What Happens to Your “Stuff”?

This is a post I have been meaning to write/finish/get off my chest and this morning I responded to a Facebook post with a long comment that pretty much summed up my feelings on the matter. However, I feel as though I have to finish it up with a blog post.

No, I am not being a contrary old bastard in this post, but I have learned a lot about people, life and how death, especially when it is unexpected affects families over the past five months.

I am not being morbid in this post, but I do want you to think for a minute about what I have written, because it is not some fluff piece or something to simply whine, piss or moan about.

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First and foremost, contrary to myth, legend and too much wishful thinking we all die at some point, the big question is when, how and where – not if.

Yes, that means we are all going to be dead — someday.

So take care of the things you can take care of now, before you die.

My Recent Experience

I say this from the experience that we went through this summer. My brother-in-law died unexpectedly on June 1st. Although I loved him dearly and he was also my friend, he left us quite a mess.

No will – which meant that everything has to go through the courts to do much of anything.

Solution have a damn Will updated and in place in case you die unexpectedly, with instructions in there on who gets what, what you want to have happen to your body and how your estate will be disposed of.

Too damn much stuff – We have made more than 30 trips to the transfer station with more to go, many to Goodwill and having friends help us remove “stuff” from his house and camp. This caused many, many hours of extra work and significant expense on our part.

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Solution – As we get older start getting rid of shit you don’t need, no longer use, is just taking up space or whatever to hell other excuse you have to keep too much stuff that the people who have to dispose of all that “stuff” have to deal with.

Home Repairs – His house was not up to code in several respects, which made selling the property difficult and expensive to repair for us, to get it to where we could sell it.

Solution – Get your home up to code and repair what needs to be repaired. Yes, I know that keeping up a home is difficult especially as you get older and the income levels drop to the point where too many choices have to be made. At some point there comes a time when difficult choices do need to be made and perhaps assistance is needed from family or friends to get things done. Let go of the stiff necked pride, because after you are dead all of those things are going to cost the people who have to take care of your estate.

Common Sense

I am not saying that you need to embrace minimalism, but remember all that great stuff you have collected over the course of your life and have coming out of the closets, stored in the basement or attic, in the garage or heaven forbid in a storage facility, someone is going to have to throw most of that shit out or give it way, because most of it ain’t worth shit in today’s world of disposable everything and no time for anything.

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Don’t say well they can sell everything and get money for it. That is mostly bullshit and not reality.

You know the old idea of: have a yard sale, sell it on eBay, Uncle Henry’s or someplace else. The people responsible for settling your estate might have some luck with selling your stuff, but that is not their full time job in life after you are dead. Who in the hell wants to take the time to sell all of mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or worse a child’s possessions, when they are in the midst of grieving about you or their loved one being gone.

No one.

Especially, when most of the stuff ain’t worth nearly as much as you imagined or that anyone near where you live actually wants your old shit. If the people who are responsible for getting rid of your stuff, live away from where you live, do you expect them to drive 2-3 hour (or more) on a weekly basis to keep working on cleaning up your messes, getting rid of your old stuff and fixing all the stuff you should have done when you were alive, in addition to attempting to live their own lives.

The only thing on their mind during that time is get rid of the shit as fast as possible, so they can get back to living their life and not having to grieve over something that brings back another fantastic or horrible memory of you.

If you are close to or have retired, but it is common sense for many others as well – think about it.

It is Only Stuff

All those clothes that you used to wear to work, the suits, uniforms when you die, your heirs are going to get rid of them, what do you really need to keep living the life style you want? Clean out the closets, you no longer need 50 ties, 20 suits, 30 shirts and 25 pair of shoes. Keep what you need or really love to wear, give what you don’t to others in the family who can use them or some charity that will get them to people who need them.

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That great collection of old computers, porn magazines from the 70’s & 80’s, baseball cards, comic books, the boat, camper, vehicles that don’t run, guns, hunting gear, books, shot glasses, spoons, running shoes, all those projects that you were going to start/finish and have the materials for (but you know that you will never actually get), the old games, pieces of furniture you no longer like/use and all the other shit that you are hanging on to for no reason other than to hang on to it.

Go through the cupboards and pantries and throw old food out that is expired, gone bad or simply stuff you will never eat. Those 10 giant cans of tomato paste that expired in 2012 can be thrown out and the 40 cans of veggies that expired in 1998, well I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t eat them.

 

If you think you are going to use it during the Zombie Apocalypse or the End of the World as We Know It – think carefully about what use it will have then or if there is no power in the form we now know, what will happen to your electronics if they are not kept in a Farraday Cage and if one is none (maybe 10 is too many).

What you Can Do

Look at why you are keeping something and if the why has changed, maybe you no longer need it. Our needs change as life goes on and what was important to us once upon a time, might no longer matter.

Sell it if you want – see how much your stuff is actually worth and get rid of it. Put the money you get from the stuff into your kids or grandkid’s education fund, go on a trip, make memories, have fun with the proceeds. Go out and have a party with everyone before you die, so you can make great memories with them.

Give it away – Find out if anyone in your family or your friends wants some of the “stuff” you want/need/should get rid of and give it to them. You will be surprised at how hard it is to give stuff away sometimes. Most of the stuff you want to give away, other people don’t really want it. If they do want it, it might be treasured as something special and they will remember you when they look at or use what you give them.

