There is no way to ask this without sounding morbid, but have you given any thought to what will happen to all your priceless belongings when you are gone? “Priceless belongings” is a polite phrase for “stuff.” We are a country of people who have stuff and I am the reigning queen of that country. We have a home with a full basement, a two-and-a-half car attached garage, a detached garage of the same size, a large garden shed, and two airplane hangars. They are all full. This is not something of which I am particularly proud nor it is something I particularly recommend. If anyone in this house were inclined to pick up a dust rag and use it, the dusting process would take hours and an industrial size can of lemon Pledge. Ironically enough, we do not own any lemon Pledge.
Our personal line in the sand is the storage unit. The day all that square footage is inadequate to the task of holding our things is the day we … the day we … the day we move some stuff over to make more room. One of my few regrets is that I did not invent the storage unit. Row upon row of unlit metal buildings, locked up tight, packed with moldering possessions that will never see the light of day again. Every one of them is generating rental income and the possibility of being on a reality show when the padlocks are cut off and the contents auctioned to the highest bidder.
Many of us have wills. We have a will. It designates who will get the ten dollars and eighty-seven cents that will be left when we die. That is taking into account inflation, death taxes, probate costs, and the incredibly rapid rate at which we are spending money, mostly on hangar rent.
A great tradition started in my family when my mother casually said she really liked her dad’s desk and would like to have it some day. After Grandpa died, my mom took the desk and now uses it every day. In the same way, my parents own my dad’s grandmother’s very modest dish cabinet. I call it that since I simply cannot imagine that first-generation American woman with anything remotely described as china.
Since this beginning, we have on several occasions sat down as a group and asked each other which of our belongings anyone would like. In a non-threatening, non-greedy kind of way it has been mentioned, “You know, when you kick the bucket, I sure would like to have your (fill in the blank).” Going back and reading that, it sounds like the very worst sort of money-grubbing, estate-plundering, materialistic avarice. In reality, it cleared up a lot of issues and simplified things. My older sister, for instance, has incredible taste and a small house. I could not imagine there was a single thing I owned she would like to have. She, much to my surprise, has had her eye on my piano and I am happy to oblige. That piano has suffered through my ham-handedness for years and it deserves better.
Another sister likes my really fabulous, really extensive collection of horse and pony brasses, those decorative attachments that adorn harnesses. I love these things and am so happy to know someone else does, too. The third sister is in for a bad shock. “I’d like your jewelry,” she decided. I have one piece of good jewelry. (Attention potential thieves: It is nice. It is insured. But what makes you think you could find it if I can’t?)
We have made bequests, assuming there is any money left (see above). We have accommodated all our siblings’ wishes in writing. We have even filled out advance directives. And, really, once we’re dead, won’t we all be beyond caring about who inherits what? I don’t know what comes after this. I just hope it doesn’t include dusting.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.