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The Basic Bucket List: Really Important Things to Do Before Dying

Updated on September 1, 2020
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I have a BA in history and creative writing and an MA in history. I enjoy politics, movies, television, poker, video games, and trivia.

A Practical Bucket List

This isn't going to be a list full of clichés about how to live life to the fullest and all the wonderful, fun, and entertaining things you should do before you die. No, this is going to be a very practical list of some pre-death activities. Otherwise, your death may be best remembered for the mess you left everyone.

If you want to go surf waves or sky dive or visit the Amazon or climb Mt. Everest, that's stuff for another article on death and dying. Frankly, that's stuff for lame people. What most people need is a list of real things they need to do so that their death doesn't end up being both a burden and an embarrassment to their loved ones. Trust me, I know. Dying sucks. However, it's nice to die with some dignity.

Mt. Olivet Cemetery (CC-BY)
Mt. Olivet Cemetery (CC-BY) | Source

Sorry, You're Dead

Nobody expects to die. That's understandable. Nobody wants to die. That's even more understandable. Consequently, there's part of our psyche that puts off certain activities because it's almost an implicit acknowledgement that we're on our way out. Also, once we're gone, we're not really going to care who has to clean up after us. However, if you've ever had to clean up after a dead relative, you know what a burden it can be if their affairs, and other things, aren't in order.

I've gone through it twice with my own relatives and once with a friend. In the latter case, the friend's mom dumped the house clean-up and move on one of her dead son's other friends, a serious burden, I might add. Each time, it just seemed like there was a lot more that could have been done to make it easier for those of us still living to deal with stuff. My dad died some years ago and, more recently, my uncle passed away. In addition to the shock of them dying, a bunch of us had to deal with all the crap they left behind. And I do not use the word "crap" lightly. In the case of my uncle, I'm probably being mildly ungrateful, but there are just so many simple things the average person can do to make things easier for the living. Here's a summation of some of the lessons I've learned. Here are some really smart, practical things you should do before you die.

Do these before you die. Make sure you don't forget these basic responsibilities

Make a Will

Want to totally screw over everyone you know and love after your gone? Die without a will. If you don't have anyone you want to leave anything to, then this isn't so bad, but if you have stuff in your estate and you'd like to leave it to a wide range of people, you need a will, otherwise all your stuff will go directly to your spouse or your dependents, depending on your situation. And if you're single and don't have any kids and were never married, you absolutely need a will if you don't want your sister or brother or close friends swimming through your affairs for nothing. Basically, a will keeps people you know and love from fighting over stuff, if you have any. It also keeps them from hating you after you're dead, though I suppose if somebody wanted your vintage Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card and you willed it to the local animal shelter, that might not go over well.

Keep a Clean Home

If you're capable of cleaning your home, then keep it reasonably clean. If you're not capable of cleaning your home because you're too weak or too tired, hire somebody to clean it if you can afford to. If you're too old and poor to clean your home, maybe occasionally ask friends or family to come help you. Trust me, I am not a neat freak. I'm not even that clean. However, in my two experiences cleaning up after the dead it would have been such a better experience if the dead had just cleaned a little or decluttered a little. In one instance, the clutter was almost impossible to wade through. Why? People seem to think that anything might be worth something. It's not. After you're dead, it's trash. Throw stuff away that's crap. Have somebody come by and distinguish the crap from the non-crap. Keep the valuables. Keep the momentos. Throw everything else away. In the second instance, one of my relatives was living in what I will kindly describe as a dust pit. Literally, he lived in a pit of dust. He had money too. For maybe $200 he could have had the entire place cleaned and his memory would not be soiled along with his home.

Label Your Pornography

Don't hide your porn. That's not going to do any good because once you're dead, somebody is going to go through your place and come across it. No, what you really want to do is label your porn. This is especially relevant if you live alone or are widowed or whatever. If you're married, I can understand that this might not be practical. If you live alone, it's a must. Why? Because that way you give somebody the chance to AVOID looking at it. There are some things members of your family will not want to see, much less know about. Oh, if you have a stack of Playboy magazines, nobody cares, but if you're into more kinky stuff or if there are pictures of you with somebody in the throws of lovemaking, that's something somebody needs a warning about before they voluntarily look at it. Do everyone you know the courtesy of giving them the option of seeing your naked self in some compromising position instead of springing it on them from the grave.

Have a Filing System and a File

We all have papers. Not all of us create an easy way for somebody to find our papers. Sticking every last receipt you ever got in drawers all over your house is not a filing system. Ask yourself this question: how is somebody going to find my important papers after I'm gone? Get a filing cabinet. Label folders. Put all your papers in some kind of order. Your relatives and/or friends will praise your name after you are gone.

Minimize Your Possessions

Call this the "get rid of all your junk" point. We all have too much junk. Most of us also think that everything we own is worth something. It's not. Most of it isn't worth anything. Pare down your possessions to the bare necessities. You don't have to get rid of everything you own, but just collecting stuff to collect it is going to make it hell on the person who has to get rid of it. Besides, it's so much easier to live without tons of stuff.

Leave a List of Your Online Passwords and Accounts

A great addition from another hubber. The best way to do this is to keep such a thing in a safety deposit box, but with a program like KeyPass, you can just leave your master password somewhere and then somebody can access your computer when you're gone. This will help your loved ones clear up all your accounts.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Allen Donald


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