What is Your Legacy?

What's Your Legacy? Go make it happen.

September is the Month of Memories in the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge (checklist coming soon!) And we will be tackling the sometimes difficult areas of sentimental items, photographs, knick-knacks, souvenirs, hand-me-downs and keepsakes.

We all have them, we all hold on to things for a variety of (good and not-so-good) reasons, and we all would like some way to make it easier to let go.

As I’ve been creating the checklist for September, I was reminded of a post I wrote at the beginning of the year. In it I ask, “What legacy will you leave behind?” And I think it, and the accompanying story about Jane’s mum, should be required reading before we dive into the sometimes tricky task of decluttering memories and sentimental items.

What Legacy Will You Leave Behind?

No-one enjoys considering their own death. But just for a moment, just one uncomfortable moment, ask yourself:

If you died tomorrow, what legacy would your loved ones have in your place?

  • Cupboards and boxes and sheds full of useless stuff for them to sort through?
  • Debt for them to repay?
  • Years of paperwork for them to make sense of?
  • Decades of keepsakes and knick-knacks that lost their significance under a thick layer of dust?
  • Memories of hectic weekends, multiple social engagements and television dinners?

I know my family would receive a legacy of disorganised papers, memories of me being “too busy” to push them on the swing and a fondness for staying home – even when the weather is beautiful outside.

Do you know what we can leave behind instead?

  • Fond memories – playing with your kids, snuggling with your partner, laughing with your friends.
  • The gift of self-assurance and inner-strength that comes from knowing these same people were loved.
  • Hearts full of experiences – from travel, to people, places and culture.
  • Savings to help them establish a secure home as adults.
  • A compassionate heart.
  • Depth of character.

And if you let your mind expand beyond your loved ones, to the ever-widening circles spreading out from them, you could leave behind:

world that values experiences over stuff.

world that values justice over injustice.

world that values love over hate.

world that values compassion over greed.

Can you imagine the world our great-great-great grandkids might live in if we left that legacy?

I know it sounds fanciful. Naive even. But it begins somewhere. Why not with me?

Why not with you?


So as we dive into the difficult task of decluttering sentimental items over the next few weeks, ask yourself what it is that you’re really leaving behind.


8 Responses to What is Your Legacy?

  1. I think about my legacy all the time, Brooke. And that’s why I often think about my death and actually *enjoy* the quiet contemplation of my demise.

    My eighty-seven-year-old pal Sal taught me how to practice dying and I use it as a tool to simplify now. It helps sharpen my focus and spurs the whole legacy-building mission on.

    You can see what I mean here: http://valueofsimple.com/practicing-dying

  2. This has become a particular issue with me, as I have watched my mother struggle with sorting through and disposing of the incredible amount of stuff my late Aunt Jean, a teacher for over 40 years, had accumulated during her lifetime.

    Jean’s legacy as a teacher and second mother to me isn’t diminished, in any way, by the pile of stuff she left behind, but I don’t want to burden anyone the way my mother has been burdened by this task.

  3. One of the best things my mother ever did for me before she died was move into a one bedroom apartment when she found out she had terminal cancer. We all thought she was crazy spending energy moving, but the minute she was gone I got it. She wasn’t crazy it was her gift to my sister and I instead of over 2000 sq feet to sort we had only 600. It made dealing with the stuff so much easier and allowed us to start grieving her memories so much quicker. I think about that gift all the time as I sort through my things.

  4. Hi! I just came across your site from simplemom.net. Your Twitter bio cracks me up.(“Mission: Slow the hell down”. Amen!)

    Thank you for your article which helps spread the message of intentional legacy living. Too much focus is put on just doing what you want to do for today. While there’s something to be said about living in the present, there’s a lot of value of living your life with the end in mind.

    We similarly addressed this topic and are always happy to connect with others who feel the same way. Best!