• Kelly Morford

"Death Cleaning ... is it time for you?"

April 5, 2018

Kelly Morford

Trust ME: Mediation & Estate Organizers

My husband loves to be ‘THAT guy’ who neighbors can go to in a pinch for any pipe fitting, sprinkler head, gadget or tool.

While I can understand and admire his desire to be a good neighbor and friend, I personally see his habit of hanging on to things like old, used, low voltage lighting with the white stain of hardened calcium growing over the entire thing, as nothing less than annoying and quite frankly… SELFISH.

Yes, I said selfish and I am not alone in my assessment of the situation.

There is a clear generational difference between baby boomers vs. the minimalistic views of the younger generations who do not put the same value on ‘things’ as older generations have.

While older generations may truly believe that the ‘things’ they have hung onto for decades will someday be useful to the loved ones who will eventually inherit those things, loved ones on the receiving end tend to see the ‘mounds of treasures’ as nothing more than a burden they would rather not have to deal with.

Although the term ‘death cleaning’ may sound morbid at first, it is actually a Swedish reference to the trend of decluttering, at any age or stage in life, in preparation to ease the burden for others who will eventually have to deal with the things that someone else didn’t

I recently came across a book written by Swedish artist Margareta Magnusson after she dealt with the painstaking task of having to sort through the once sentimental items left by her parents and husband.

‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning’ is fun, easy reading that encourages an older generation to consider the sensible tasks of decluttering and how their loved ones can help them.

As a mediator and professional estate organizer, I help families work effectively (together) to handle ‘family business’, including the tasks of sorting through the ‘treasures’ of an older generation who has kept everything.

Countless times I have witnessed actual anger experienced by family members who become overwhelmed by what they see as meaningless garbage. Many times, these family members consider the inability of their loved ones to manage their ‘stuff’ as being a selfish act.

The process of working with an aging parent or loved one while they are still able is not always easy, but families who have addressed ‘death cleaning’ in some form, are far less likely to end up in conflict with each other at some point down the road.

If approached in the right way, death cleaning can be a perfect time for aging parents to discuss with their loved ones their wishes or desires for the items that they have valued the most or to ask their loved ones if there is something special they would like to have someday to remember them by.

Recently, I conducted a mediation between 3 adult siblings who had been in conflict with each other for more than 3 years over the ‘things’ that had been left by their mother. I asked each one to write down 5 ‘things’ they deemed as important and valuable to them that they wanted.

While reading through the lists made by the siblings, I personally identified with the last list I read that had one thing written on the paper, it said “What I would have wanted most is to have had our mother deal with this stuff when she could, rather than leaving it for us to fight over now that she is gone”

I personally see the act of ‘death cleaning’ as the ultimate gift that a loved one could do for those who will be inheriting the burden of having to sort through the things that were collected throughout their life time.

As for me, I got a few tips and tricks from Margareta Magnusson’s book that I plan to employ with my husband the next time I have to find my way around the massive pile of partially used PVC piping that he has collected through the years on the chance… ‘someone might need a piece someday’…

link: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter (January 2, 2018) by Margareta Magnusson

By Kelly Morford~

Kelly is a mediator who specializes in settling conflict around trusts, assets, personal items and real estate.

Kelly is also a professional estate organizer specializing in 'Transitional Life' events organizing. Kelly works with young and old alike to help them organize their ‘stuff’ now, so it is not a burden for their loved ones later.

To get more information about how Trust ME: Mediation & Estate Organizers can help you or your loved ones with ‘death cleaning’ or mediating conflict that has developed around the ‘things’ that were left by a loved one, please contact us at www.TrustME-pro.com or (661) 666-1664


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