Swedish Death Cleaning

I just heard about this technique of “decluttering your house before you die to relieve the potential burden on your children” from my daughter. (Of course, that is my over-simplified version of the idea.) Even though the name sounds a bit morbid, I completely agree with the concept.

Despite my efforts to eliminate “stuff” from my house on a semi-regular basis, I still have too much clutter. I blame it on lack of time, but I know better. I am a great procrastinator. If I am not in the mood to do something, it doesn’t get done. If I procrastinate long enough, eventually something important becomes urgent and has to get done. That is where I find myself now. I am feeling a sense of urgency.

My mother-in-law passed away earlier this year (29 January 2018, to be exact) at the age of 95. She was a child during the Great Depression and, like many others of her era, she had a tendency to hold onto everything. While her kids were growing up, she kept two houses–one for the school year and one for vacations–fully stocked with cooking supplies, furniture, clothes, etc. In 1979, they moved into the last house they would share in this lifetime. Everything from both houses went into that one house. Seriously, everything…

After she had a stroke, she came to live with us, her son and me. However, we still kept her house and took her there to visit whenever we could. Over the ten years she was with us, we gradually began to eliminate unnecessary items–food beyond the expiration date by up to nine years, clothes of her husband who died in 1997, some of her clothes and most of her shoes (almost 100 pairs), empty bags, etc. I guess you could say, we had begun the technique of “Swedish Death Cleaning” on her behalf–she was alive, but couldn’t do it for herself. It was overwhelming to see all the stuff that she had collected over time.

Now, as we get closer to the anniversary of her passing, we are feeling an urgency to finish cleaning out her things–donating, selling, distributing to family members who want them, and trashing what can’t be reused somehow–in order to put her house on the market. If only she had started this process years ago! But, the death cleaning doesn’t stop there. Once we have finished preparing her house for sale, we have our own possessions to eliminate in preparation for a move and down-sizing of our own. This will be a major step toward doing some death cleaning of my own. I can’t wait to be free from the burden of stuff! I know my descendants will appreciate it, too. Time to let go!

For more information about Swedish Death Cleaning, you might want to read about it here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/gyanyankovich/what-is-swedish-death-cleaning

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