Should You Be “Death Cleaning”?
I’m currently reading The Swedish Art of Death Cleaning, and I was at first struck by how morbid the title was.
I, after all, am not looking to die for at least another fifty years. Usually, when someone starts cleaning out their things “just in case,” it can be alarming.
Then again, I love cleaning advice. I took all of Marie Kondo’s tips to heart — even the one about keeping your sponge outside.
Naturally, I couldn’t resist borrowing this book from the library.
The author, Margareta Margusson, explains early on that her idea of death cleaning is not sad, but a “permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.” The goal of “death cleaning” is to have as little junk as possible. Keep only the essentials for your stage of life, she explains.
We like to save stuff, but our stuff usually isn’t as valuable as we think it is. For example, I’m taking a class in medical terminology. I remembered I had some CD-Roms that were helpful when I took a similar class ten years ago. You know where this is going, right?
I went into the basement, found the boxes, brought them to my laptop, and looked for the button to open the CD-Rom drive ... and realized my new computer doesn’t even have one!
I should’ve just given away or sold the CDs ten years ago. They’re about as useful as a brick.
Yes, occasionally I discard something and end up needing one later. I need a new clipboard, for example. I had one, but gave it away years ago. A new one costs $5. It’s not a huge deal.
I’ve been cleaning, and I’ve got two categories piling up: stuff to sell, and stuff to donate. But the most important category is all the stuff I don’t bring into my home.
I’m pretty good about telling people I don’t need gifts. But I recently had to buy new work clothes, and not everything that fits when I first try it on ends up being comfortable for eight hours of work, plus about an hour of commuting time.
And then the Diderot effect takes hold: I need new dress shoes, now I need no-show socks, oh and a blazer would be nice, and what looks better under a blazer than a crisp, ivory blouse?
Fortunately I can thrift most things, so the clothes were affordable. But my closet, normally neat and organized, was starting to resemble a garden that’s gone without weeding for months.
I realized what I was doing, and stopped at a reasonable amount of clothes. A light blue blouse, which I already have, looks just as good under a blazer. Too much stuff can undermine a tidy home in short order. Plus, being content with what I have saves time and money.
Minimalism doesn’t just reflect your living space. The author’s mindset seems to be than an organized home creates an organized life.
For example, do you keep losing your keys? “If you find yourself repeatedly having the same problem, fix it!” the author declares, advice that is applicable in many facets of life. (In this case: put up a hook for your keys, and save time every day.)
Everything needs a place, goes her philosophy, and it’s a good one. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to do some purging. I’m not dying: I’m just dying to clean.