I've heard about it here and there - a mention in a conversation, a post on Facebook - for about a year now.
As it makes the rounds of minimalist communities and do more/have less groups I sometimes skirt the periphery of, I keep thinking two things:
1. This sounds morose.
2. This sounds interesting.
Finally, after yet another FB reference, I looked up Swedish Death Cleanse and am....intrigued.
The basic premise is that the people we leave behind don't necessarily want to dig through a lifetime of our accumulated junk (I mean...heirlooms) trying to sort what to keep, what to sell, what to toss and what to be horrified we owned at all.
The idea of the Swedish Death Cleanse is to, as we get older, slowly do this process ourselves so that what we leave behind are truly our most treasured and useful belongings and, most importantly, the memories people have of us, presumably when we were not spending hours online clicking ship now to accumulate more stuff.
That last bit is my own addition. The Swedes are probably far less emotional and judgmental than that.
The point: get rid of your stuff now rather than leaving it all behind for someone else to deal with, presumably at an emotionally fragile time and under a certain amount of duress.
There I go again.
Here are a few articles describing Swedish Death Cleaning in better detail and with less of a penchant for going off-point:
Swedish Death Cleaning is the Most 2017 Trend of the 2017 Trends (forgive that title, please....apparently all editors over at Apartment Therapy were on leave, presumably death cleaning their studio apartments).
Death Cleaning is the Newest Way to DeClutter. Here's What You Need to Know (this is over at Time.com; apparently they hired the same writer).
Americans are Packrats. Swedes Have the Solution: Death Cleaning (this is yet another 'what you need to know' article). This article actually offers some practical tips like not beginning a death cleanse with photos (too hard, too emotional, too time consuming) and suggests 65 is a good age to begin; although any age will have its benefits.
Readers, the Internet has our back with all this 'what you need to know' business.
There is also a book on Swedish death cleaning entitled, appropriately, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter.
What I think is interesting is the concept that Swedes don't want to be a burden to anyone as they age and want to be (and live) as independent as possible.
Is it a burden?
I haven't yet had a parent die (thank goodness), so I can't speak personally about what that would feel like to go through personal belongings, paperwork and the physical manifestations of a person's many decades of life.
But I do have some experience with inheriting possessions from a beloved family member who, as she aged and finally moved into assisted living, passed many of her cherished belongings to me. She gave me china, teapots, platters (engraved to her), knick-knacks, books (one signed by Robert Frost), clothes, art and furniture.
On the one hand, I love having my aunt's belongings with me. I'm reminded of her when I see them and feel the love with which she gave them. Well....some of them.
The ginger jars from China are especially treasured. Her class ring from Wellesley College is tucked away and cherished.
But there were cocktail napkins (a few stained) embroidered with pigs in tuxedos that I finally donated after years of wondering what on earth I'd ever do with them.
Much of the art is faded and warped.
The fifties furniture from the Netherlands is incredibly hip and in style at the moment - but it's not my style.
When I look at what she's given me, I see some genuine desire to share with me, but I also see what must have felt like a sad letting go on her part, a desire to pare down but not completely let go of her life.
I think this is normal.
How many times have we agonized over giving away a dress that reminds of us a particular evening or time in life? It's nearly impossible to toss photographs, even if we have copies of them stored on our computers or the photographs aren't even all that great. We cling to fuzzy, outdated, ill-fitting items for many reasons but perhaps the biggest is that letting them go seems like shutting a door on a part of ourselves we're not wholly ready to part with.
I know that, for me, I want to limit the amount of physical stuff I have to deal with. I want to keep memories but not clutter. I have learned that for me, keeping old cards and mementos (tickets from concerts, etc.) doesn't bring me joy; it brings me stress when I have to sort through it. And...often...I think the past just needs to be the past.
Is it possible to live in the present and to move forward when we're literally clinging to the physical representation of the past?
On the other hand, will those things bring me joy one day, later in life, when I've slowed down and matured and want to do nothing at all but sit in a chair and live in the past?
I've heard many older people say that as they age, their memories are their most prized possessions.
Will I regret getting rid of tangible, hold-them-in-my-hands memories?
Will my children feel shafted and dismissed when they have nothing to hold on to from my life, no mementoes from their childhoods, no class ring or ginger jars to put in a dining room and think: those came all the way from China, on a steamer ship in the 1940s.
I don't know. The not knowing is kind of freezing, no? I end up just shoving the boxes full of history into corners of closets and hoping the day will come when I'll know what to do.
Perhaps the day is here.
Has anyone done a Swedish Death Cleanse? What are your thoughts on keeping mementoes for children or loved ones?
How do you honor the past but live in the present?
I hope everyone's week is plugging right along, a cup of espresso at your side only because it's too early for wine.