You don’t have to live in a 26-room mansion that your family has owned for a hundred years to need a legacy list. But the Legacy List series on PBS is a great reminder that 73 million baby boomers are retiring or moving toward retirement. That can mean downsizing or managing a family estate.
Are you thinking of downsizing?
You need to be sure you find the items that are meaningful to you.
Downsizing can be a daunting task. If you’ve been in a home for decades, and don’t have all your treasures displayed, you may not remember where they are stored. Start with the items you can see.
Write down the items. Next, and more importantly, tell the story of each item. What is it, why is it important to you? Mention any documents that might relate to the item and where they are kept. Some people find it easier to talk about an item, so recording the story could prove easier for you, and provide your family and friends with a special insights about the item and its significance. This is especially true if your family is not nearby and you’d like them to know why you’ve kept each item on your list.
What is a legacy list?
A legacy list, after all, is a way of conveying the value of an item, not so much in a monetary sense, but through the meaning it holds in your life. A porcelain soup tureen, complete with a slender handled porcelain ladle may not seem like much. However, if your great, great, grandmother traveled across the plains in a covered wagon from Philadelphia, with the tureen wrapped in a quilt, you have an amazing story. If the tureen happens to be a porcelain Wedgwood, hand painted with water nymphs from England, circa 1880, it is also monetarily valuable.
The beauty of starting your list before you need to downsize is that you can do it a little at a time. Since moving can cause a great deal of stress, tackling some of the important items in stages can feel more manageable. You won’t feel pressured to find all of those special legacy items and photo albums all at once. Your grandchildren may be surprised to learn how photography evolved before the advent of smart phones.
If you have a number of items that are valuable, chances are your insurance agent has an itemized list. It could contain items like a Wedgwood soup tureen or an Amish quilt worth thousands of dollars, a first edition of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer (1876), valued at tens of thousands of dollars or a painting by Monet worth millions. That’s because homeowners’ policies require a rider for specific jewelry, collectables and fine art. You could use your rider list as a starting point for your legacy list.
Half the fun of creating the list is to share the memories, so if your family does live nearby, it could prove meaningful to have a son, daughter, or a grandchild help with the creation of the list. You could share your memories in person, while documenting the importance of the items.
The most important thing is to get the list complied, over weeks or months, so everyone knows what is to be kept and what is to be given away when at some future point you decide to move into a smaller home.
Documenting family history
As organizers, Sandy and I have helped families sort through estates after the death of a loved one, creating an inventory of important papers and valuables. This can prove to be a time-consuming task but essential for a family’s peace of mind. The creation of a legacy list now, allows you to share more than your special items and their value. You’d be sharing essential elements of your life, that we can’t hope to imagine from the items alone. Every family has a history. We can’t tell you how often family members have wished aloud that they’d taken the time to learn more about their own family history, only to have waited too long.
If you’d like to grab the moment, but feel a bit overwhelmed with the prospect, give us a call today (415) 827-5529 or (707) 235-1917 for a complimentary assessment. We’d love to help you create your own legacy list.