If you had to hand over your affairs to another person tomorrow what would they encounter - a home or work place with everything in a logical place for them to find; clearly labelled and easily accessible?
Would they find possessions which are beautiful and had a real purpose and value in your life or cupboards, drawers, an attic and a garage full of unloved or unused stuff?
Having read “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson it gave me serious food for thought.
It’s a harsh fact but I conduct more funerals for people who do not reach middle age and often they die after a rapid decline in their health or sudden trauma. So it struck me how we should be smarter in how we live now and not assume we can sort our property and affairs when we retire. If we live to retirement we might be too busy anyway to get around to this stuff.
Completing the following simple tasks was a cathartic exercise completed over five months:
1. Sorted spring/summer wardrobe and autumn/winter wardrobe of clothes, shoes and accessories (jewellery, scarves, handbags, gloves).
- I discovered items I forgot I had which I will enjoy wearing.
- I have a simple system to switch seasonal wear over.
- Knowing what I have I will not waste money buying duplicate items.
- Items are much easier to see and choose.
Unwanted items: charity shops and clothing recycling banks
2. Sorted what was inside the airing cupboard. It was shameful how many duvet cover and pillow case sets; towels, bath mats, flannels, scatter cushions and throws I had stored away.
- I am using a variety of bedding and towels instead of keeping to the ones at the top of the pile or front of the airing cupboard.
- I don’t keep some aside for ‘best or visitors’ because I deserve to have the nicer items too!
- I won’t waste my money on purchases because I know I don't need more.
Unwanted items: Salvation Army hostel or homeless charities.
3. Sorted out the medicine cabinet, the makeup and wash bags.
- First aid supplies and medicines in stock are now within date. Make up bags has current and hygienic items ie mascara less than three months old.
Unwanted items: Un-opened mini toiletries from hotel stays and un-used toiletry gifts to a domestic violence refuge.
4. Sorted paperwork. Only kept paperwork within three years except very important documents pre-dating that such as mortgage agreement paperwork more than three years old. Created a working folder for current financial matters one for personal and one for household matters. I approached this from the eyes of my next of kin so that they can locate and access documents easily. I specifically created a “When I am gone’ box with important documents required in the event of my death including National Insurance Number; birth and marriage certificate; my Will instructions and my wishes for my funeral. More importantly my next of kin know where to find this box when required.
- I have easy to access up to date documents on key aspects of financial and household matters. This should make it easier when annually reviewing providers ie. utility services.
- Peace of mind knowing that my next of kin will not have to second guess my wishes and when required they will have clarity and easy access to information they will need.
Unwanted: Shredded or scanned and archived on a usb stick.
5. Sorted odds and ends. The drawer with those things which don’t quite fit in any one place from string and lightbulbs to buttons and tape measures has been sorted so that at a glance I can put my hand on them.
6. Sorted photographs and personal items. This task took longer to complete because it was easy to get diverted from the sorting mindset as I got nostalgic looking through pictures but it was enjoyable. I sorted them into separate albums and wrote captions of who was in them and the year and location.
- Family can enjoy the photograph albums with captions as well as keepsake boxes with personal items like first pair of shoes and school reports.
Unwanted: Binned duplicate pictures and shredded old diaries.
7. Books. This was particularly challenging because I rarely read a book twice but am reluctant to let them go. So I have one modest unit of shelves and the books have to earn their place to be on it. Some are classic favourites from childhood and some are what I consider pass the Desert Island disc top choices.
- The books I have are loved and earn their place on the limited shelf space available. My family know those books mean something special to me.
Not kept: Gifted books to friends and the local library and charity.
This was a focussed project but I intend to maintain this approach from now on with at the very least an annual review and sort out. It has reduced waste, helped me to generate money from car boot sales and passed on unwanted items to benefit others which felt great.
What I do have more now in my home are items which give me pleasure and have a purpose or benefit to them.
And I have peace of mind knowing that my family will be able to find what they need and make decisions about what to keep and what to dispose of when the time comes. That time will come - fact - but at least I feel I have done my bit to ease the burden for those I love.
Thursday 21 March 2018
Ker Street, Plymouth PL1 4EL.
Session costs £10 per person including cake and refreshments.
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