Guest Post by Moni Gilbert ~ The Bus Factor

Don’t worry everyone, Cindy is fine she was just insanely busy this week. Instead our good friend Moni has stepped in with a guest post. 

I was recently asked what my Bus Factor was. If you are like me and not up to speed with the business world’s buzz words, you would have needed to be told that Bus Factor is a measure for just how indispencible you are to your organisation/business/family and just how much disruption and disarray it would cause if you were to be hit by a bus.

So what is my Bus Factor rating? Married with three teenagers, there are four other people capable of cooking a meal even if it was basic, two other people with full drivers licenses and my older daughter is a naturally organised person. Sounds good on the surface.

But add into the equation that I work for my husband’s small business and that he is out of his depth with internet banking, he doesn’t know any of our passwords and has actively avoided going to the bank to get a PIN number on his debit card for four years now. He a vague knowledge of the office work end of our business and he wouldn’t begin to know where our insurance policies are kept or or how to contact our broker. He wouldn’t know who our Wills and Power of Attorney’s are filed with, quite possibly he doesn’t even remember we have a Power of Attorney filed. Don’t get me wrong, he is an intelligent guy but he has been very happy to leave such matters to me. Delighted even.

So it would be safe to say that my Bus Factor to my family would be quite high. Oh I’m sure they’d eventually muddle their way through, no one would starve and with a fair bit of stress and help from the right people they would get on top of matters. But a lot of working knowledge walks around with me in my head and to suddenly not have access to that would certainly send them into a bit of a tailspin and that is the last thing my loved ones would need to deal with in a crisis.

So what does this have to do with 365 Less Things? This post isn’t about having an accummulation of stuff to be sorted and distributed, this is about pre-empting a “hit by a bus” situation and about what I call “loose-end” clutter. All those messy financial, household and personal matters that we keep meaning to do something about and in the event of ending up incapacitated or worse, would be left to our loves ones to unravel.

So today I’m going to start a notebook called my “Bus Book” to hold all the important information, contact details, account numbers, payment arrangements and resources that can be called on in a crisis. I’m going list which bills arrive by e-mail and to what address and I am going note which bank statements I have opted for a ‘no paper statement’ option. Naturally I won’t include passwords to internet banking but I will include our banker’s contact details.

I’m also going to make a list of loose ends that need tying up. I am going to look at how many bank accounts we have as a joint couple, individuals and business. I am going to book my hubby an appointment with our banker to learn internet banking under his own login and I am going to document how I run our paperless office system.

I asked some friends who work in the legal, accounting and medical fields what loose ends they encounter in ‘hit by the bus’ situations:

  • Not wearing a medical alert bracelet.
  • Not updating organ donor status (either way) and keeping releatives aware.
  • Not staying up to date with tax obligations
  • Not reviewing insurance policies annually
  • Not reviewing credit history.
  • Not removing guarantorship from bank/finance once loan completed (some countries it does not happen automatically and takes up to 7 years from the request to do so).
  • Not updating wills after major life changes.
  • Not updating Power of Attorneys after major life changes.
  • Not updating guardianship arrangements for dependants.

Since I started looking for loose-end clutter in my life, I discovered that when my daughter legally changed her middle name earlier this year, we informed everyone except our lawyer (re: wills), her bank account and our medical insurers.

I realised that a finance company we no longer use had not released their interest on the securities register on the item in question.

I realised by doing a free credit report on myself that a person who I have a ‘cross identity’ with (exact same birthdays and the same first, second and last names) has returned to using her maiden name and some of her information has been filed mistakedly against my details.

So what is your bus factor? And what loose end clutter do you need to tie up?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something used as an adornment.

Today’s Declutter Item

Just when you thought you had seen the last of the Snoopy items this one pops out of the woodwork. Well actually it was housing some art equipment which my son decluttered an artist friend last week. He no longer needed not wanted this lunchbox so it is off to the thrift shop today.

Snoopy Lunchbox

Eco Tip for the Day

Avoid using plastic straws. Even tiny little bits of plastic like that add up to lots of waste. The less demand we put on supply the less of these insidious little things add to the pollution of our planet.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Good post, Moni. Ours is called the Just In Case file and it is a 3-ring binder. Some stuff is actually in the binder but mostly it lists where to find it: file cabinet, fire safe, lawyer, etc. I also have a mini version of this which I email to my bogus email address so it’s available remotely in case of a disaster – a neat file at home is no use if the house disappears or you can’t get to it. Compiling the list also gives you reason to consider what you are keeping, to toss, scan, shred. Less physical AND mental clutter.

    • Wendy B – I like that name “Just In Case” for your folder and that’s a good idea about the bogus e-mail address being available remotely. I can think of several other ways that could be utilised.