Get rid of it – Give it to a non-profit or charity and claim a tax deduction if you have/want to. They take a lot of stuff that is junk.

Throw it away – You will be surprised at how much of your stuff is just trash, get rid of it – nobody wants it.

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What does this accomplish?

Doing all that before you die does a few things.

  1. If you die unexpectedly the amount of pain, suffering, work and yes, expense that is left to the people who have to dispose of your property is significantly reduced.
  2. You have control over your stuff and what happens to it.
  3. Who knows maybe you will have more room in your home for the stuff you really want and maybe a little more coin in your own pocket.

So think about what I have said in this post.

Am I being barbaric to ask to you talk and think about your being dead and to make it easier on the people you leave behind when you do die?

I personally, do not think so, I think it is prudent and thoughtful to make your passing easier on the ones you lovedwho are still alive, especially if your death is unexpected,  by not having the additional weight of having to get rid of so much of your stuff or the added expense of paying to get rid of your stuff. It costs big bucks to get rid of stuff in today’s world.

Think about those who have to throw out your underwear and other collections or posessions that you don’t want the world or even your spouse/children to know about. Get rid of them now, not later when there is no choice in the matter about who is going to see and have to dispose of those items.

Remember, we all die and don’t take anything with us to whatever there is beyond that death. Make it easier on the loved ones you do leave behind, get rid of as much “stuff” as you can and still live a comfortable life, and have an up to date Last Will and Testament that the Courts will recognize.

The bottom line is – it is your shit and your responsibility to take care of it, so someone else does not have to.

So do it.

11 thoughts on “What Happens to Your “Stuff”?

  1. Exactly … we have a development yard sale every year and this year when we had water in the basement we got a dumpster to deal with stuff … and still have too much crap.

    I have certain pieces of electronics from decades past that I love – but since none of it can connect to our network or the internet or any of my computers … exactly what value other than nostalgia does it have? None. So I have tried selling it off …and next comes tossing it out if we fail to sell it the next time.

    It just isn’t worth it. Good post, great reminder.

    When Lisa’s dad died – even though he had been terminally sick with leukemia for ~6 years or so and said he had everything together (but wouldn’t discuss while alive) – afterwards we found out it was a mess. And now that all of our accounts are online, it becomes more important to have all of your passwords, account numbers, etc, all accessible to your will executor ‘just in case’.

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    • Mike – gotta have a listing all the accounts to the executor whether online or offline. We ran into not knowing where he had accounts and still are not sure that every account has been found. It is very stressful trying to pick up what is left behind when someone dies, whether they have time to prepare or if it is sudden and unexpected. No matter which – you just muddle through and do the best you can with what needs to be done.

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  2. Good advice. We all have too much stuff we think we might need someday or is too valuable to throw away.
    An uncle of mine died a few years ago. He was separated from his wife for a few years and wrote some racy poetry for a woman he lived with for a while. One cousin (son) got there first and wont even show it to my other cousin (daughter). Talk about stuff you don’t want your kids to see!

    Here is something to leave – a list of passwords to all of your sites like Facebook, Google, your blog etc. FB still sends me notices when friends who are dead are having a birthday. I think they are done having birthdays. And getting a reminder isn’t always a cheerful event.

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    • Yeah, that is excellent advice for the online stuff. Google has a program where if you are inactive on your account they will contact the person you designate to get further instructions for that account, it would be nice if Facebook had that too – although something makes me think that they do.

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  3. I agree. I’m already thinking this way at age 26. But how do I talk to my parents about it without hurting them? Because I see how much my mom collected over the years and she’s 8000km away and I really don’t know how I’ll get through that part after she dies. Hopefully it’s a long way away, and there’s still time to do something about it, but yeah…need to figure out how to have this conversation in a considerate way. Calling her stuff “shit” won’t go over too well. 😉

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    • I’m an old sailor, therefore the blunt language. Unfortunately, over the last 5 months we learned that the stuff that we or the person who passed thought was valuable, held little to no value in many instances or finding the people that would consider it valuable took too much time, effort or they never showed up to take a look at the great “stuff” we had available for sale. Old electronic items – TV’s computers, stereos, boom boxes are all worthless and in most places cost money to dispose of. Yeah, I could have just called it “stuff” throughout the post, but I think you understand that I wanted to drive home a point – that most of the stuff we think is great, others out there do not share our vaunted opinion of it and to them it is mostly shit they could care less about. It is a tough conversation to have, but as we age it is one that is necessary and after a certain point something we need do something about. Have your mom read the post and watch her have a series of emotions – not all of them good.

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      • Oh no. I totally got it! And I would totally agree…and call the stuff collected over the year, unfortunately, shit. But I wouldn’t call it that to the face of one who was attached to it. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson some people do not learn. I’ll broach the topic when appropriate though. It’s a very serious concern and let’s say it’s not me I’m thinking about, but anyone who would take that responsibility. It’s a lot of work. Don’t worry…no offense taken at the language. 🙂

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  4. You have inspired me to clear extraneous shit outta here. Not even “just in case.” But because I’m drowning in a sea of Stuff. It’s not necessary. It’s all too much. And whether I’m here or gone tomorrow. It needs to go. As an aside, I am sorry for your loss on every level. Great post.

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