Death Cleaning

Decluttering for death, addressing this difficult topic and getting organised early

Have you prepared for your own death? Have you even thought about it?

One day sonNobody likes talking about death.  No one likes thinking that they are not actually going to live forever and one day they may have to face the inevitable and shuffle off this mortal coil for good.

In a world of excess, where we accumulate more and more stuff throughout our lives, when we die something has to happen to it all (unless you’re super famous and your house will turn into a shrine).  Who do you think has to deal with this?  It won’t be you as you will no longer be around, so this joyous task generally falls to your nearest and dearest.

Anyone who has ever lost anyone close to them knows that bereavement is hard.  Add to this grief the responsibility of having to actually tell people the horrible news, organise funerals, manage your own life (unfortunately things can’t really be put on hold, you still need to eat, shower, sleep, you know the things that will keep you alive) and then go through the deceased’s lifetime worth of belongings.  Not an easy or pleasant task to have to deal with (even for those of us who love organising!).

This is why the Swedish (why are Scandinavian countries always so damn progressive??) have coined the term ‘Death Cleaning’.  This addresses the practicalities of death and has actually made this difficult, taboo topic trendy.

So what exactly is Swedish Death Cleaning?

Slightly different to Marie Kondo’s approach of ‘sparking joy’ (I’m pretty sure that death does not ‘spark joy’ for most people – but, as always, there are exceptions to this rule), it is about getting all of our affairs in order before we die.

Basically, the method suggests that what you need to do is go through your belongings and make decisions on what to do with it based on what will happen after you die.

  • Will anyone be happier that you’ve kept it or will it be a burden to your loved ones?
  • Will it reveal a secret you’d rather your loved ones didn’t know or cause embarrassment to you after you die?  Get rid of it!
  • Is it something meaningful that your loved ones would like to keep?  Keep it!
  • Do the possessions annoy you?  Get rid of it!

You get the idea…

Why not actually ask your loved ones as you go through your possessions whether they would want it, and if yes then why not try and give it to them now?  You will then be able to see them enjoying it, rather than it potentially sitting in a cupboard, forgotten and unloved.  You can only do this if you face up to the idea that you are definitely going to die one day and why not prepare as much as possible for this inevitable event?

The main difficulty that I find my clients face after someone dies is trying to guess whether that person did actually like that item or not.  It’s easy to think that they ‘must have’ because they kept it in their home, but as you know with your own possessions (unless you have completed the KonMari journey!) there are quite a lot of things in your own home that you actively dislike.  Make it easier for your love ones by discarding these before you go, so they don’t ‘have to’ hold onto them for sentimental reasons.

What if my loved one hasn’t Death Cleaned, help!

If you are facing a bereavement from a person who hasn’t ‘Death Cleaned’ and don’t know what to do with all of the stuff then do as one of my clients is doing, have a discard party!  If the item does not spark joy for you then collect them up and give their friends the opportunity to choose the items that they would like to keep.  This removes the guilt from your decision making, you don’t have to keep hold of everything and the items will be chosen by friends who genuinely want them.   Anything left after this can be discarded or rehomed appropriately.

This is a useful practice, even if you’re not dying!

Think about the impact that your stuff will have on your loved ones and make sure you get everything in order.  Make life easier for them, tell them your millions of passwords, pay off your debt, consolidate accounts, tell people which financial products you hold (the amount of people that still keep money dotted around their homes in various different ice cream tubs is mad!), have a photo party…have some fun with it, it doesn’t need to be morbid!

As we know the benefits of organising are huge, so why not make the end of your life as clear and easy as possible, knowing that you have left a great legacy for your loved ones.  They’ll be able to grieve without having to deal with all your stuff.  This really will be the best gift you can give them.

Get in touch to get your life in order today.  Whether you are 20 or 80, I can help, it’s never too early (or late!) to declutter and get your life in order.

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