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We’re Only Renting Time on this Planet so we Should all do some Swedish Death Cleaning

By Tara McKenna


In the grand scheme of things, our life’s existence on this planet is a drop in the ocean. In the context of time our lives aren’t even blips on the radar.


The first house my husband and I bought was a two-story, red brick century home. If I remember correctly, it was built around 1912. We made the purchase in 2014, just over 100 years after it was built. 100 years! Again, not a long period of time in the context of human existence (approximately 200,000 years), but still, it feels like a long time to me.


When I stood in that house – we no longer live there – I reflected on its rich history. I wondered how many children ran through the hallways, or up and down the stairs? How many families had lived here? When did the house get plumbing or electricity? What moments of joy or sadness were experienced here?


What really stuck with me was how many people (I’m assuming many) lived in that home before us, and how many would continue to live in that house after us. We still own the house, and we rent it out. So, it will continue to be a loving home to many more people! They will come and go, live their lives, then move on. This trend will continue, regardless of whether my husband and I “own” the house.


The point is, we’re not around forever. We’re born into this world with no material possessions, and when we leave this planet, we cannot take material possessions with us. Yet while we’re here, humans are quite obsessed with stuff!


Sure, stuff like a nice home to live in and clothes to wear and food to eat are all great – and necessary – things. I like those things. But once our basic needs are met, we still want more.


As a result, we have too much stuff. Let’s look at what that means (and while these are US stats, similar trends occur in Canada too):


We’re obsessed with stuff (and of course, that stuff comes with an environmental cost), but we can’t even take it when we go! And when we do pass away, eventually (that’s something ALL OF US have in common), our loved ones are left to deal with the material things we leave behind. Anyone who has ever done this for a family member or friend can surely attest to the physical and emotional and administrative challenges that come with this task.


Given that we’re really renting our time on this planet, perhaps we can be inspired by Swedish Death Cleaning to live with and consume a little less. And, while we’re here, tidy up so it’s not such a burden on our loved ones when we go, regardless of our age right now.


Personally, I’m quite inspired by Swedish Death Cleaning – a concept that was popularized by Margareta Magnusson in her book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.


I realize it’s a bit morbid of a concept, but essentially, it’s about decluttering our things down to what we really need and enjoy at this moment in time. Swedish Death Cleaning is doing the cleanup in advance, so our loved ones aren’t left with such a burden when we’re gone.


While it might seem to make more sense for those who are in their later years to accomplish this work, there’s nothing stopping people in their younger decades to be as tidy and organized as possible. That includes paperwork, like having a will. It’s about getting all your ducks in a row, you know? You’ll feel better for it!


If you get on board with this whole Swedish Death Cleaning concept, you may start to think twice about accumulating possessions you don’t really need and won’t really use or enjoy. That’s better for the planet, your wallet, and your loved ones when you go. Win-win-win all around!


Enjoyed this post? Be sure to read this one too: Spring Cleaning? Here are 9 Tips for Swedish Death Cleaning