Swedish ‘death cleaning’ — ugh

The phrase “death cleaning” is beginning to haunt me. I hate it, probably because I’m feeling increasing pressure to do it. And because I know I need to do it.

But at least the phrase is less onerous than “housekeeping” or “house cleaning.” It sounds more like a one-time thing, not a repetitive thing. It’s the repetitiveness of housekeeping that bums me out. Do it today and remember, you’ll need to do it again tomorrow or next week. And every week thereafter. Ad infinitum. “Death cleaning,” on the other hand, certainly rings of finality, of “one and done.”

Seriously? I only do this when I’m getting ready to move, and I don’t intend to move again — ever!

The Washington Post brought it to mind again today with a story titled “The Swedes know the secret to happiness: You are not your stuff.” Somebody obviously needs to do some death cleaning with that title, but that said, the story delves into death cleaning and exacerbates my feeling of guilty procrastination.

Just sitting here I can think of a ton of stuff I need to get rid of. Same stuff I thought about dumping last month, last year, five years ago. I moved into this house in 2007, bringing with me everything from my slightly larger apartment, and the even larger place before that. There are several boxes in a back closet that I’ve not even looked into since I moved/squeezed in here. (Who knows, some stuff I assumed I’d lost might be in there.) I downsized my living space but not the contents I shoehorned into it.

There’s a chest of drawers with several drawers unopened since my last move. I could probably have the whole thing hauled off and never miss a thing. (These days everything is either on hangers or on a shelf somewhere.) But you know how movers are. No telling what little odds and ends they tucked in there that I’ve yet to discover.

Oh, come on. I wasn’t this organized on my best day. I’m sure not doing it now. (Photo: The Spruce / Jason Donnelly)

And the clothes. OMG, the clothes. Specific items that were purchased for one occasion or another … and never worn again. Lots I wouldn’t be caught dead in (we are talking death cleaning, after all). Not to mention the accompanying accessories, lots of things that just don’t fit anymore, and a few things I’ll never wear again because I’m not working anymore. And haven’t for 20 years.

That said, I’ve never considered myself a hoarder or a packrat. I’m just a lazy, messy person. Which I suppose is just a nice way to say “slob.” (And yes, I wince with guilt when I say that.)

I had a plan a few months ago — every week I’ll fill one, just one, trash bag with whatever that comes to hand and chuck it. Easy peasy. And I did it. Once.

Maybe I should post a giant sign with my working years mantra — K.I.S.S. You know, keep it simple, stupid. Yeah, trash bags. That’s the ticket. No fussy labeled bins or boxes.

Anyway … death cleaning. I should look again at the calendar and get on with it.

15 thoughts on “Swedish ‘death cleaning’ — ugh

  1. For crissake, Colorado ! – stop beating yourself up about something so unimportant, will you ?! Untidiness ? – who of your visitors gives a rat’s ? And when said ‘untidiness’ comprises merely too much STUFF, resulting in ‘unwantedness’ .. well, it’s your house. Is the anxiety that Someone will have to get rid of it when you’re no longer around to feel guilty ? – won’t make no difference whether it’s all in boxes neatly labelled or stuffed in cupboards and drawers: those left behind aren’t going to enjoy getting rid of your things, whichever. Put it all out of your head and just enjoy life, darlin .. 😀

  2. Had to shake my head- having just moved to a new apartment. I threw out or recycled six big 42 gal bags full of stuff in the process. And it made no visible difference! This was just a 3-year accumulation; eventually three packed-full storage places back home have to be sorted – filled 18 yrs ago. Sigh. Guess death cleaning is an accurate name for it. It may kill me before it is completed 😉

    1. LOL. So that’s why they call it that!
      I was wondering if you’d moved yet. Good grief, woman, you sound as bad as I am. Or maybe it’s just the inevitable detritus of living. Hope you enjoy your new place!

  3. While it’s true that “you are not your stuff”, stuff is psychologically important. If I got rid of stuff I’ll never use or wear again I would be faced with a depressing reality: those things were part of my identity. Near-empty closets and drawers would give me the willies.

    1. I’m pretty sure I could get rid of a lot of stuff without ever approaching “near empty.” Most likely I’d be approaching what’s “near normal” for a lot of people. I’d have no problem getting rid of clothes in particular because if they no longer fit, they are no longer a part of my identity. I might wish those smaller sizes were still a part of my identity but … c’est la vie. But yes, there’s also a lot of stuff that make this place “mine,” and getting rid of it just isn’t going to happen.

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