  2. Great post, Moni. This gave me a lot to think about, to do, and consider. I have a friend who has lived many places and felt the need to put together her own medical binder so that in a medical crisis it is readily available. A person can certainly have the best of intentions all day long, but until you act on them, they mean nothing. So, taking care of those items that are sitting on the back burner, because you don’t have the time or “I will get to it one day”, does not help when you are a day late and faced with a desperate situation.

    • Hi Jen – your friend is very wise to carry her own file, I wish more people did, if only to speed up their treatment during a crisis. Yes you can only have good intentions so long, starting is the first step to completion. My Bus Book isn’t complete yet but its better than not having any information available. I imagine each year I will need to review it as circumstances change so quickly.

  3. This is a very timely article. I just got home from the hospital and took with me a list of my meds that I have developed by time of day and quantity and # of mg. each. The nurses at the hospital found it most useful since they did not have to rely on the pharmacy to determine timing.
    On the other hand, I had a credit card bill due while I was there which my husband did not know how to find in my papers nor could he put his hands on my advanced directive. I was very ill and kept saying, “it’s in our financial book” but he didn’t know where he put it and said it was no longer up to date. Some things do not become dated and though this document was still in effect he just couldn’t think because he was so upset about me. I eventually had him bring my computer case to me and was able to get my bill paid on time but it was stressful to me because I had never been late with the bill and spent time worrying about it instead of just resting.
    Later this week, I will begin revising our “financial book” and make sure our investment counsellor has a copy so in an emergency, our son can get it from her.
    This is so important yet we just get busy and forget that our spouse not only may not know how to do what we do (cooking and laundry are least important) but is also stressed about our health. My husband has never been interested in understanding our health care program or our insurance info because my company has been the provider. I am working hard to try to get him on board but he is still reluctant. This last illness may just set him on the path to learning.
    Thanks for the tips on what to include.

    • Maggie – I am so sorry to hear you have been in hospital. I can fully understand how your husband got into a tailspin, many men just want to slay dragons when their wife is sick or injured, but can’t seem to cope with a bit of paper. Just goes to show how much they need us!

      That is a good idea to bring another trusted adult into the loop, or even to show them where the information is kept so that you can cut out that part of the explanation process.

  4. Moni, Really good post. I thought I had all of my paper work in order but there are a few things on your list that I’ve never thought about that I need to check into. Thanks. Also, kind of funny story. I’ve downsized and simplified my paperwork into a very small file box where it measures maybe only 6-8 inches deep. I’ve been saying to my husband that it’s so easy to keep track of that a kid could find anything in there just by telling them what paper to look for with them never having heard of or seen said paper. Well, the other day he put me to the test. I wasn’t home but my 14 year old daughter was and he called from work needing a certain number on a certain paper. Since I wasn’t here he asked her to look and told her approximately where to go and she found the number! Success! Yea. And it only took her a few seconds.

    • Also, forgot. What do you mean by a bank forgetting to remove guarantorship from papers?

      • Jennifer L – here in NZ if you get finance from either a bank or a finance company for say, a vehicle or a piece of machinery they take security over that item and it is registered on the Securities Register. Its a bit like a mortgage I guess. So if the company/person goes bankrupt, that finance company can reposess that particular item that they borrowed for and sell it to recoup some of their losses. Anything that isn’t registered on the Securities Register is fair game for the receivers who usually either work on behalf of a bank or inland revenue or investors, and they arrive, liquidate all assets, call in all debtors and do a wash up a debts. But a secured item can’t be grabbed and sold as someone else has a vested interested it ie they aren’t left completely out of pocket while someone else grabs/sells it to settle the debt to them.

        Once a loan is repaid the security is supposed to be released, in that title should only be in our name.

        I imagine each country has its own system.

      • Jennifer L – I realised you might be referring to the guarantorship item. Here in NZ if someone goes guarantor for someone else, it isn’t released automatically on completion of the debt, you have to request it. And depending on the wording of the guarantorship papers can be held in place for another 7 years after the request to release the guarantorship. I think it is a sneaky thing the banks used to hedge their bets. I have a friend who is a legal-beagle and she says that that is changing. I know several people who have gotten caught up in a financial crisis down the track because they didn’t know this. Always pays to get a lawyer to review any such agreements prior to signing.

    • Jennifer L – that is great your system worked. Simple is always best and yes, I think that kids (of the older teen variety) should be in the loop too. They can be very handy resources during a crisis.

  5. HI! I just found this blog, very interesting and helpful to me! This is a little off topic of today’s post, but do you have any ideas how to get rid of greeting cards, I keep every single one people have sent to me and they are a mountain. I feel like I’m throwing the sender’s goodwill away if I try to dump them!!

