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Death cleaning My s house

Found at: zaibatsu.circumlunar.space:70/~solderpunk/phlog/death-cleaning.txt

Death cleaning
--------------

My mother-in-law's house is now very close to empty.  It has been a
long and difficult process.  My wife and I are by now very practised
at totally emptying houses, having moved overseas on a budget on three
separate occasions.  However, in those cases we have known the move
was coming months in advance, we have been living in the house at the
time (meaning we can have people come by to pick stuff up at any time
that suits them) and, of course, we deliberately live a relatively
minimal lifestyle in order to make this kind of thing possible.  None
of those things were true in this case.  Further, there was the extra
emotional dimension of having to decide which things to keep as
reminders, and also what to do with things which had been gifts from
us or my wife's siblings.  Definitely cleaning "on hard mode".

While here, we visited our mutual best friend, who was born in Sweden
but moved to Australia with her parents as a teenager.  She told us
that the Swedes have a concept of "death cleaning" (döstädning), and
sure enough there's even an English-language book[1] on this.  The
idea, as you might guess, is that as you get to the age where your
own death is looming on the horizon, you begin pre-emptively clearing
out your life's accumulated material baggage in preparation for the
inevitable.  Not only does this leave less of a burden to those you
leave behind, it also gives you a chance to hand things down to those
people in person, explaining the history of the thing, what it means
to you and why you want them to have it.  Possibly even a chance to
see the thing's new owner enjoying it.  This seems like a very nice
idea to me.

The entire experience has really driven two things home to me.  One,
the sheer quantity of stuff that it is very easy to accumulate in a
lifetime if you don't actively make a conscious effort not to do so.
Two, the extent to which modern Western society is very poorly setup
to facilitate disposing of that stuff in a non-wasteful,
non-destructive way.  Matresses are perhaps a prime example here.
Even charity stores will not touch used matresses with a bargepole,
unless they are absolutely spotless.  A tiny stain in one corner and
the entire massive thing is destined for landfill, at great expense
to the disposer!  Meanwhile, people sleep on the street.  I
understand why it probably wouldn't work, but I really wish there
were great big warehouses where you could just drop off anything at
all that you didn't want, for free, and other people could come and
take anything they wanted, for free - and that there was a strong
social norm that this should be done in preference to throwing things
out or buying new things.

I have talked a tough talk in the past about not owning things that
aren't essential, and I think I walk that walk better than most
people with of a similar age, cultural background and income, but I
do think I have been slipping lately.  I am prone to extreme lines of
thought when it comes to how to live my life (this will come as no
surprise to regular readers!), and my first response to having had to
deal with a deceased estate is to become like a monk and own no more
than ten items.  This is almost certainly overkill, but I think that
having a cull of carelessly accumulated things after a year of living
in our new home would probably do some good.

[1] http://time.com/5063275/death-cleaning/


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