In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a small group of us went to Houston to help out with the relief efforts. We were asked to assist the son of an 80- year old couple whose home had been flooded. As we worked with him to salvage as much as we could, he lamented that “my parents moved way too much stuff into this home, and now so much of it is gone!”

Of all the clothes, furniture, keepsakes and books that we hauled out, the most poignant image for me was the flood stained, ruined photo album and bible pictured above. Just 2 small items that were irreplaceable.

There is nothing that can prepare us for the swift loss of our home and treasured possessions. The unprecedented natural disasters that have swept our country in the past few weeks, however, have given us reason to pause and reflect on our priorities.

I want to share the 3 lessons I took away from that day spent helping those folks clean out their flood-ravaged home:

  1. Digitize your photos NOW. As a Downsizing Specialist, I encourage all my clients to put their family photos in the cloud display them on digital frames. There are several ways to accomplish this, from using your smartphone app to sending your family albums off to a professional digitizing service. For a great overview of the options for this process, check out Animoto’s blog post: How to Digitize Family Photos. No matter which way you decide to tackle this project — DON’T PUT IT OFF!
  2. Know ahead of time what treasured possessions you would take with you (other than your pets) if you had to evacuate your home in a hurry. Is it a special book, a valuable coin or jewelry collection, or a special memento? For some Texans, it could be their gun collection! I did this exercise myself, and came up with 3 very precious items I would rescue. They were a gold kaleidoscope from my collection, a music box my mother gave me, and a photo of me and my husband.
  3. Hold on to relationships tightly, possessions loosely. The top excuses my clients give me for not wanting to part with items that are no longer useful involve their connection to the people they love, I often hear, “My daughter gave it to me” or “This platter was used at every family holiday”. It’s the memories that the items represent that we want to keep. Pass along to your family and friends the stories and memories of the things that mean the most to you. Our things won’t last long after we’re gone, but our legacy of loving relationships will live on.


Kim Stanley is the founder and President of Downsize My Home, a downsizing and move management service that offers products, coaching and hands-on assistance to make moving to a smaller home or apartment easier, faster and cost less. Locally or nationwide at