    • Hi Rena and welcome to 365 Less Things. The loved one who sent you the cards just wanted you to know they loved you and cared. They didn’t intend for you to hoard the cards forever and even if they did they had no right to. I scanned my son’s old baby and early birthday cards just in case he wanted to look back on them but then I threw the originals in the recycling (with his blessing of course) along with all the other cards I had kept for 20 odd years.

      One major key to successful decluttering is letting go emotionally. We often fall prey to our preconceived social conventions where gifts, inherited items and greeting cards are concerned. My advice is, if you can’t bring yourself to let them of right now, continue decluttering items you are comfortable decluttering and as your desire to get rid of more and more increases I am sure you will become less attached to those cards.

    • Hi Rena – I am with Colleen in that your loved ones never intended for you to keep the cards forever. I personally no longer keep cards EXCEPT one from my bro-in-law at our wedding (20 years ago in Dec) that is SO funny and itemises everything that could go wrong at the wedding. But apart from that
      I agree with Colleen that if you find it too upsetting, move onto something that you are comfortable with decluttering. When I first stumbled onto 365 Less Things I spent a lot of time going thru the archives and using the search field typing in topics that I could address like pantry, bathroom, wardrobe etc.

      • Whoops Rena, I hit submit too quick – don’t worry, we’re all got something that we struggle to let go of, a few months back Jane and Dizzy coached me thru getting rid of a breadmaker that I’d used twice but was very reluctant to let go of (and for the record haven’t missed).

    • Hi Rena!
      I’ve been having a hard time with cards/letters as well – I still have more of them in my “treasure box” than Moni. 😉

      I go through them from time to time and toss those which are from people I don’t like or don’t remember anymore (and don’t feel a need to remember), these are cards from “aquaintances” of all kinds. Of the cards from people who I value, I get rid of cards that have little original text. I don’t need the birthday cards from my Dad from each and every year, when all of them just say “Happy Birthday! Love, Dad” – some people put a lot of effort in their words and these cards make you beam inside even after a few years, so those are keepers (at least for now).
      Meanwhile I’m tossing most of the recent cards right away, I put them up for one or two weeks and then they go into the recycling unless they have some very special text. I think of them more like of a bunch of flowers, which fades after a while.
      A great way to deal with them I’ve witnessed at an elderly relative’s house: the couple had a pin board in the kitchen and filled this board with all the cards (postcards, congratulations,…) they received during the year. On New Year’s Eve, they trashed (recycled) all of them and started the new year with a blank pin board. Thinking of it I really like it – you get to enjoy those cards for months and see them daily, but then just get rid of them with the old year and start with a clear state.

      • Sanna – I like your relative’s idea! Treasure box……oh that’s a whole different thing! I’d have to get it down for a looksee.

    • Hi Rena, if a greeting card is really pretty, I recycle the front of it into a gift tag for future use.

  6. This really is a replacement for Cindy, I’d say! (As Cindy’s usually the one to point out financial and insurance clutter)
    I have to get going with a couple of things on that list as well. Thank you for the reminder.

  7. Oh, and Colleen: I’m waiting for the next snoopy or baseball item!

    • Hi Sanna, oh I sincerely hope that more baseball items do appear here one day as there are still plenty of those in the house. I think all the snoopy items are gone though, but I have thought that before.

  8. “I will include our banker’s contact details.” = wow! I have a mortgage and countless accounts, but no ‘banker’!

    My parents are living in France for 4 months, and I was VERY stern with dad to sit down and do all this with his accounts (just yesterday the bank called me… asking for Greg, sorta awkward but I made it work! I became his wife). Interestingly, I’ve lived in France, so dad’s inherited some of my ‘stuff’ and the number of times he’s asked me the SAME questions about it! sigh… (Jennifer L, I think I’ve become said teen – I think my dad prefers to deal with all manner of paperwork ‘issues’ with me than mum, maybe I’m more receptive… kills mum though!)

    Re:Wills – my solicitor, bless his cotton socks, keeps forgetting to send me the questionnaire to get it started. Even though I’m 27, I now have enough to want to ensure it’s dispersed as I see fit. I’ll hassle him again…

    • Snosie – good for you, sorting out your dad! Did you realise that you should have a will even if you have nothing? I did my office-junior year at a law office and the amount of extra time (= fees) and extra paperwork surprised me when someone died without a will. Even something handwritten is better than nothing, but one written up by a lawyer is the best, especially if you begin earning or accumulating assets later. A will speeds up the probate process which includes things such as closing bank accounts, settling debts etc.

