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Moving Forward As a Cancer Survivor: Big and Small Decisions
December 20, 2016 – Barbara Tako

Moving Forward As a Cancer Survivor: Big and Small Decisions

Two-time cancer survivor and motivational clutter clearing author shares some ways to prepare and to share going into the holidays and beyond.
PUBLISHED December 20, 2016
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at,or
After cancer, do you have a lifetime of accumulation and are now thinking about your mortality or maybe just downsizing because “stuff” just isn’t that important? As a cancer-surviving clutter-clearing speaker and author, here are some of my suggestions.

Getting rid of clutter can be challenge regardless of whether you have had cancer or not. Consider weeding out now, while you are healthy enough and able enough, and not under a time crunch. As cancer survivors, we are all too aware of how health issues can unexpectedly appear.

Clear clutter and downsize now to create the time and energy to do what you enjoy. Now is the time. Weed out clutter to free up time and energy to pursue your priorities. If you are ready to pass some things on to others, try these thoughts: 

Gift items while you can see the appreciation and hear the people say thank you. Label and write down who will inherit other items where you care about who gets what. If you let family members weed out later, there may be: arguments about who gets what; disagreements about where things should go (sell/donate/trash); information about family heirlooms that becomes lost; and good stuff that could be lost and silly stuff that might be kept because the sorters aren’t as knowledgeable as you.

Our life stories are not clutter. Capture your stories for your family now. See if someone in the family would like to interview and record your story, perhaps in writing or on tape. If you hope to keep certain items in the family, attach the history stories to those items—who made/bought/owned something and when, where and why.

If family members know the stories associated with things, they will be more likely to keep those things. An “old plate” becomes much more interesting when it becomes “a plate Grandmother Edna bought in England before coming to America.” You can create a win-win situation. You can get rid of clutter and pass some things along to family members today, or for holidays and birthdays.

Now for the big decisions. Make sure you have a current will, a health declaration and funeral/burial wishes. Those things are big, important things to have in place before worrying about little things like who gets what plate.

Hopefully, you can share this information with a trusted family member. As we have experienced, unforeseen circumstances can, and do, happen. Choose someone you trust to do their best for you if you aren’t in a position to voice your health care wishes. Discuss what kind of life-prolonging you would want with and without your mental and physical capacities long-term.

Create a folder that would direct someone about your finances (what banks, assets, debts that you have) if they had to step in to manage your financial affairs for you for the short- or long-term. This is not telling them about your assets now. Just tell them where the informational folder is if you suddenly became unable to manage things on your own for a while. This bit of paperwork organization could save you and your family a lot of agony.

Clearing clutter refocuses our time and energy to the people and activities we care about most. You can toss some of the worry this way and help your loved ones too!
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