As we pass through life we tend to accumulate a whole lot of stuff. Possessions have a way of growing connections to us apart from the practicality of their use. These ‘things’ evoke memories and sometimes just give us a perspective on our lives. But part of maturity should include being able to let go. The alternative is that you may end up caught in a web of your own making.
With massive amounts of things accumulated over a lifetime, it is not surprising there are now classes on downsizing to move as well as downsizing in place. Hence everyone thinks they are an expert. There are services that will do what you can’t or won’t. The definition of junk becomes very broad in this changing world as simply – no one has a use for this. The millions of old objects that sit on flea market shelves lose their quaintness by the day. The millennial generation has declared they do not want our stuff period.
The Swedes have a cultural expression for what can only be described as persistent downsizing, DOSTADNING or death cleaning. That sounds pretty severe. When I first heard the term I envisioned a formal black dumpster that pulls up to the house after the hearse is gone. Rather it is a continuous process where you separate yourself from multiple possessions by giving them away, selling or trashing things that no longer “bring you joy.”
There is a new book out by Margaret Magnussson with the extended title of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Clutter. She recommends that this can be done at any age. She encourages the practice spending the last part of your life clearing the decks so to speak. Kind of a constant let someone else find some use in objects that once served us.
But the reality for many elders with large houses and properties are enormous piles of orphaned almost ghostly belongings. I was witness recently to someone who is up in years themselves, trying to curate the value of 50 years of a relative’s existence into paying for their nursing home care. Imagine keeping every nail, every appliance, every vehicle. I could get clinical and talk about hoarding, but sometimes it is just the inertia of having space enough to keep everything.
The generation that lived through the depression has for the most part passed on. Yet the, ‘I may still need it someday’, mentality lingers. Yes, auctioneers will find the items that held their value, but the environmental impact of trashing so much at once is onerous. You are doing yourself and whoever may come after you a service by hoarding responsibly.