitably falls on loved ones after the loss of a family member.