    • Hi Snosie,
      if you aren’t trying to raise money for a friend with cancer right now then someone has hacked your email. I just received a request via your email address. It it isn’t you you might want to change your email address. If it is you then I am sincerely sorry that your friend is ill.

  9. Very good post, and a lot of good ideas in the comments.

  10. Hi Moni,

    This is a blog I read on a daily basis but I very rarely post so in a sense I am coming out of the woodwork. I really enjoy your guest posts and this one was particularly timely for me. I need to organise a few odd ends with mine and my husband’s superannuation here and have been putting it off for quite a few weeks. I best get onto it this week. I hope my bus factor is lowering as I slowly discuss all financial matters with my husband. I’m trying to keep hime more informed instead of just getting things done.

    • Hi Amanda – good to meet you outside the woodwork. Thank you for your kind comments. All the best sorting out your superannuation and educating your husband.

    • Oh dear… there are two of us? Hmmm, at least we are at different points in our life 😛 Maybe we’ll be able to be told apart.

  11. Guilty as charged Moni I still haven’t updated my will and I don’t even know where the original one was filed and we don’t have a copy. I promise I will do something about that ASAP.

    As for my bus factor. I really don’t care to calculate my worth on those factors, it’s the love factor that matters to me. My husband earns all the money but am the homemaker and I volunteer in the community. I am sure we would both be sadly missed by our loved ones should that bus hit.

    • Hi Colleen. I have to comment on the “homemaker”. A woman who is a homemaker is very important. It is, as you said, not a question of money, but how much the partner that works full time rely on the one at home to make life simpler and to take care of everything else. So your bus factor is very high. Ask your husband, he will certainly agree with me 😀 .

    • Colleen, Colleen, Colleen…….don’t even get me started on ‘homemaker’. Trust me, your husband loves the way things are! And he loves that you are happy working out in the community and that you created your own e-community.
      As I work for my husband I have a bit more liberty with my time especially with the household and our family. Once Adrian asked me what did I do all day? So I text him everytime I did something ie dropped the girls to school SEND paid school fees SEND dropped back DVD’s to United Video SEND at vet to pick up supplies SEND bought button to replace one on school shorts SEND etc etc. He soon got the point.

      • Hi Moni!!! I am so going to start texting my husband everytime I do something!!! He keeps saying he really has no idea what I do at home all day long (I also have a job that I do from home and I am a home maker). That ought teach him. 😀

      • Oh, Moni, that is hilarious!

  12. Brilliant post Moni – I have been updating our records of vital information over the last few months and two of the children know where to look to find everything. We also each have a colourful “health folder ” where we keep results of any blood tests, mammograms, X-rays,immunisations etc We’ve just studied our house and contents insurance (for the first time in twenty years!), and changed it, and spoken with the bank and changed our accounts to better suit our purposes .But for most of the time that the children were still at home we were pretty disorganised and each of us had knowledge of some things but neither of us had the whole picture . So good on you for tying up your loose -end clutter now ! One thing I havent done is to make a list of “direct debits “- must do that …

    • Jez – go straight to the top of the class! Yes children living at home can be distracting, even as older teens as mine are, I refer to them as ‘semi-independent’. I read a bumper sticker recently “Money can’t buy love, but it sure keeps the kids close”. My eldest turns 18 next Feb and after discussion we have all agreed that he will become co-guardian (with the existing guardians) to his sisters, so they can remain in our house, stay at their schools etc. So I’m educating the eldest two as well. It occured to me last night, that my son will need to organise things such as his own will, insurance, retirement scheme etc. So he’s on my list now!

  13. Great post Moni. At one time I had everything put together in a good way so that anyone could come in and take over. Now I need to redo things. I have found it is hard to keep things up-to-date lately. Thanks for reminding me to “get it done.”

  14. Great post – somehow the most important things often get put off. Love the term “bus factor”; it really gets the point across.

  15. Yikes. As the mother to two little kids (a baby and a preschooler), who pays the bills and balances the checkbook and takes care of all appointments, playdates, etc… my bus factor is pretty stinking high. As in, maybe I shouldn’t step outside today, heh.

    I do need to do this. I’ve always thought about it and just haven’t done it.

    • Hi Lynn – I have been sick the last couple of days and it has been fascinating watching how nothing happens when I’m out of action. My son is complaining there is no food in the house, my youngest is complaining that she’s run out of clothes etc etc. Fortunately my older daughter is just home from a couple of days with her best-friend and she’s told me to go back to bed she’ll take care of it all.

      My husband is quite capable but he had work to do this weekend while the weather was fine – though the washing machine is a bit of a mystery to him.

      Yes, mums have HUGE bus-factor!