DEATH CLEANING AND MORE


No, I am not dying.

It all started with having the outside hurricane roll-up shutters removed; then all the windows were replaced with double-pane hurricane windows.  Some of the window sills inside in the living room and dining room needed repair which would require painting.   We might as well have those rooms painted; if we did that we might as well have the kitchen and cabinets done and that led to the entrance, hall, bedrooms and bathrooms.  OK, the whole house needed painting inside.   Before we could have it painted, we needed to address a couple of cracks in the doorway of the bathroom in our bedroom.  That required foundation work according to an engineer. 

Thus began our adventure in home repair!  Remember the movie, The Money Pit, with Tom Hanks?  Two weeks!  Some days we felt as if we were living in that movie.

A crew came to do drywall repair inside before the painters came.  For that we took everything off the walls, moved small furniture to the garage and pulled the furniture that was left to the middle of the rooms.  I also had to unload my book cases and box a lot of stuff.

That brings me to death cleaning . In  Margareta Magnusson’s book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning:  How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, she explains that in Sweden “there is a kind of de-cluttering called döstädning, meaning ‘death’ and städning meaning “cleaning.”  It implies disposing of a loved ones things when he or she dies but also means making life easier for yourself by keeping less and realizing possessions may not be that important.

After forty-two years in the same house, we have accumulated a lot stuff!  It has been like moving in place as we evaluate what we want to keep and what should go.  I am sentimental and want to keep everything yet I truly want to de-clutter. Two bookcases and one wine rack were the first to go.  Daughter and Son will each take one of my father’s clocks.  Who will want that wooden art that I brought back from Nassau years ago?  They will probably fight over it.   I let go of some books but can’t l can’t part with most of my old friends, especially my collection of Victor von Hagen and John Lloyd Stephens books.

The house was new when our family of four moved in forty-two years ago.  It  now has new windows, a stronger foundation and new paint inside.  And perhaps less clutter and a fresher look.  But the memories will remain – holidays, birthdays, challenges, loss, triumphs, laughter, tears, dreams, anger, rebellion, love, joy, peace and most of all hope for the future.  Cheers!

(In her blog, “Muddling Through My Middle Age,” Ann Coleman  wrote about helping to move her mother from a home with generous space to a one bedroom in assisted living.  She titled it:  Moving Forward.  Getting rid of “stuff” was not as easy as she expected.)

 

51 thoughts on “DEATH CLEANING AND MORE

  1. We’ve done quite a bit of that over the past 4 years. We are expecting to downsize to a smaller home and some of the stuff we were keeping “just in case” is out of style. Tossing the remnants of old hobbies was hard. I had done some painting but at the end of the day, I only kept a very few pieces. It’s not like I was Picasso. We got rid of boxes and boxes of books. The shelving on either side of the fireplace can now breathe and it looks better without being packed. It’s hard though. I can only do a few hours at a time. I can commiserate with the “scope” of a project stretching. I was going to replace carpeting in the guest bedroom but when I started looking, updating to current colors would require a complete room remake — walls, bedding, window treatments. I steam cleaned the carpet and it’s fine for now! I have stopped buying though. Or if I do something has to go out!

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    • We still consider downsizing to a smaller place but we are not quite ready for it now. The house is market-ready for now though! I know what you mean, when you start with one thing it just leads to another. Halfway through we sometimes wished we had never started. My closets are still full of stuff but that I can do a little at a time. Like you, I can only handle a little at a time. I don’t buy as much either.

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  2. I have been looking at our house and it needs some upgrades and making it more age appropriate. I broke my ankle five weeks ago , I can’t get into my upstairs shower and the stairs are a real obstacle. I have given it a lot of thought?

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    • Oh, so sorry that you broke your ankle! We are fortunate that we have a one story house with no steps. At our age I don’t think we could handle stairs on a daily basis. I hope you are better soon and can shower upstairs again or make those necessary age-related changes. I understand!

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    • Yes, a move will make you reconsider all of your stuff! And sometimes it is better to just redecorate as you and the Producer did. Once can’t expect to recreate the old home. The repairs were a nightmare as one thing was lead to another. We were fortunate that we found one company that coordinate it and found the workers who did work. I do feel we have a new home in some ways. I know you are happy to be settled in to your new place and have the yard transformed for the girls and looks great!

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  3. JoNell, I love this! I bet your home looks beautiful. Since you’ve been cleaning out, I have a bunch of old pics, for you, that were taken in Freer and the HARVILL reunions back in the day. I need to read that book you listed so I can clean out “Big Time” !!!
    Love you, Cuz

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    • Well, it has less stuff and has fresh paint! We also had a garage sale and took some things out of the attic and will not put anything else back up there. What did not sell, we took to Goodwill. Pictures are not stuff so I will take those!

