What reaction comes up in you when you hear that phrase? “I’ll think about that someday–in the distant future.” “I’m too young to bother with that stuff.” “That’s for people with problems I don’t have yet—thank God.” “I wouldn’t know where to begin.” “I don’t have any affairs to get in order!”
Do you have children under your care? Are you responsible for an aging relative, in whole or in part? Is there someone with disabilities in your life? Do you feel uneasy when you hear of a catastrophic event happening to someone younger than you? Do you treasure your independence? Do you own a home and/or things that are special to you? Do you do everything legally within your power to minimize your annual income taxes?
If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, then starting now to get your affairs in order might make sense for you.
We usually associate getting our affairs in order with legal documents and professional experts such as wills, powers of attorney and advance directives, lawyers, accountants and financial planners. While these documents and experts certainly play important roles in your well-ordered affairs, just making a few basic lists yourself can be a useful start:
- A list of all your bank and investment accounts, with their user IDs and passwords, account numbers, current balances, and phone numbers for the institutions themselves.
- A list of all your insurance policies, their policy numbers, what they cover, claims contact numbers, and where the full policy is filed.
- A medical list of all your diagnoses, prescriptions you take and their doses, and all your doctors with their specialties and contact numbers. This list could also be for a child, a senior, or a person with disabilities under your care.
- A two-column list of the special people in your life and the special things you own, with individual lines connecting the people to the things.
- A list of the things you’ve hidden for safe keeping and where they are, for example, love letters from your spouse/partner; historic family photos; stock certificates; your mother’s wedding ring; the gold coins you bought as an investment.
Still feeling daunted? You might consider enlisting the help of a professional organizer to get your affairs in order. Professional organizers are experts at helping people sort through quantities of papers and objects, separate the important from the inessential, and arrange useful objects and information in systems that are easily accessed and used. Getting your affairs in order is just a process for capturing the essential information about you as a person and what you own, in a form that can be used readily by others if you become unable to communicate, along with legal documents that clearly express how you want yourself and your possessions to be handled. You can do this, and an organizer just might provide you the support you need to get started!