A few months ago my sister was chatting to our parents, and the conversation turned to their house and all the bits and pieces that currently fill it.
There was mention of them starting to sort through things, and get rid of various bits, mainly so that we won’t have to at whatever point in the future they’re no longer here. Apparently they’re not the only ones thinking about this. There’s been a new trend of sorts doing the rounds for a while now, called Swedish death cleaning.
This is basically where you go through all your belongings, passing things on and throwing things out, so that when you pass away there’s not all that much for your family to have to deal with.
My sister and I both seem to have had the same reaction to this – please don’t do it!
I just can’t bear the thought of them being gone, and their house being empty of the essence of them too. I think, for me, there will be a real comfort in the process of sorting through the house, discovering long-forgotten memories.
Lots of people seem to be huge fans of the idea though.
So, would you be happy for your parents to do a spot of Swedish death cleaning?
I really wasn’t sure if I was being unreasonable in my feelings about this whole death cleaning thing.
It’s clearly an emotional response rather than a practical one, but the more I’ve thought about it the more I stand firm in that feeling of not wanting my parents to wipe away their lives while they’re still here.
I asked a few other bloggers for their thoughts on the subject and this what they had to say.
“As someone with a mum who is a bit of a hoarder I think this is an ace idea- though trying to explain it to my mum may not go down so well! It’s definitely something I would try and do for my kids to make the task easier!”
Lauren, A Scrapbook of our lives
“I think this is a really good idea. I will certainly be doing it for my children and have everything easier for them. I have had to move my mum (several times) over the last three years, without any help. She has a lot of stuff!! It’s been bad enough packing her up to move her, packing it all up when she is gone will be so much worse!”
Nikki, Yorkshire Wonders
“Having had to help clear out relatives homes after their passing its actually something I’ve stayed really mindful of. I’ve no intention of dying anytime soon but have become a bit of a chronic declutterer because I don’t want my kids to have to go through the ordeal I have been through. Things like sorting through finances even, after my dad passed away was a nightmare because he never told mum any passwords or where anything was! I’m all for it to be honest.”
Sophie, Wife, Mother, Life
“My mum has suggested she do this. The only problem is she doesn’t drive so I’ll be the one lumbered getting rid of it all! As I said to her “it’s either now or after you’ve popped your clogs it makes no difference to me”!”
Erica, The incidental parent
“I’m not sure about this, unless you’re an horrific hoarder. I think it’s cathartic to sift through all those memories, and you don’t know what will mean the most to those you leave behind.”
“I think it’s a great idea. It also means you can chose to give items to who you want to as well. Plus I don’t think it takes anything away from family going through your things afterwards anyway as you’ll still keep things that are truly meaningful or useful. It just helps them out.”
“I think this is an interesting idea and it would really work for some people. When my Mum died I was 21 so going through her personal belongings was something I wanted to do myself. Me and my sister needed to be the ones who selected what stayed and went but when it came to the paperwork and finances I let my Dad and Stepmum take it all to their house and sort it all out because there was just far too much paperwork and at the time that wasn’t what was important to me. It’s one of those things that has to get done but everything is still too raw to think straight. “
Emma, Emma Reed
“My Grandpop who is in his 80s is basically doing just this. He seems perfectly happy to discuss arrangements and has taken care of most of it already. On most of our weekly visits now he is asking us to take things home for us or other people to have because he doesn’t want it to be left after he’s gone. As much as I don’t like thinking about him leaving us I am grateful for what he is doing to make it easier when he is gone “
Natasha, Mummy and Moose
“My first thought is that it’s a good idea but actually I think everyone should just enjoy whatever life they have left and if that means being surrounded by clutter and things that make us happy, so be it.”
“I think it depends on how ruthless you were. I think there is something quite magical about discovering things about your family member when they have died. Some things you would think were clutter might be the thing that someone else associates really strongly with you, a memory trigger that they would cherish forever. This is coming from a self confessed hoarder though!”
Louise, Pink Pear Bear
“I really think it depends on how much physical ‘stuff’ there is…my parents in law live in another country and their basement (full!!) is bigger than my entire house so in that situation I think it is helpful to downsize a little…but…don’t underestimate how much some of those memories may mean to those left behind. It would be nice to do it with the people who would be left to do it for you. In terms of having finances, paperwork etc sorted out then definitely. No one wants to be trying to follow a paper trail whilst grieving.”
“It’s a great idea and really helps those who are left. My mum had terminal cancer and gradually she had cleared out much of the loft stuff and the garage. We still had loads left to tip and charity shop but it really made life easier. I dread to think what it’ll be like with my stuff. I have a lot I can’t access in the roof.”
Emma, Bubbablue and me
I found reading all the different opinions from people really interesting, and I think the fact that there were mixed opinions goes to show that there isn’t just one answer for all families.
Maybe the compromise is to start the process of sorting through belongings with your family. So that stories can be shared and remembered. A few people made the very good point that you just never know which of your things might have sentimental value to someone else.
I can see it being a good idea to get things organised. To clear out unnecessary paperwork and organise the important bits so they’re easier to sort through. But I still just can’t bear the thought of too much stuff being cleared out.
All those little bits and pieces that make up my parents’ lives, they’re a big part of my life too. They were the background to my childhood. The comforting, familiar backdrop to so many of my memories.
I hope this is something we won’t have to deal with for many more years, but when the time does come I really do think there will be a lot of comfort for me and my siblings to work through all the familiar bits and pieces, and to rediscover other, long-forgotten items.
So, what do you think? Would you be happy for your parents to do a spot of Swedish death cleaning or would you rather they didn’t?