Death Cleaning


It's almost a month now since I made a trip to Bath to meet up with the youngest. I opted to travel by train which took 5 hours but as I would easily have spent that long driving there, it seemed the more sensible option. Normally I would have loaded myself down with paperbacks for the journey there and back but in this instance opted for an iPad with downloads from the library including an audio book.

Although I do tend to borrow any number of books digitally from the library, I confess that an e-audio book was a first for me. That said, it was the perfect option. I popped my earphones in and not only was the content delivered up directly but I also got to watch the passing scenery through the window at the same time.

My choice of listening was a little strange but it was a book that I've been meaning to look at for some time: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson read perfectly by Juliet Stevenson. The book is sub-titled "How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter" and although I learnt very little new, I understand that it has spawned any number of books expanding on the theme and clarifying the method. The author believes that we ought not to burden our loved ones with the need to dispose of our possessions when we pass away and that instead we should all feel obliged from our mid-sixties to start the process of decluttering in earnest with a view to freeing our next of kin from the task. She also encourages us to undertake those difficult conversations about death and to pass on treasured items whilst we are still alive, warning, however, that often what our nearest and dearest most covet and want to take under their wing are not necessarily items deemed valuable but rather those with the greatest practical use. I can empathise having used a dibber that belonged to my father and a fork of my grandmother's in my garden for many, many years.

Her emphasis on the need for us to take responsibility for the mass of items that we accumulate during our lifetime and start to take sensible steps to reduce them resonated sufficiently that following my return home I have spent many dusty hours in the garage seeking to tackle the worst of our purposeless excess (the plastic bottle and cardboard box collections are but two prime examples). Although older than me, Mister E has taken little interest in this latest pursuit save for visiting me in the garage from time to time to check that I am not throwing away anything that might come in useful! There are obviously some people who can embrace this decluttering lark and others who clearly can't.

Of course, it does lead to a dilemma of even handedness. If Mister E won't death clean, should I? I think yes, because looking at the mountains of rubbish, I'm going to need the practice. As for those conversations with the next generation, will the eldest and youngest really aspire to taking over our spurious collections of good wood, odd bits of piping and vinyl floor off-cuts? 

Against that background, I had a really good day today and visited my favourite place: the local tip or, to give it it's full name, the Household Waste Recycling Centre. We are now a dozen almost empty paint cans lighter, freed too of a pile of broken small electricals and a cat scarer that was never scary enough. Unidentified rusted metal bits have gone to a better place and I watched as the shelving from an old fridge along with a kitchen bin with a large hole in it and some of those vinyl off-cuts were flattened in a skip with an electrically operated crusher. 

Can life get any sweeter? Only when we have a minimalist garage perhaps.

(Image by Nathan Copley from Pixabay)



Death cleaning is something I would encourage. After my mother's death two years ago, my two sisters and I had a huge job of cleaning out her house. She had years and years of junk. We made three piles of give, keep and trash. We gave a ton of stuff to a local charity. It was several weeks worth of work. She always claimed she was going to get rid of some stuff but never did. My mother in law has a houseful of stuff that will be next to deal with in the near future.
Caree Risover said…
Thank you for your encouragement. Sadly, we’ve encountered similar circumstances and there’s always so much that isn’t fit to keep or donate that I really think we can afford to be ruthless, even at this stage. I’m guessing that it potentially becomes too much effort if you leave it to sort until you have far less energy/strength and, of course, I’d like to keep open the option of downsizing for the future without the thought of it being such a mammoth task that we can’t face it.
Treaders said…
I'm with you 100% on this, even if I haven't been particularly active lately. I did get rid of a bit of stuff on Monday - to the tip and the big charity store - but it's not nearly enough. One thing I did do, however, is create a physical file labelled "Life in Motion" and in it I have all the people/banks etc that need to be contacted when I pop my clogs. Where my pension is, what the codes to my bank accounts are, where my funeral expenses insurance is, etc. I want to make it as easy as possible for my sons when the time comes - and you're right, getting rid of so much of our crap beforehand can only help! That being said, I love that you still have the family "dibber"!
Caree Risover said…
Yes, the family dibber beats family diamonds - well I'm sure I've had more use from it than any hand-me-down diamonds (would wish) might have given me!
Jan said…
I haven't read that book but it sounds like a good idea! My mum hoarded and cleaning through her stuff was really difficult and upsetting, I'd hate my kids to have to go through it. I understand about the dibber, I love most my mums old paint box with her brushes in it, its old and ratty but means the world to me.
Caree Risover said…
It’s so easy to drown in excess stuff isn’t it? What the book emphasised was our obligation to sort it whilst we are capable, rather than living with it and leaving it as a burden for our next of kin. I guess if you never move and downsize, it’s just easier to keep everything tucked away (just in case) and then you reach a stage where dealing with it is beyond you, a situation the author felt was a gross dereliction of duty to those we love most when these days we accumulate so much.
Christie Hawkes said…
The timing of this post couldn't have been better, Caree, as my husband and I were just discussing the desire to declutter our home together. My husband is much more of a packrat than I am. I could easily toss most of the stuff in our basement. However, he might have something to say about that! I hope we can find a happy medium that will make life easier on our children when we are gone...somewhere in the very distant future! 😁
Caree Risover said…
I guess what seems useful to keep at one stage of life can be very different when we get older. Going through our garage I was for instance amazed to find my skis still squirrelled away when I honestly had worn them out years ago and more recently had rented. In fact I’d even convinced myself we’d jettisoned them. I suspect it’s so much easier to tuck things away just in case and that it’s only years later that you realise some items are of no further use to you or anyone else. It’s all those objects I need to be brutal about but as the author pointed out it’s an act of kindness for your children and whilst there’s acceptance on your part that some much loved possessions are no longer fit for purpose rediscovering them before you throw can bring back many happy memories. Looks like we are all going to rekindle a few of those on our long decluttering journeys!

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