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  4. JoNell, I can sympathise. When I moved from a 3 bedroom, study etc (although why a woman on her own would have bought that almost 3,000 sq ft house,
    remains a mystery) into a small 2 bedroom villa, I was faced with a mountain of furniture. And now I have my one-bedroom apartment, smaller but without any of the clutter. BTW I have never lived in a house for 41 years – I am not going to think of what I might have accumulated in that time.

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    • Judith, if I were alone, I would probably be in a one bedroom too. At seems you downsized a little at a time. I almost envy those who move often and don’t get too attached to a place and stuff. A small place can look larger without clutter. Plus there is less to clean! Nice to hear from you! Take care.

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  5. I really relate TV o your downside upgrade challenges even though I am not a saver. We hsve been in this house 40 years and just went through a kitchen revamp, window trim refresh, leafproof guttering,and a whole house automatic generator. One thing aways leads to another….

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  6. Those Swedes (and you) are onto something. I was so glad to be able to hire a service when my parents needed to downsize. It was much less stressful having my parents argue with the service than with us about things they wanted to keep. Good for you on de-cluttering so that your kids don’t have to deal with it!

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    • You were wise to find a service that would do all the work for you and you did not have to get involved. It is hard if one is downsizing to a much smaller place and have to choose between treasured furniture. We always joked that they could just have an estate sale when we are gone. At least we have gotten rid of useless and outdated stuff. Thanks for stopping by to share your experience!

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    • It is the memories that are hardest to let go, I think. It must be very hard to clear out a family home. We had stored lots of stuff in the attic (loft?) too but cleared most of it out and vowed not to take anymore stuff up there. One has to be in the mood for clearing out or be forced to take action.

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  7. Great post, Jo! Robert and I have so much stuff even though we’ve moved around every seven years or so. However, we haven’t moved now for the past 22 years, which is a record for us. We have accumulated too much memorabilia. And we still have some of our children’s things. Hopefully, we can pare down before long.

    I recall someone saying, – was is it Oprah? 🙂 – that if you are fond of something but are not using it, take a photo and get rid of it. I’ve been keeping that thought in mind even though I have yet to part with some sentimental objects. I did however, get rid of 36 volumes of Encyclopedia Brittanica. 26 volumes from A to Z and 10 Book of the Years. That was hard as I am quite the sentimental soul. My parents had given the encyclopedia to me when I was 14. So, I took a photo of them and the inscription and gave it to a family who could use it. Pleased with that choice.

    Happy uncluttering and fixing up!

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    • Taking photos is a good idea. Husband has done some of that by scanning photos and documents. Those memories and memorabilia are the hardest to let go for me. But like your encyclopedias, If you can find a good home and pass them on, it helps the letting go. You will know when it is time to let go of some things.

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  8. When Frank Lloyd Wright was designing his homes for middle-class people, he chose to eliminate attics, garages, and basements. As he said, “If they have them, they’ll just fill them up.” There’s a good bit of attitude in that statement, and maybe even a little contempt — but he wasn’t wrong! One of the advantages of living in an apartment rather than a house is that there are some natural limits put to the amount of “stuff” that can be collected. Of course, apartment living also has made the U-Stor-It people rich, so there’s that.

    I’m in the process of moving from a third floor, 842 square foot apartment to a 717 square foot apartment on the ground floor. I like my complex, and it’s hard to get one of the small apartments, so when I got the urge (again) and found that one was available, I jumped on it. Ten years down the road the absence of stairs may be good, and I honestly don’t need as much room as I have. But that also means that it’s chaos around here right now, as the sorting continues apace. I made the decision mid-October, and I’ll be moving December 1, so it’s going to be quick. I’ll miss my view, but what I lose in sky and sunsets I’ll be gaining in trees, so there’s that. And a quick move certainly does speed up the sorting process!

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    • I completely forgot to add this. I had Swedish grandparents that came to this country in the early 1900s, and we would laugh about what we called “Grandma’s New Year’s toss.” She believed that you had to go through the house at the end of every year, disposing in one way or another (donating, trading, repurposing) of anything that hadn’t been used in the past year. Some items were exempted, like photos, family Bibles, sentimental gifts, and scraps of material and such for quilts, but all of the “stuff” that just accumulates went away. I never heard the word döstädning, but it’s pretty clear that Grandma’s tradition was related. I’ve always followed her example, at least casually, but this year I’m in it for keeps!

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      • See, your grandmother knew what she was talking about! Thanks for sharing that bit of tradition. I think it is a good idea and she probably never had clutter. I took a lot of stuff to Goodwill and will be taking more as I work on closets.

