Does the thought of losing your independence keep you up at night?
Imagine if your son or daughter offered to treat you to lunch. But rather than take you home afterwards, they dropped you at a retirement facility instead.
No warning, no discussion, nothing.
One minute you’re in the house you’ve lived in for decades and the next thing you know, you’re in a strange place surrounded by people you’ve never met.
All you have with you is your handbag or wallet. Your stuff — clothes, books, sentimental items, photos, your pets even — are at home.
A place you’ll never see again.
That’s how my parents’ end of life played out. Not because I’m the worst daughter in the world, but because they left me with no alternative.
How it got to that point is a sad story I’ll save for another day. Suffice to say, it doesn’t have to be like that for you.
Let’s Check Morbid at the Door
Swedish Death Cleaning isn’t all doom and gloom. Some might say the practice could use a rebrand, but I don’t agree.
Humans are notoriously squeamish about death. We’d much rather stick our head in the sand and pretend we’re going to live forever.
We’re not, thankfully.
Dying isn’t the problem anyway. It’s what we’re leaving behind that concerns us most.
We worry that our loved ones will be okay without us.
We worry that we’ll leave a legacy we can be proud of.
And yes, to some extent we worry about the stuff we’ve accumulated.
In her book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, artist Margareta Magnusson addresses all of those concerns (and more).
By freeing yourself and your family from a lifetime of clutter, you’ll be free to make the most of your retirement years.
1. Your Kids Won’t Hate You
Being responsible for someone else’s memories is a big ask. Especially when they’re in complete disarray. Sentimental items scattered amongst unpaid bills and laundry. Ugh.
Nobody likes cleaning up someone else’s mess. A sink full of dishes is one thing, but your entire life? That’s way too much to expect.
How would you like your children to feel while they’re packing up your home after you’ve passed? Happy? Filled with love? Make that your goal.
2. You’ll Prevent a Family Feud
People can be pretty unreasonable when it comes to a deceased relative’s worldly possessions. It’s understandable. These items remind us of the person we’ve lost.
The last thing you want is for your treasured memories to cause an argument or worse, a family feud. Deciding who gets what now will avoid that.
Along with allowing you to be generous, you can also think of it as a unique opportunity to enjoy your possessions from another person’s perspective.
3. You’ll Gain Flexibility (Not in the Hips, Unfortunately)
One of the best things about retirement is having the freedom to do whatever you like. You can go where you want when you want.
You can be spontaneous, travel on a whim and stay as long as you like. You’re no longer constrained by work hours or vacation days.
Creating a simple, easily managed life frees you up to live life on your terms. Nothing is holding you back or weighing you down.
4. You’ll Have Peace of Mind (Lots of It)
Retirement is not the time to be stressing about money. By now, your financial woes should be well and truly in the rearview mirror.
If they’re not, downsizing is a great way to get your bank balance back in the black, thereby reducing the risk of leaving unpaid bills behind.
Getting your affairs in order (finances, medical insurance, will, etc.) also leaves you with the peace of mind to kick back and enjoy your retirement.
5. You’ll Gain (and Keep) More Control Over Your Life
Death isn’t something we like to think about, much less plan for. Not planning for it, however, will leave you at the mercy of others.
They may well have good intentions, but if their beliefs and values don’t align with yours, you could end up in an undesirable situation.
Putting together an ‘end of life’ kit increases your chances of having a good death. It also allows you to consider your legacy (personal, financial, online).
6. You’ll Avoid a Broken Hip (Hips Again, I know)
What if you’re not planning to sell up and travel the world? Maybe you’re perfectly content to stay exactly where you are. That’s fine.
It’s still a good idea to downsize even if you’re not planning to move. Ageing often makes us less nimble. Downsizing means less to trip over.
Scaling down your belongings will also shift stagnant energy. Your home will feel new again. (It may sound woo-woo, but don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it.)
7. You’ll Save Face (Remember Bridges Over Madison County?)
What ‘unmentionables’ don’t you want your kids to see? What would you rather others didn’t know about you? Have you got secrets (innocent or otherwise)?
Some things are better left unspoken. Whether that’s to avoid causing unnecessary angst or simply because you’d rather people didn’t know, is beside the point.
If you do have any skeletons in your closet, it’s a good idea to relocate them while you’re still in a position to do so.
It’s Time to Channel Your Inner-Swede!
It took me under a week to empty my parents’ home. They’d lived there for more than forty years; it’s safe to say I didn’t do a good job.
(Heck, I barely did an average job.)
Imagine if your kids found themselves in a similar scenario.
Imagine how they’d feel.
Now, imagine instead what it would be like for them if you’d tied up all the loose ends before you shuffled off.
To be clear, tying up loose ends implies it will be easy. It won’t.
If you’re feeling daunted, that’s okay too.
Take it task by task and you’ll be fine.
Remember, if something is worth the effort — and let’s face it, this is — the hard work will pay off.
Okay, it’s time to channel your inner-Swede and get busy.
The sooner you do, the sooner you can jet off to [insert Bucket List destination here].