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The Inconvenience of Death...A Professional Organizer's Valentine's Day Message About Love and Loss

Dictionary entry (including pronunciation) for inconvenience on a green mottled background.  The Logo of It's Just Stuff Home Organization & Move Management appears on the lower

People that know me know I’ve never really been a big believer in Valentine’s Day. Even when I was married or in any significant relationship, I have just never felt like we need to celebrate love for one another on just one day a year.

It should be celebrated every day…and I’m not just talking about romantic love.

We should celebrate loving anything and everything.

In other words, we should celebrate loving life every morning we wake up and are breathing.

Or at least that is my belief.

It was definitely Bob Marley's belief and I am looking forward to seeing the new movie about him, One Love, opening on Valentine's Day. I will be celebrating with a group of friends and we will no doubt be singing and dancing in our seats and possibly in in the aisles! I truly have a hard time sitting still if there is music playing.😉

With that said, I am celebrating Valentine's Day with the love I have felt over the past 3 years since It’s Just Stuff officially re-launched on February 14, 2021 in the form of a new website and rebranding. I acknowledged what I think was a rather momentous occasion with a blog that not only expressed my profound passion for what I do but also thanked all of those who got me to to that date, and continue to support all that I do. It was no coincidence that it was also the anniversary of when I had to make the painful decision to let my dog take his journey over the Rainbow Bridge on Valentine's Day 2017. It was a full circle moment of sorts and if you never read the blog when it was originally published click HERE.

It is also no coincidence that I waited until today to share this blog about someone I loved but lost to a tragic accident several months ago in addition to a few other losses within that same week. This was not a romantic relationship but one that I truly cherished since I was 14 years old. I certainly don’t want to be a downer on this holiday so I promise that there is a reason for mentioning this that should resonate with anyone.

Back at the end of October I found out that the Rabbi I had grown up with and remained very close to as an adult died in a very tragic car accident on his way from Maine to Florida for the winter. He was in his late 70s so some may say that at least he lived a relatively long life, but that is definitely not the way his story should have ended. He was a larger-than-life kind of person and I was devasted when I received the news.

Smiling Woman in Black Shirt Standing Between Two Smiling Men
The last photo taken of me with my Rabbi (Sept 2021) . For more context click the link

I happened to have been in Salt Lake CIty and I was getting ready to return that day to Colorado after a week of helping a client declutter her home as well as spend the weekend with a friend that lives there. Within minutes, I was on a series of phone calls, text chains and Facebook chats with people who knew him equally as well as me and spent most of the car ride that day as well as the next several days trying to figure out how I was going to get to Detroit for the memorial service the following weekend. Any way I sliced it I just couldn't justify the time and money. I wanted to...desperately...but in the end I had to accept the fact that sometimes death comes at the most inconvenient of times and no matter how much I may want to attend any funeral or memorial service, I have to balance those decisions with whatever else is going on in my life.

This was one of those times where the scale tipped to the side of understanding that I had already been away 3 out of the previous 4 weeks for various travel for personal and professional reasons and taking off again was going to put me even further behind than I already felt regarding It's Just Stuff operations.

And no sooner did the memorial service end via Zoom on the first Sunday in November, my housemate came home with the news that someone I knew had died earlier that day. She was in her early 50s and definitely died way too soon. At first, we were told she had slipped off a ladder and died instantly from a head injury but it turned out she had an aneurysm, something equally tragic but at least not quite so random.

She wasn't someone I had known for very long but felt extremely connected to due to the circumstances surrounding how we met. She was a volunteer for a 10-week seminar I participated in last spring, a program I mentioned in a recent blog. But she was more than just a volunteer guiding us through our individual journeys. She was so vulnerable and authentic with us and always showed up to so many of the social gatherings we had upon "graduating" from the program in June. Her smile was infectious and I am still wrapping my head around why bad things like this happen to such good people.

In the days following her death, our group gathered to give each other comfort and while I had commitments already every night that week for business-related stuff I wasn't going to allow the inconvenience of it all to interfere with any grieving I felt was necessary.

