6 things I did to prepare our heirlooms for natural disasters

We will all face a disaster of some kind – it may not be a tornado, hurricane or earthquake but regardless of whether or not we are in the path of Mother Nature’s destruction, we all need to prepare for life’s upheaval, which includes preparing our heirlooms.

As Hurricane Matthew advanced toward our city in 2016, it was a category 4 with a frightening forecast. I realized I was not prepared for an evacuation nor what the predicted storm could do to our home and in turn, our family’s memories.

After I finished writing the Missing Pieces Plan, I completed my own set of Missing Pieces Plan worksheets. While walking through the exercise, I took inventory of our family’s heirlooms by assembling my letter of instruction to accompany my Will. (This would assist my executor in knowing how I want my personal affects distributed.) However, the terror of having a hurricane barreling towards our home made me realize there were still missing pieces.

As I waited for the storm to strike, I prepared our home and heirlooms in the event we came face to face with Mother Nature’s wrath. Here are the 6 things I did to prepare our heirlooms for disaster:

1. Tell a Story

I realized that when I am not here, it will be far more helpful and meaningful for my children to see beyond a list I left them and instead, know a story about each heirloom. I spent an hour or so writing a story about each heirloom so our daughters would know some history and the sentimental value to us. I wrote explicit details about my few pieces of jewelry, the art we have, their grandfather’s National Championship football and jersey, my grandmother’s needlepointed stockings and ornaments.

I recommend taking as much time as you can to write descriptions and stories about each of your heirlooms and the treasures you are passing down. And as I have suggested before, it is never too early to share these stories.

2. Take pictures

I took pictures of each item so they could be easily be matched with the written description of each. This is also a great idea for insurance purposes should any items be destroyed.

3. Share

I uploaded the pictures I took to the “Cloud” and invited my sister-in-law to the file containing our heirloom photos. You can also save them on your phone or computer. Or, make hard copies to keep in a secure place – which I mention next.

4. Make a grab bag

Living in earthquake prone California for over 11 years I always had a “grab bag.” This bag was filled with important documents and memories – our passports, birth certificates, our wedding video (still in VHS;-), our children’s journals and baby books. Now, after writing the Missing Pieces Plan, this grab bag also contains our Wills and Missing Pieces Plan worksheets. I have always kept this “grab bag” accessible in a hall closet.

5. Decide what you will take

Before Matthew, I had not thought about what other items I would want to “grab” on the way out. The looming storm forced me to prioritize what I would take and what I would leave behind. In doing so, I consolidated the small heirlooms into one place in a closet next to the “grab bag” in the event we needed to evacuate. I made sure I took pictures of each item we couldn’t take with us.

6. Last wishes

Lastly, I wrote an email to my daughters’ named guardian updating her on my current wishes. This is why I recommend visiting your Missing Pieces Plan worksheets annually to make sure they are up to date!

You may not be in the face of a weather disaster, but one day your loved ones will face losing you. By preparing now, you give them a gift of peace. And I’ll argue, it also gives YOU peace of mind.

Thanks to Matthew, I now know exactly what we consider heirlooms, what is truly important to us. And we have an inventory with pictures, should they become necessary for insurance or my inevitable passing.