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    • Mr. Wright was right about that! We have filled the attic up over the years but have slowly taken most of it down. Even those pull-down stairs are not as easy to climb as they used to be. There are still a few things up there but they will be surprises for new owners if or when we ever sell or die, whichever comes first!
      You are probably wise to go to a downstairs apartment now but I would have to lose those sunsets. Apartment living helps keep stuff to a minimum with no garage or attic. I never understood the storage thing! Good luck on your move. It helps to have a deadline getting rid of stuff. Stay warm. It seems winter has come early!

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  9. Came across this and had to giggle a little. We are almost to the end of our long ordeal of downsizing. We bought a smaller home in Georgetown the last of August and wasn’t in too much of a hurry to put our home on the market. But after thinking about it, we did put the For Sale sign in our yard. Knowing it might sit for months and we had a few things to do our new home before moving in. Boy o boy were we wrong. Three weeks into the sale of our, home and we had a contract. We had 4 – 5 weeks to get out. I had a major garage sale, sold a lot of furniture off of Marketplace, packed up the house and garage, and a multitude of other things. We made it to Georgetown on the 11th of November and the furniture followed the next day. The house is a mess but with a little time, no a lot of time, we will get settled in. So, I understand perfectly the Death Cleaning. Ever up in area, look us up. I can move a box or two for seating.

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    • Oh, I didn’t know you had moved – Georgetown is a nice area. I am glad you house sold quickly. Maybe it was best that you had a short timeline to get out and get it done without agonizing over everything. We sometimes think of moving to a condo or apart and really downsize but we are not quite ready right now. And then I would have to give up even more stuff! We had a garage sale and sold some things on Marketplace too. Now I have to work on the closets! Nice to hear from you. It must be exciting to start over but I know it is a lot of work. We are getting too old to do this stuff. Take care, Sandra! Hugs!

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  10. IT’S OUR STUFF AND IT’S JUST NOT THAT EASY!!!!
    We are all in the same boat. We’re paddling as hard as we can, but leaks happen so we bail the boat out. It just doesn’t make a dent in what you have. And then don’t even mention the stuff that magically appears in our boat. Dearest darling Jo Nell. I share your pain. I must clean up my act. I found an elegant white jug while thrifting the other day. Now I really really am going to send TWO jugs back in its place. I am not being noble. That white jug has to go some place. Like Scarlet in Gone With The Wind, the declutter will happen another day. XXXOOO Virginia

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  11. Thanks so much for the link to my blog! And I do feel your pain. My husband and I have always bought “dumps” and them fixed them up to live in them, so when we first saw the movie “the Money Pit” we thought it was both funny and accurate. One project leads to another, then another…..and before you know it, months have passed and your bank account has dwindled alarmingly. And that’s not even going into the whole issue of what to do with all your stuff in the meantime! Yet another reason to declutter and minimalize!

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    • I always wanted to buy an older house and fix it up while Husband did not, especially after he saw “The Money Pit!” At least we know what kind of condition our house is in and know its history. And we keep the yard simple and is easy to keep with just mowing and edging and a few plants in pots on the patio Yes, I downsized there too. We joke that we already have assisted living: he assists me and I assist him! We are very fortunate.

      You are very welcome for the link to your blog as I thought i described another step in downsizing very well. If I did not have Husband, I might be moving to a one bedroom place also. Your mother is fortunate to have you and your husband there to help.

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  12. That whole process is never easy – let alone encountering a money pit. Five+ years ago we moved from a house of 27 years (I think) … and wow … going through all the stuff. Then packing … and going through it again when unpacking. It wore me out!

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  13. Jo I hear you, especially on the life time of gathering our ‘Things’.. and we redecorated apart from a bedroom the whole house in the Summer..
    I am a bit like you with books and although I did declutter quite a few things and recycled them to charity organisations, My books although I let a few fiction ones go, My spiritual books which I have two book cases filled, are still there for me to browse through….

    Your own decorating and regenerating of your home sounded much more drastic and time consuming, with window replacements etc, than our paper and painting decorating spree..
    I hope now all is finished you can settle back and relax and enjoy the new space and feel of your home..

    Sending you much love Jo as you enjoy the peace and vibration of your home as you snuggle in for winter.. ❤
    Love and Blessings ❤ Sue

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  14. I can only imagine the amount of stuff you have collected during these years. It is ridiculous how quickly the clutter builds up. I am going to move to a different place, so I am tough on myself – when I buy a new piece of clothing, two pieces have to go 🙂 This is my rule of lately. We have many charity shops around. I’d rather donate than throw away. Pity we don’t have the garage sales. What a great way to help the planet!

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    • Oh, I like your new rule. It is different if you know you will have to move all that stuff. Good luck on the move. I hate throwing anything away too and I take clothes to Goodwill – a thrift store. Garage sales are common here which helps recycle things. Take care!

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