Lower Extremities (Legs and Feet) of people standing in a circle on a wooden floor looking toward the center.
A friendship circle for a friend gone way too soon

Was it an inconvenience to go to the grocery store after two long days with clients and get supplies to make the cake I always bring to anyone needing comfort twice in one week? A little, but baking has and always will be my therapy and I really needed an outlet for all of the sadness I was feeling.

Hand with red nail polish holding a decorative plate with a cake on it.

A piece of cake next to an empty cake form that has crumbs all over it.

So what does this have to do with being a professional organzier?

Well, we had two senior clients that we had been helping downsize and transition to senior living communities pass away as well this past fall. And while they were not in particularly good health, to begin with, we didn't anticipate that they were going to die before we had finished the process. It was sad on so many levels, especially the fact that we hadn't even truly completed the transition for either one. To say that was an inconvenience is an understatement. We were suddenly thrown into a completely different mode that required shifting other clients as well as team members around. Time was always of the essence when we began each project but it became even more so as the estates needed to be managed in a very different way and on a very different timeline.

One of the clients had agonized so much about keeping or letting go of every single thing in her home. And no matter how much we tried to explain to her that we couldn't expand the four walls of 700 sq. ft. to fit 4000 sq. ft. worth of stuff in her assisted living apartment, she still insisted on keeping way too much.

And in the end?

It didn't matter...she never got to enjoy the new space. And suddenly family and friends were dealing with the, dare I say, inconvenience of making decisions about how to dispose of everything that may or may not have any significant meaning to them.

The other client?

His brother had already helped him transition to assisted living but we were charged with clearing out what he didn't want or need anymore that remained at the house so it could be listed for sale. A decision was made to hold a giant giveaway day rather than just put everything in the dumpster we had on-site or take to a local donation center that may or may not give away anything to people in desperate need of certain things.

A Living Room Full of Assorted Items Arranged in Piles and Rows.
The client's living room after a significant amount of decluttering took place set up for the giveaway day.

We made sure to reach out to victims of the Marshall Fire that happened here in the Boulder area two years ago as well as any local nonprofits that would get the items directly into the hands and homes of those in our community that just don't have the financial means to buy even basic necessities.

We spent the better part of a week preparing for the giveaway day and then a few days after dealing with any final cleanout tasks only to find out the client died right after the last dumpster was picked up.

Side note: The inconvenience of a smoke detector going off somewhere inside of that dumpster was something that could have been avoided. It never should have been in there in the first place...we always take "hard to recycle" items to a place that has the proper way to dispose of them but somehow it did get put in the dumpster and we did have to fish it out.

His brother had already left Colorado but was still in the US (he lives out of the country) on the East Coast visiting other family and had to come back less than 3 days after he left. He would have obviously preferred not being inconvenienced again but such is life...and death.

I cannot stress enough the importance of having your financial and important documents ducks in a row and making sure that whoever is responsible for overseeing things upon your death has access to EVERYTHING. This is something you should have set up whether you are 20 or 120 even if you don't have significant assets.

There is still a lot about post-death that can be extremely inconvenient for those that you asked to wrap up your affairs. I recently met the founder of Nokbox, "a complete system that helps you organize all of your accounts, possessions, social media presence, communities, kids, pets, personal history, and estate plans (even if you don't have estate plans yet!)" and think it is one of the best systems available. And no, I am not an affiliate looking to make a small referral fee. I just happen to be someone who believes #sharingiscaring. 😊

Bottom line, most of us may not know when we are going to die but we should to some degree always make sure we are prepared for the inconvenience it may cause for those who are left to pick up the pieces of our lives and attempt to figure out what to do with them if no plan had been implemented or discussed prior to a death. And, for the record, after an entire blog talking about the inconvenience of death please know I am not implying that inconvenience equals annoying. For the most part, we do things out of the love and respect we feel for others despite the inconvenience right?

Please feel free to reach out if you are anticipating a loved one will be entering the final stage of life sooner rather than later and needs our help. Remember, it really does take time and patience and no matter how inconvenient it may be for you to assist a loved one, I highly recommend doing it while they can still share the stories that should be told about their stuff before letting it go.

Happy Valentine's Day...may it be one filled with all kinds of love,



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