When I think about leaving a legacy for my children, it usually deals with two steps. One is the material--who'll get what treasure; how much of our "nest egg" will be left for them to share and how will we dole out the shares among our grandchildren. The second step is the ways or means for leaving our children and grandchildren a sense of the life we led: what we did of significance or interest; how we want them to remember us.
My thoughts don't usually run to what I now think of as the third step: Downsizing or what is also known as clearing out the closets, garage, attic, basement or any other place we've stored memories and trinkets and other items that are not likely to be of any use to our children. I've got glassware from my mother-in-law that I've never used and my children are not likely to set on their tables. Nor will either of my children want the lovely gold-rimmed 18-place settings of china that were my mother's pride and joy. Or the silver trays or hand-painted tea cups lovingly collected by my parent's generation and anathema to my children's. E-Bay is overrun with the stuff. So are my closets.
There are also drawers full of mementos, from my brother's grade-school report card to my daughter's first illustrated story [grade 3] to charming notes my mother-in-law wrote to me on various occasions. Some of these perishable items need to be digitized into a family memory bank, but some need to be tossed.
The clearing out of closets has been on my mind--well, more on a list of 'things to do someday.' But a recent post on Dr. Kathy McCoy's blog reminded me that acting on this third step is as much a gift to my grown children as the hand-crafted Tuscan bowl or my mother's silver urn. For my children, it would be an exhausting and sad business to clear out my home when Paterfamilias and I have passed on. They may wonder why we kept those old ski boots (circa 1990) or the mold-encrusted tennis rackets.) It will be equally exhausting for us to do our storage places ourselves--but we can pace ourselves (it doesn't have to be done in one day; Kathy McCoy has been doing one space per Saturday) and make rational decisions about what to keep and what to heave; what to save in its paper form and what to scan into our computer--or at least collect in an orderly way for others to scan. A job that would be a sad business for our grown children could be an upbeat trip down memory lane for us. At least that's the attitude-adjustment I'm acting on.