When my mother was moved to a nursing-home because her Alzheimer could no longer be treated at home, my bother and I had to clean out our parents flat. My father passed away in 1994 and my mother had saved everything since then. Of course she had had cleaning-help during her illness, but it was not their job to throw away stuff. So my brother and I spent a good three weeks cleaning and throwing and selling…
That is when I first got introduced to the concept of death-cleaning, which has become a bit of a trend in my own age-group (and beyond). So what does it mean? Well, it doesn’t have to imply that you will kick the bucket anytime soon! It just means you will not leave to your loved ones to clean out the house from crap when you are gone, and let me tell you, it will only make them remember you in a better way!
It is something truly tragic when you realize your loved one has saved old chipped plates or a greasy old pan, not to mention having to go through papers that does not really concern you. There will always be a whole lot of stuff left anyway. My parents were book-lovers and there was approx 10 000 volumes of books in that flat (I´m not kidding!) and they all had to flipped through in case my mom had hidden money in any of them. It was not my favorite job in the world,,,and we ended up having to send hundreds and hundreds to destruction because noone collects old books these days (of course I´m not talking fifteenth century masters here). We sent 8 boxes to a secondhand bookshop in Stockholm, ending up paying more for the transport than we got paid. So, see what I mean?
All too often I hear friends complaining about how siblings become enemies over stuff that was left behind. “He promised me” etc. but there is a simple solution – give it away when you are still alive. My bother and I made a simple pact when my mother died, sell everything and divide the money in two piles. I realize that is not for everyone, but it diminishes the chance of your children going to war with each other after you are gone, and let me tell you – it happens in the best families! And if you really want to hold on to things until the end, write a will and make sure promises are kept!
I have had two boxes standing in my kitchen for a year now, I never really got around to unpack them when I moved 1 1/2 year ago, but now I will unpack and probably throw away. I had a look yesterday in one and there were old clothes, papers from 20 years ago and some books. I haven´t missed any of that stuff for a year, so now it´s going. And you know what – throwing things out is liberating!
I have also made a promise to myself to get rid of household-stuff that doesn’t really work anymore. The Teenage Mutant Ninja got a lot when he moved out and set up a place of his own, but there are still things I should replace or just simply chuck out. And I have promised myself that my basement will not become a storage-area for things I think I will use during the next 30 years…
I want my only child to remember me kindly, not spend three weeks grunting about the things I´ve left behind.