Now that more donation centers are opening up after being closed during the pandemic, it’s a good time to open up those closets, attics, and basements to clean out and donate what you no longer use.
For those at the upper end of middle age and older, you may want to go a step further and undertake what is called Swedish Death Cleaning. Not the morbid process it seems to be, the big difference between Swedish Death Cleaning and regular cleaning is that you are not just organizing things for yourself, you are cleaning your home out for the people who will need to handle your estate when you’re gone.
By going through this kind of cleaning process, you not only make the decisions of what is important, but you also take notes of how you would like your belongings disposed of. With these instructions and guidance in hand, the process will be much simpler for the person cleaning out your home. Whether it’s a spouse, children, grandchildren, other family or friends, Swedish Death Cleaning is one of the last gifts we’re able to give those we love.
What are the benefits of Swedish Death Cleaning?
Cleaning up your home to make it easier for someone later has far more benefits than just after your death. Going this deep in a clean out also makes space for who you are now and can help you resolve lingering emotional connections that no longer serve you. By paring things down and releasing past experiences, you make more room in your home for your life now instead of just how it used to be.
You may also face the need to downsize down the road after an accident or illness when you won’t be as physically able to clean things out the way you would want. By undertaking the project when you are capable, you will put yourself in a far better position to make that move when the time comes.
What kinds of cleaning do I need to do?
When we are alive, it is easy to simply store things in a closet and forget about them or to know the history of an important object without anyone else knowing why it is important. By undertaking Swedish Death Cleaning, you’re making it easier for others to sort through your belongings and pass on family heirlooms when you’re gone.
If you are like most people, there are many items around your house you don’t use and likely don’t even remember you have. To make things easier for those coming after you, remove these things from your home now. This can include:
- Recycle old electronics you no longer use
- Gift items to those who would enjoy having them
- Donate old clothing
- Donate items you no longer use
- Trash items you can’t donate or recycle
- Any items you have been holding for your kids but they don’t want
After you have sorted through all your belongings and decided what to keep, make sure you take the final step of keeping all important documents in one easy to find location. Whether these are kept together in files or in a binder, the information ought to include:
- The stories of any family heirlooms, their location, and who they should go to
- Bank names, accounts, and passwords. If you’re the one in charge of paying bills, make sure you include all that information as well.
- A copy of your will
- Life insurance, auto insurance, and home insurance policy information
- Any other important information you think someone will need to have to complete your affairs such as burial information or funeral preferences.
These papers should be reviewed annually to make sure they are current and easily accessible to anyone who will need the documents in the case of your death or incapacitation.
Where do I start?
Like many large projects, Swedish Death Cleaning can feel overwhelming when looked at all together. Instead, break it down into specific areas, step by step. Among your list may be to clean out the basement, sort through the attic, or donate old clothes.
When picking which item on your list to begin with, choose the one with the least emotional impact. This may be cleaning out your closet, sorting through leftover containers in the kitchen, or recycling a pile of outdated electronics. By discarding items to which you don’t have a deep emotional connection, you experience early successes and can see the difference it can make. This will then inspire you to work on other areas that may not be as easy.
No matter what order you decide on, leave photographs, journals, and letters until last. By the time you are ready to work on sorting these, you will have lots of decision-making practice and will know better what you want to keep or pass on.
How much time will I need to do this?
Swedish Death Cleaning does not need to be done all at once. You can take your time over months or years– doing it bit by bit until the job is complete. Instead of looking at a whole room, you could instead tackle a corner or even a drawer. The next week, you can clean out the next corner or drawer.
When you have completed a goal – perhaps sorting through your kitchen or cleaning out a crowded closet – remember to reward yourself. Try not to make the reward a new belonging after already cleaning so many objects out of your home. Instead, try an activity or a special treat with those you love. Going to see a movie, eating ice cream, or taking a picnic to a local park can all be cherished experiences.
Need help with the cleanup?
Bio SoCal is always here to help whether you’ve come across biohazards or need a hoarded or cluttered home cleaned out. Simply give us a call and we’ll be happy to provide you with a free quote and consultation.