Let's face it, minimalism is trendy right now. Everyone is wanting to de-clutter, streamline, cut back & clear things out. Perhaps it is a commentary on our culture of “too much”. Over-abundance is creating extra stress & the more we accumulate the more stressful our lives become. There is so much that we cannot see what is truly important. The table is so cluttered that we cannot find our keys. So, in the spirit of minimalism, here are a few thoughts about what seniors can give to their children & their children after them without increasing the amount of stress in their lives (and perhaps help to decrease it a bit!)
De-cluttering your own space. Instead of waiting until the day when you may be forced to move into smaller accomdations, think about beginning to go through your things now. Get rid of things that you would not feel comfortable gifting to donation centers. Yes, they may have worth, or may be useful, but if they've not been actually used in years & are not donation ready, perhaps it is time to let them go. Gather important items, like family heirlooms, and photograph them. Make a small booklet with the story of each item & why it is important to your family so that when it comes time to move, you can show it to whomever is helping you & they will understand the things of value. Lastly, DONATE! If there are specific items that you know your family members could really use, feel free to ask them if they'd like them. If not, choose your favorite donation center & start hauling! Remember, your gift to your children is that they will not have to spend weeks wading through your belongings, trying to sort through the things that matter versus the things that don't. Anyone in that situation is bound to start throwing things out willy-nilly because they just CANNOT take any more sorting! Gift them with the task already finished & a home cleared of unnecessary clutter.
Another amazing gift to give to your children is a family health history. Take a few sessions to write as much as you can remember about your own health issues over the years. Also include as much as you can about your spouse's health history & that of your extended family. If you have it all bound together in one spot, it will be a great resource for them & their children. It can give them an idea of things they can do to prevent health issues in their own lives (dietary changes for pre-diabetics, for instance). It can also help them to understand what may be going on with their current health (if they notice post-partum depression listed or described by other family members). This resource would be free to give & could end up saving them tons of money in unnecessary tests if family health history could point in the right direction for a particular cure. It can also save them from unnecessary anxiety.
A will. While it may not be exactly free, making your intentions known is certainly free. Make a proper will if you can. Include everything important. Before you even get to that step, though, just having a written document that lets your family know your intentions can be a gift of itself. Let them know if you'd like to be buried or cremated, if you have already taken care of the funeral expenses or burial plots. Let them know if there are specific items that you'd like to go to specific individuals or charities. Having all of that planned is a wonderful gift to give, and while they may think it a bit morbid if you bring it up, they'll be terribly thankful when the time comes and they don't have to make all of those decisions on their own.
A memories book. Writing a book of memories will be a joy for those who come after you, especially grandchildren & great-grandchildren. Write down things that you remember from your childhood, your first job, your first car, how much you earned at said job, etc. The mundane things of life will be terribly interesting to those in future generations as they try to piece together what your young life must've been like. Of course, also include important events, dates, etc. Just be sure that there is a record of your life somewhere. It is something that everyone always says they want to do. Phrases like, “I should really record Aunt Mildred talking about the family history,” but rarely actually gets done. Gift your memories to those after you so that they do not have similar regrets.
Memories WITH your loved ones. If you haven't been with your children or grandchildren regularly, begin making opportunities for you to get together. Even if it is simply to invite them over for coffee & cookies. The occasion need not be grand, simple is best. If you live far from them, open correspondance via phone, email, or even (gasp) the old fashioned postal service. Connection is a gift that ties many generations together.
There are probably hundreds of things that you could give as gifts to your family that do not require a shopping trip or any money exchange. I'm sure you'll think of more. These are gifts that will be long term & will pay lasting dividends of peace of mind in their lives, and in yours!