Swedish Death Cleaning

Many of us have closets that are full to bursting.  They’re so tightly wedged that you get serious anaerobic exercise shoving heavy rows of clothing to one side or the other, desperately trying to clear a space to hang something, because you know if you don’t clear that space and try to wrestle free a hanger, it’s likely to come springing out of the crush and inflict bodily injury.

If this sounds like your closet, it may be time for a Swedish Death Cleaning.

That’s the grim name for the latest personal decluttering trend that’s sweeping Scandinavia.  The underlying, admittedly morbid “death” concept comes in because the goal is to try to make sure that your estate is as easy for your survivors to administer as possible.  Why make them tackle that jam-packed closet when you could just do it yourself now, and save them the trouble later?

Some of the tips involved in Swedish Death Cleaning seem pretty sound to me.  The author suggests starting by discarding or giving away bulkier items, like coats, to immediately clear space, giving you the feeling that you are already making progress and incentivizing you to continue.  Other tips are to adopt a “uniform” — i.e., accept and embrace what you typically wear, rather holding on to things that you might someday wear for a once-in-a-blue-moon event — donate the impulse purchases that you don’t wear anymore, rather than keeping them because throwing them out makes you feel guilty that you made a dumb decision in the first place, and get rid of things that have no “worth” for you.

It’s all good advice, but the trick is always with the execution.  What to do, for example, with those jeans I wore when I was 25 pounds lighter and hope, someday, to comfortably wear again?

And when you’re done with your closets, it’s time to give the Death Clean treatment to those drawers that are so full that you have to depress the clothes with your hand to push the drawers closed.

Feng Shui Shelves

When we sold Mom’s condo recently, our realtor gave us some advice about how to “stage” her home.  Less is more, he advised.  That meant emptying out the place to allow the rooms to seem more spacious and airy.  It also meant leaving only a few well-positioned items on shelves that previously were crammed full.

IMG_4216His techniques worked.  Mom’s place never looked so good, and we got an offer we accepted the first weekend it was for sale.

Whether it’s “staging” or feng shui concepts, the experts agree that decluttering is a key first step to making your home look better.  If it works on a place that is being sold, why not try it on a home that is still being used?

I decided to apply the approach to the shelves in our study.  Over the years, new books, papers, photos, and various random objects were deposited there until they were overflowing.  It was really bugging me, so on Saturday I decided to tackle the shelf project.  The papers were stored or pitched, the photos taken away, the random objects were thrown out or placed with more care, and the books were carefully evaluated for likely future reading.  We figured if we hadn’t read one of the later books in the Clan of the Cave Bear series at this point, we probably weren’t likely to do so now.  Through that process, three bankers’ boxes of books were taken off the shelves.

When I was done, I was happy with our work and thought our shelves looked much better.  The study felt like a better place.  A feng shui expert, or a realtor, would probably say that we still have a ways to go — but it’s a start.