Although I am only 51 years old, I have recently begun a process I refer to as "reverse nesting."
I fondly recall the days when I was expecting or waiting for our adoptions, when we busily readied the house for the new arrival: painting, organizing, buying all kinds of things that would likely be worn or used only a few times. The energy was palpable, and the urge to prepare seemed totally natural.
1. Will: If you don't have one, make one. If you have one, review it.
2. Trust: This is not a necessary item, but it does have some advantages with regard to the ease of transfer of property and monetary items. Seek the advice of a reputable trust/estate lawyer.
3. Life insurance policy numbers, death benefit amounts and beneficiary(s)
4. Bank account numbers
5. Insurance: I learned it is important to keep homeowner, automobile and umbrella policies active while the family or trustees are completing the transfers of those items.
6. Power of attorney: Make sure you have someone who can act on your behalf for legal and business matters if you become unable.
7. Health care representative: Name a trusted person to represent your wishes regarding life support if you are unable. Make sure that person and your doctor know your wishes. If available, get a Physician Order of Life Support form from your doctor, as well, so your wishes will be honored in case of an emergency.
Now I am looking over my home and my possessions with a more critical eye. My children and I are perfectly comfortable in our home. Our closets are crowded with clothing, footwear, linens, housewares and the like.
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer almost two years ago, and it has been stubbornly resistant to any long-term remission. In between bouts of chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation, I have had some really good times. In the midst of treatments, my energy is low, my thoughts muddled and my organizational skills lacking. In spite of this, I have a strong urge to organize my home, review my important documents and get everything in order for my family.
It may seem a bit morbid, but for me it is reality. We are all going to die at some point. For me, it simply seems more likely sooner rather than later.
A few years ago, while I was still married, my mother-in-law died after a grueling battle with lung cancer that lasted 10 months. She never felt well enough to purge her things and organize her papers as well as she would have liked. Her son, my ex-husband, was the executor of her estate, and he and his sisters spent months organizing things after her death. It was very difficult for them.
My daughters are still dependent, and that may be an impetus for me to get things in order. Whatever the reason, I have a strong urge to empty my home of unnecessary clutter, write out my wishes clearly and label special items in my jewelry drawer and cupboards for my heirs.
I have gone through my linen closets and pared down to two sets of sheets per bed, a few extra pillows and blankets for guests, and enough towels to last a couple of weeks without laundry. I have taken loads of extras to local charities.
The kitchen cupboards and drawers have been thinned. I have never been a "clotheshorse," so my closets are not too bad, but I am trying to pass on things that are outdated or don't fit while keeping enough for all seasons and the variety of sizes I have been since starting chemo.
Similarly, I have looked through the kids' closets and tried to pass on things they have outgrown so as to not burden anyone with the job of doing that after I am gone. Somehow, having less clutter actually clears my mind. I find I can rest more easily when I've tackled a small project, even as simple as one of the "miscellaneous" drawers in the kitchen.
I am very fortunate to have my faculties about me most of the time and a reasonable layperson's understanding of my financial situation. I have been working on a comprehensive list for my oldest brother, who will be executor of my trust, so he can easily track down all my accounts. I have included a brief biography of my life, suggestions for donations to my alumni colleges and references to my trust and will.
I have verified the beneficiaries on my life insurance policies, listed important phone numbers and contacts for him and even suggested what I would like done with my ashes. I hope this will make his job easier if and when he should be called upon to act on my behalf.
I find that doing this paperwork is very taxing, so I try to limit it to an hour or so a day.
Although it seems a bit macabre, I have begun labeling special items, such as jewelry, in my home. I doubt anyone will remember that special ring I got from my grandmother should go to my middle daughter because we all share the same birthstone. I am still wearing some of my jewelry, of course, but things that are just keepsakes I have labeled and put in small sandwich bags. I have not gone so far as to label the furniture in an obvious or tacky way, but I have started a list of suggested homes for some things.
Because I am still reasonably fit, I have been able to do some of the heavier cleaning alone, but I also have been lucky enough to have help. Enlist the help of good friends for the clothes-closet clean-out: They often can be objective about what you might want to keep.
My sister is a master closet reorganizer, and she put her skills to use during my summer round of chemo. While I slept, she redid my master closet.
I also found a local handyman who cleaned out my garage, got rid of all those empty boxes, made a run to the dump and really helped me see what things should stay and what could go.
Even keeping up the routine maintenance of my yard and house is reverse nesting in a way because my family will not have catch-up work to do to put the house on the market.
Similarly, I have sought the help of lawyers, insurance professionals and my tax consultant to discuss and organize my affairs. I can assure you I am not done. It has truly been such a big job, it may keep me busy for years to come!