How would you feel if a relative or friend died and left a house full of clutter behind them that it became your responsibility to sort through and deal with?
Unfortunately, it’s all too common that relatives and friends are left to deal with someone’s clutter. I often meet people who have toiled for months, or even years, disposing of someone else’s stuff.
I was, therefore, very cheered to hear recently that this is much less likely to happen in Sweden, where sorting out your stuff before you die is something that over 65s are expected to take responsibility for and do themselves.
They even have a name for it. It’s called dostadning, which literally means “death cleaning”. It’s about letting go of anything you no longer need and putting your affairs in order so you are ready to make a clean, guilt-free exit, without leaving a burden to anyone else.
When to begin
Personally, I think leaving it until you’re 65 to take control of your home and your life is way too late. None of us know when we’re going to die, or how, and if you happen to become terminally ill, sorting through your possessions will probably be the last thing you feel like doing.
So I say, do it whatever age you are, and enjoy the benefits of living clutter-free for your entire life, not just the end stage.
It’s never too late to begin, and I’m happy to report that if you’ve reached the age where there is more of your life behind you than there is before you, the process can be easier. This is because you are clutter clearing with a definite purpose in mind.
Clutter clearing can give you a completely new lease of life
A woman I once worked with, who was in her eighties and in good health, had resolved to put her 3-storey house in order because she couldn’t bear the thought of her children walking into it after her death and seeing all her mess.
Every room was overflowing with clutter, and she had felt paralyzed for years to deal with any of it. However, she was determined to do it for them, and that kept her going, week after week, until the job was done.
The lovely thing was that she lived another ten years, and regaining control of her home gave her a completely new lease of life. After clearing all her clutter, she felt free to do many things she’d always wanted to do.
Far from being over, she told me that she felt her life had just begun. She painted, she travelled, and best of all, she often had her adult children come to stay because now she had guest rooms that were clear of clutter and available for them to use.
Clutter clearing is the natural thing to do as you get older
We come into this world with nothing and we can’t take anything with us when we die. At the beginning of life, there is no attachment to physical items at all. Psychologists have discovered this doesn’t start until a baby is 8-12 months old and it gradually gathers momentum from then on.
The reverse process is supposed to happen in the decades before death, as our engagement with the physical world recedes. Putting our affairs in order brings peace of mind and goes hand in hand with disposing of things we no longer need.
Throughout life, everything works better if you only keep around you the things you love and use. This is because the stagnant energies that accumulate around clutter always cause stuckness of some kind. When you clear out the old, it makes room for the new.
Living clutter-free is especially important in our senior years. Keeping a few treasured items is fine, but most people feel stifled by having so many things they no longer use and frustrated by their reduced ability to declutter when they are no longer as fit as they once were. It is much, much easier to sort through your things and let them go while you’re still fit and well.
Don’t delay – start today
Here are four ways you can begin…
- Give away, donate or sell anything you haven’t used in ages and are pretty sure you will never use again. Surround yourself with the things that represent who you are and what you want to do at this time of your life.
- Make a will. Or if you already have one, make sure it’s up to date.
- If you have any special items you wish give to others, list them in your will or, if you no longer use them yourself, gift them to the person right now.
- State clearly in your will what you want to have happen with all your digital assets. Appoint a digital executor and set up access to your online accounts and passwords through a secure route such as LastPass Emergency Access.
Lighten your load. Death is as natural as birth, and the more prepared for it you are, the more you can enjoy life to the full now.
Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2017, updated 2022
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