A few years back, the practice of “Swedish death cleaning” gained notoriety in this country. Despite the morbid connotation, people of all ages began embracing it to declutter their lives and homes.
If you’re at the stage of life where you’re downsizing to a smaller home (or even if you’re remaining in your longtime family home in your retirement years), Swedish death cleaning can help reduce the time and expense your loved ones will face sorting through and, frankly, disposing of most of your belongings after you’re gone.
Where to begin
Typically, closets, cabinets and drawers are where people put things they don’t use often – or ever. You’ll likely find them filled with old clothes, shoes, linens, kitchenware and other things that have accumulated over the years.
You can then begin to move out to things accumulated on your shelves. DVDs and videotapes you don’t have the electronics to play any longer are a good place to begin decluttering. Books can be more sentimental, but you can at least whittle away some. You likely have some furniture that’s just collecting dust.
Sentimental things can be the hardest to part with. There’s nothing wrong with having a storage box or two of old photos, souvenirs and letters. Ask yourself whether you’ll be happier if you save them. If you will, you can help your loved ones by labeling boxes so they don’t have to dig through everything to find items they want to keep.
Get input from family
Swedish death cleaning doesn’t have to be done alone. In fact, including your adult children can help everyone. Find out what they really want, either now or later. Then you can get down to the business of donating, selling or just hiring a junk removal company to take things away.
Make an inventory of the items in your household. Find out what has significant monetary value. Too many people end of getting rid of antiques and other valuables after loved ones die because they think they’re just junk.
If you’re leaving items to specific loved ones when you die, you may want to add these to your will – particularly if there’s a chance of anyone fighting over them. (Post-it notes on them aren’t legally binding.) It’s surprising what family members will go to battle over. Swedish death cleaning, in whatever form you do it, can be an important part of your estate planning.