Over the last several months, I’ve dealt with a lot of death.
My youngest brother died in April. My father-in-law died in October, and a friend’s grandmother passed away in November. The day after Thanksgiving, a close friend who was more like my sister died in an automobile accident.
I’d like to share with you what I’ve realized from all this tragedy: Get your house in order.
I’m not suggesting that you live in fear of death, but I am asking you to do what my 54-year-old friend, Juanita Ann Waller, did for the people who loved her. She left her personal affairs and her apartment in an awesomely organized manner.
I know you’ve heard this advice from me before. I’ve stressed over the years how important it is to have an estate plan. But Juanita’s death has touched me like few others. She was always thinking of her family and friends, and what she left behind is a testimony to her thoughtfulness.
Yes, she had a will, life insurance and the necessary paperwork to take care of her estate. But there was a higher level of organization in her affairs than I’ve ever seen.
Juanita had a place for everything. She cataloged what was in her file cabinet. She had a composition notebook that detailed what was in each cabinet drawer. As a result, when our mutual friends packed up her belongings, we didn’t have to look through her private papers to be able to label the boxes.
There wasn’t a single junk drawer in her apartment. There were no stacks of papers on her desk threatening to unleash an avalanche of craziness on the floor. Nor did she have bags of papers stuffed in corners or in her closets.
She didn’t even have a trash can because there wasn’t much waste to throw away. Her closets weren’t overstuffed. There wasn’t a single item in any room that we could tell went unused for very long.
Just think about this: If you were to die, how long would it take for people to go through your stuff? How many hours would they have to take off from their jobs to find and organize your personal property? Could they find your will? Where would they look for any instructions on your estate? Have you written down in a secure place the passwords to your computer or phone so friends and family can contact people if you pass away?
Juanita was organized for a purpose. She never wanted to cause confusion.
As we were boxing up Juanita’s possessions, we all felt embarrassed, mortified. We, in our abundance, saw a woman who kept only what she needed, knowing it was more than enough.
We all pledged to spend some time organizing and getting rid of stuff as a remembrance of Juanita. We promised her that we’d get our houses in order.