Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

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delamer
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by delamer » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:20 pm

pennywise wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:58 am
We have had to completely clear 2 homes in the past 5 years; that of a friend who died and left us his estate and my mother in law's after she went into assisted living. Both homes were jam packed with stuff--the friend was a borderline hoarder, the MIL a depression baby with hoarding instincts she 'disguised' as being a keeper of memories.

I learned something from the extremely laborious effort it took: your belongings have meaning to you, and nobody should expect or demand that anyone else take on your memories and meanings by keeping your stuff. I have objects that are deeply meaningful to me. But I know after I'm gone my kids will have absolutely no reason to keep that knit dress my mother sewed for me in the 70's. I keep it because she made all my clothes and it was the last dress she sewed for me before she died when I was 19 YO. Seeing it in the back of my closet brings me comfort-and will not do that for anyone else in the world. That's ok, once I'm gone I won't be seeing it anyway and nobody else will connect to it at all.

We all have the right to decide what talismans we imbue with meaning. None of us have the right to expect anyone else to carry on our meaning by keeping our talismans.

Last but far from least, I"ll never forget the note we found in my MIL's jam packed china cabinet (she put notes everywhere): 'I ask only one thing. Keep everything'. We did not, could not and should not have been expected to!
Very nicely said. I have a few things from my grandmothers that have meaning for me, but will not for my children who were born after my grandmothers died. And that is OK.

There was a show on HGTV several years ago that helped people clear out their stuff and hold yard sales. The host was a British man. One thing that stuck with me from that show: he would find a decrepit cardboard box under three other boxes in the basement. The decrepit box would hold, for example, Christmas knickknacks that were used to decorate the owner's childhood home. And the owner would insist they were too important to sell because of their sentimental nature. To which the host's response would be "If they are so important to you, why are they buried in an old cardboard box in your basement?"

The point being that 1) you haven't used them in years; they can't be that important and/or 2) if they really are important, then why aren't you taking better care of them?

I was never much of a packrat, but I did decide that I would either use things of value to me or at least store them properly if I wasn't going to use them.

LookingtogetFIRE'd
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by LookingtogetFIRE'd » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:33 pm

If you are doing a massive purge, before you take a giant load to Goodwill, consider whether the items may be of value to someone within your own community. There are many Buy Nothing Project and community sharing forums on Facebook and/or operated by community listserv - offer it there first, as you know any takers will genuinely want and enjoy it, and you'll have the joy of knowing you helped someone in your community.

Caduceus
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by Caduceus » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:50 pm

I went crazy a few years ago and did the whole decluttering thing. It's more a psychological thing. Giving books away was easy, because I could just buy whatever I wanted to read on the Kindle. So the only books I kept were sentimental items from each period of my life (e.g. the first book my Mom bought for me when I was four, the book my mentor gave me when I graduated with a note inside, etc.). Everything else I donated.

Sentimental items were hardest, but I really didn't need to keep mementos from ex-es. So I kept the love letters and tossed the weirder items :D I found that it was easier to throw those items if I scanned papers or took a picture of them. So I have an entire folder of pictures of sentimental items I've tossed. I've never looked inside that folder, so it was more of a psychological crutch. Meanwhile, the things I've actually kept have become more valuable.

Photos are the hardest. Even after I digitized them I couldn't bear to toss the originals. Eventually, I will make a couple of picture books (like the type people make for wedding albums) for genealogical purposes so that the next generations will have access to the best pictures and important information (origins of our family name, region, important events, etc.) and I suspect everything else will get tossed. I recommend genealogy nuts do this because none of your descendants will want to sort through thousands of un-contextualized photos.

I should add that how successful you are depends on your partner. I would say that before I started, I occupied 30% of our shared space, and now the house looks exactly the same, just that he now occupies 90% of it ... I got myself down to 4 suits, then he occupied it with his new winter jacket. I discarded maybe nine of my older ties, and now he hangs his belts on them. You should get your partner on board.

SrGrumpy
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by SrGrumpy » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:58 pm

LookingtogetFIRE'd wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:33 pm
If you are doing a massive purge, before you take a giant load to Goodwill, consider whether the items may be of value to someone within your own community. There are many Buy Nothing Project and community sharing forums on Facebook and/or operated by community listserv - offer it there first, as you know any takers will genuinely want and enjoy it, and you'll have the joy of knowing you helped someone in your community.
e.g. there is a charity that helps people get into the workforce by providing appropriate clothing for job interviews and officewear. I'm sure we all have old suits and ties that haven't seen the light of day in years.

quantAndHold
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by quantAndHold » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:25 pm

Some call it “Swedish Death Cleaning.” Others call it getting ready to move.

We moved cross country. Then, four years later, we moved back into the same house we’d vacated four years before. We were never packrats, but we have entire cabinets that are empty now, and we can’t imagine why we had all that stuff.

One of the things we try to do is go through everything once a year. Our house conveniently has 12 rooms and closets, so we do one room or closet every month. If something hasn’t been used in the past year, it goes into one of three categories:

1) get rid of it. The usual sell, donate, or trash.
2) it’s sentimental. Sentimental stuff still gets a pass, but after cleaning out the homes of four parents, “sentimental” is a much smaller category than it once was.
3) it’s on probation. It’s something that we haven’t used in the past year, but we think we might need it. We put a yellow sticky on it. If we use the item, the yellow sticky gets removed. The next year, anything that still has a yellow sticky gets purged. No exceptions.

One thing about sentimental stuff. There’s an age where sentimental stuff becomes either “junk” or “valuable”. It seems to take 2-3 generations to become valuable. We ended up giving a lot of the sentimental stuff my mother-in-law saved from her family to museums, because at some point, it had actually become valuable. We found homes for old papers, clothing, art that her semi-famous older brother did, etc, mostly in local history museums. But most of the antique furniture and knickknacks she considered valuable were actually junk.

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dia
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by dia » Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:22 pm

Thanks to this discussion, I learned about freecycle.org. What a great site! You can list your items to give and it also lists items others are looking for! Give it a whirl: https://www.freecycle.org I think it would be a great way to off load larger items.
Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. --Winston Churchill

Mitchell777
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by Mitchell777 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:51 pm

I'm going through the process and have been for months and will for months more. I've got three generations of stuff. It's emotionally draining. It's also a bit of a shock when you learn how hard it is to get rid of some things, or that they have no value or no one wants them even for free. Example an old organ that probably weighs 250 lbs. Yes, you can always take them to a landfill but I've struggled with that for some items, even though I'm sure I've dumped a ton of stuff (literally a ton) and none of that big items. Add to that well over 600 lbs of paper recycled. Some people may want to try to sell things but I'm not really into that unless they have some significant value (that's just me). I just got rid of my old textbooks. No one wanted them because they are decades old but I found a site Better World Books that takes old textbooks and has a drop box 15 miles from me. I've had people tell me to just get a dumpster and dump it all. That works better if you're clearing out the home of an aunt or uncle. When it's parents and grandparents, it's tougher (FOR ME).

Mitchell777
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning

Post by Mitchell777 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:15 pm

JCE66 wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:40 am
Bogleheads....Not sure how this got named 'Swedish Death Cleaning', but I think it fits.

I cannot begin to emphasize what a favor you will do for your children by decluttering and getting rid of extraneous crap that they do not care about, and will probably never use. I was particularly close to my parents. When my Mother declined, it was a very difficult time. I remember the day when I saw her and had to call social services because it was obvious she was unable to care for herself any longer. I lived several hours away and was only able to visit once every couple of months (had a family, two small kids, etc).

The day I put her into a nursing home is burned into my psyche for all time. Even worse was having to come back every weekend for two months to clean her apartment. My Father (parents were divorced, but amiable) even came to help. That was incredibly traumatic. I cannot begin to tell you how difficult it was. It is literally 17 years later, and I still tear up a little thinking about it.

My wife and I swore never to put our children through that experience, if at all possible. We are on a '20-year glide path' of decluttering and simplifying a little bit every year. The goal is to have everything neatly labelled and boxed for each son. Our pictures and films will be digitized, and put onto CDs and thumb drives. Then the originals will be tossed. Our sons will receive one box of their personal baby/child items we saved for sentimental reasons. We donate every year to Goodwill and take the deduction (might go away with the much larger standard deduction that is allegedly coming).

Your children will have a hard enough time dealing with the emotional aspects of losing you, their parent. And then going through all the financial BS and paying bills. Do them a favor and don't leave a huge mess behind - it will only make matters far worse, at a time when they are most vulnerable.
I second this advise. I wish I could have done this while my mother was alive. I found pictures with people I did not know, some from before I was born. Same with letters. There are items, some old and probably with some value and some not, but I can't usually tell the difference. I would have loved to discuss some of the items with her, to understand the history, her history. But I doubt that would have been possible. She was a pack-rat and had trouble throwing things away. Grew up during the Great Depression and saved everything.

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dia
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by dia » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:39 pm

Mitchell777 wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:51 pm
I'm going through the process and have been for months and will for months more. I've got three generations of stuff. It's emotionally draining. It's also a bit of a shock when you learn how hard it is to get rid of some things, or that they have no value or no one wants them even for free. Example an old organ that probably weighs 250 lbs. Yes, you can always take them to a landfill but I've struggled with that for some items, even though I'm sure I've dumped a ton of stuff (literally a ton) and none of that big items. Add to that well over 600 lbs of paper recycled. Some people may want to try to sell things but I'm not really into that unless they have some significant value (that's just me). I just got rid of my old textbooks. No one wanted them because they are decades old but I found a site Better World Books that takes old textbooks and has a drop box 15 miles from me. I've had people tell me to just get a dumpster and dump it all. That works better if you're clearing out the home of an aunt or uncle. When it's parents and grandparents, it's tougher (FOR ME).
I can relate to how you are feeling. It feels disrespectful to take family possessions and toss them in the garbage (or even give them away sometimes). This is why Swedish Death Cleaning is so important. It's such a TOUGH burden on the people that have to go through tons of your stuff. We don't have children so it's very important that we have this all figured out and easier for whoever does get that final task.
Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. --Winston Churchill

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dia
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning

Post by dia » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:46 pm

Mitchell777 wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:15 pm
JCE66 wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:40 am
Bogleheads....Not sure how this got named 'Swedish Death Cleaning', but I think it fits.

I second this advise. I wish I could have done this while my mother was alive. I found pictures with people I did not know, some from before I was born. Same with letters. There are items, some old and probably with some value and some not, but I can't usually tell the difference. I would have loved to discuss some of the items with her, to understand the history, her history. But I doubt that would have been possible. She was a pack-rat and had trouble throwing things away. Grew up during the Great Depression and saved everything.
My Grandmother was very matter of fact about death. I guess because her generation saw a lot of it and it was not a sensitive topic as it can be these days. After she passed, we were going through her old photos--when people would die she would X - out their face in the photographs. No kidding. So we would have these beautiful old B/W photos with people x-out in marker. In one way, I admired her realistic approach, in another way--I hated that she ruined many very nice photos! At least it was pretty easy to throw those away. She was an excellent documenter--she had every photo described on the back and many books or items had a label taped to them somewhere saying who gave it to her and what year. That made going through her things pretty interesting.
Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. --Winston Churchill

sid hartha
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Re: "Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify"

Post by sid hartha » Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:22 am

Taylor Larimore wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:03 pm
Bogleheads:

Henry David Thoreau changed my life when I read his book, "Walden." This line says it all:
"Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify."
Jack Bogle is another man who changed my life with the same financial theme. Read my link below.

Thank you, Jack!

Best wishes.
Taylor
Great quote! That was an important book for me as well. Last year I paid a visit to Walden Pond and saw the actual site of Thoreau's one room house, which is now long gone and just marked by some stones. But there is a replica of the house that you can view, it's small but has everything you really need. He spent $28.12½, in 1845 (about $867 in 2017 dollars) for his two year stay. Amazing!

RustyShackleford
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by RustyShackleford » Sat Nov 18, 2017 12:49 pm

I'm not into this kind of extreme decluttering - I like my "stuff".

However, after cleaning out my mother's house after she died about 10 years ago, I do have one approach. I occasionally ask myself, if I were to die tomorrow (and living alone), what would be the one worst place (closet, room, basement, attic, etc) that a loved one would have to deal with in cleaning out my house ? And then I try to address that place.

littlebird
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning [De-clutter your home]

Post by littlebird » Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:58 pm

My mother, who never owned much anyway, pared down her possessions when she was in her 70's and now that I'm there also, I'm doing the same, although I never had much clutter either.

I find it easy because one of the happiest times of my life was when, newly retired, we traveled around the west in a comfortable travel trailer with 4 changes of clothes, 4 towels, 4 plates, 4 cups, 4 sets of cutlery, 2 pots and 2 sheets/pillowcases, a tiny grill and 2 folding chairs ( trailer parks and campsites had outdoor tables) and little else. The trailer closets and cupboards were nearly empty. It was exhilarating to be so free of possessions. It has informed my life since.

I live alone now in a largish house, and have moved out of 3 of my rooms, leaving minimal furnishings in them in the event of needing to "stage" the house. The remaining rooms and closets are not crowded. I have given away and sold probably 1000 books. My main short-term goal in doing this is to cut down on cleaning. My longer-term goal is to make life easier for either my older self or my daughter, whoever will have to eventually empty the house.

cajungal
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Re: Swedish Death Cleaning

Post by cajungal » Sat Nov 18, 2017 2:15 pm

Shallowpockets wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:02 am
The truth of the matter is that once you die no one cares about your stuff. Your relatives may go through it, they may save it. But, no one will really look at it too much, if ever, after the initial assessment.
Pictures seem to be at the forefront of saving. No one cares. You can see that easily by trying to show someone your pictures now. Ten pictures in, they are bored.
All those sentimental things, school trophies, old clothes, bits and pieces of your life, that even you never look at. Those are nothing to the people who remain. They may see them in the same light as you, they may treasure them. If they save them, they will sit unused, unseen, in a box, an attic.
We are the ones who ascribe value to all this stuff. As we pass, so it passes.
Women have clothes. Men have tools. Pictures all around. All nothing once you die.
Pictures on CDs, memory sticks. Thousands even. Who is going to go through them. You don't even look at them.
The best that can be said for pictures is to create a photo book, a la Shutterfly or similiar.then there is a finite record. A book. Much easier to remain in the family and maybe glanced at now and then.
But the reality is that both ourselves and our stuff are not long lingering after we die. Look around yourself and see how much of others you have known who have died. What stuff remains from them? And not so much remains, as is actually used.
More lasting would be cookware your mother owned, and you use it still, than pictures and other flotsam that hangs around in the attic or basement.

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