If you’ve been with me a while, you may recall a post last year in which I talked about the need to do some decluttering. I planned to incorporate the KonMari Method™ because I’d had luck with it in the past. I did make a good-faith effort and, while a fair amount of progress was made, it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d intended. As we all know, life gets in the way…and then TV gets in the way…and then computer games and books and gazing up at the clouds get in the way. It’s a marvel we (I) ever accomplish anything at all.
Before the ball dropped last week, I’d already decided 2023 would be the year I stopped coming up with excuses for not getting things done and just bloody do them. One of those things was thinning out the ridiculous amount of stuff I have. It would be one thing if I wore all the stuff, read all the stuff, and utilized all the stuff. But I haven’t in a long time, and I don’t expect to in the future. While Marie Kondo’s tidy-up method may have served me well in the past, I realized I needed something a bit less delicate this go-round.
Enter Swedish Death Cleaning. Yes, yes, I know it sounds horribly morbid – and it can be, depending on how you choose to look at it. The main idea behind SDC is to avoid leaving behind a boatload of belongings that nobody wants or needs when you finally cross over. I mean, clearly, the last thing your grief-stricken loved ones will want to do is slog through a basement/storage unit/attic full of worthless stuff and try to figure out what to do with it while still honoring your memory. I know from experience that it’s a gut-wrenching endeavor because it can hurt to part with anything. My mom’s been gone nearly 23 years, and I still have trouble discarding random little slips of paper that have her handwriting on them. They serve no purpose anymore, and there are some I can’t even decipher because, when she was in a rush, she had a habit of reverting to Speedwriting (a type of shorthand). All those symbols and squeezed-together letters are about as easy to read as hieroglyphics. Still, tossing any of those notes still gives me a painful twinge.
The ironic thing is, Mom wouldn’t give two hoots whether I hung onto that stuff or not. She was wise enough to know that that sort of thing has a way of becoming a little albatross around the neck and, the more stuff there is, the fatter and heavier that blasted bird gets.
But I digress. I was talking about the macabre moniker for this type of cleaning. It’s about more than simply preparing for your demise, so I’m approaching it in a more palatable manner. I’m doing it as much for myself as I am for my family because, while I don’t like the idea of them being burdened with my leftover stuff, I also don’t like being mentally encumbered by things I’ll never again use or need. Even if I have an out-of-the-way place to store them, I know they’re there, and I know that someone down the road will have to deal with them when I’m gone. My family may not care…but I care. I plan on being around a long time, and I’m selfish enough to want to live clutter-free while still enjoying the things I do use or truly treasure. Believe me, when my time comes, there will still be plenty of junk my family won’t know what to do with.
That being said, I understand why some of my family members find the term Swedish Death Cleaning so off-putting. It doesn’t exactly elicit a sense of joy. So, in an effort to respect their feelings, I’m using the same initials but referring to my SDC journey as Spiritedly Ditching Clutter. It’s the same method of clearing things out, has a more lighthearted title, and nobody gets hurt.
Fun fact: My husband doesn’t like the new name I came up with because he thinks it’s too hard to say. I just told him not to say it. (But between you and me and the fence post, he’s not wrong. That’s why I only use the initials.)
Margareta Magnusson, the author of the book that in the remainder of this post shall not be named, suggests doing your closet first. (By the way, I guess I technically started with my bookcase because I downloaded the book to Kindle rather than buying a hard copy. That one little step saved several square inches of shelf space. Go, me!)
Anyway, the closet is a logical place to start because most of us don’t attach a lot of sentiment to our clothing. And most of us have way more clothes than we need or, in some cases, even want. Our want for them just apparently outweighs our willingness to tackle the job of sorting through them. I happily discovered that, once I started on my own clothes closet, it became easy to be almost ruthless. Margareta basically has you ask yourself just two questions as you assess each item:
- Will I use it again?
- Will it make someone else happy?
By keeping those questions in mind, the job became much less daunting. I set out three boxes (Yes, No, and Maybe) and one large trash bag. After quickly determining where an item should go, I moved on to the next. I was more motivated by the thought of a tidy closet than I was by the delusion of ever again fitting into the cute little shirt I’d kept on the shelf for more years than I care to admit. And, the more items I set aside to toss or donate, the lighter I felt. Sure, I was still too heavy for that cute little shirt, but that was no longer the point. My spirit felt lighter. Once I was done, I stood back and gazed into my finished closet, basking in the fruits of my labor…just like I used to do as a kid after I finally did a deep clean on my pigsty of a bedroom.