Tips for Organizing for Major Life Changes

OrganizationOrganizing for uproot and upheaval is a different story from organizing for settling into a space. Preparing for big changes in your household — which can be a happy, planned event such as a child’s graduation from high school or unplanned, such as a divorce or death — is another situation where being organized can help you. You can position yourself to be more agile in how you respond to change, making it just a tiny bit more manageable.

Let’s start with the happy, planned-for example: graduation from high school. What better graduation gift than a thoughtfully prepared filing box filled with your child’s vital documents, as well as some family history, favorite photos or memorabilia? Even better would be to work with your child, side by side, to anticipate what kinds of information might be needed to keep track of in a new (semi-independent) life.

Recognizing that most bills and records are electronic these days, perhaps (if you have the technical skill) you could also offer to help set up a system with your child for important college documents, medical records and other vitals that your child needs to get used to managing independently. A burgeoning adult is much less likely to allow you any kind of access to a personal computer (which has become as personalized and intimate as a toothbrush) than to sit down with a good, old-fashion filing box, which feels, well, professional rather than personal.

OrganizationSome kinds of change are harder to anticipate: Death sometimes comes suddenly, and divorce can sneak up on you when you are not looking. But you can hedge against some of the chaos caused by these disruptive events by having your own stuff in order.

Financially, you are in a better position for uproot if you have your own bank accounts and take responsibility for managing them yourself. For example, a free online budgeting system such as Mint by Intuit is an easy-to-use tool that works even for the less technically inclined. It allows you to monitor all of your accounts in one place, track spending and set budgets. The best feature is that you constantly have your current credit score at hand, free of charge.

Speaking of which, it is beneficial to have your own credit rating, not relying on your spouse. If your own papers and filing system are pared down to the minimum, current and neatly labeled, making “his and hers” or “hers and hers” in the case of a divorce, is much easier, so it is as painless as possible during a painful time.

OrganizationFor example, make sure each member of the household (pets included) has a separate medical file. If you are the keeper of memorabilia and are tracking someone’s sports or business career, perhaps that story can have its own box. Some day, you may no longer be the keeper of that story and will be able to gracefully hand it off to its next caregiver, then praise yourself with the pride of having shepherded well those photos and prize ribbons and articles.

Let’s face it, any of these events (move-out, death, divorce) are losses that invite a lot of chaos and heartbreak into your life. Many people hedge against this in other arenas by purchasing car, home and life insurance. You can also buffer yourself from the trauma of loss by insuring that records are the least tumultuous thing when turbulent times hit.