Downsize and Organize for a Better Life—and a Better Death

5 Tips on What You Need to Know to Save Money,
Time, and Sanity

Gail Rubin

Photo by Pete Vidal.

1. Empty storage units.
Did you rent a storage unit to “temporarily” store some must-keep items that didn’t have a place in your home? Take a hard look at what’s in those units. Are those items even worth the rent? Clear out the unit, close the account, and save yourself some money.

2. Give goods to charities.
Selling household goods, whether through yard sales, online sites, or flea markets is hard work. The money earned may not make it worth your time and trouble. Popular charities may pick up donations from your home and provide receipts that serve as proof for tax deductions.

3. Make a personal contact list.
When time is of the essence, can you easily assemble the names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers of people who need to be contacted? Mom’s dog-eared personal phone book used to hold all that information, but now cell phones, social media, tablets, and computers complicate contacting the people who matter most. Create a master contact list of information that identifies family, friends, work contacts, medical, financial, and legal professionals, and other people who need to know when someone dies. Print out several copies and share with key family members.

4. Label who’s to get what.
If you want to pass particular items on to specific family members or friends, label those items with their names. Write a list of these objects and the recipients, then sign and date the list. Referencing this list in will or trust documents make these designations legally binding. Better yet, give family heirlooms while you’re still alive.

5. Shop before you drop.
Before someone “kicks the bucket,” learn what you need to know today. Visit several local funeral homes to find out disposition options and costs. It’s so much easier to investigate your choices while death seems distant and you can still laugh about it.

—Gail Rubin

Tips here excerpted from her newest book, Kicking the Bucket List: 100 Downsizing & Organizing Things to Do Before You Die (Rio Grande Books, Los Ranchos, NM, 2016). The book’s 100 entries include links to Internet articles that expand each point. The book supports the work of the nonprofit National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPC) and the National Hospice Foundation.

For even more planning and information, sign up for Rubin’s free organizer/planning form, Executor Checklist, her Family Plot blog, and email tips at

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *