Stop selling our things while we’re still alive: Author slams death cleaning trend

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An author has slammed the idea that older generations should clear out their belongings. Source: Getty.

An author has slammed a trend which calls on older generations to flog their belongings while they’re still alive in order to save their loved ones pain, claiming it will leave their once-cosy homes like empty shells.

Writing in a first-person piece for the Daily Mail, author Liz Hodgkinson, 75, claimed a book called The Gentle Art Of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson has added to a growing notion that people should begin decluttering their homes early and sell off their prized possessions – all so their younger relatives won’t have to spend time going through them once they’re gone.

Hodkinson claimed, should she ever have to throw out or sell old letters, belongings and artworks, she’d feel like “my whole life was being consigned to the skip, worthless”.

“Why throw all these memories away? Although they may not be of great interest or value to anybody else, to me they are priceless,” she insisted, before adding: “I don’t want to eke out my days in a surgically scoured environment that used to be my cosy home.”

While Hodgkinson said she’s well aware the task of cleaning out a parent or loved one’s home would be “daunting” for younger generations, she insisted it can also be very therapeutic and a way for many people to find out a side to their loved ones they may not otherwise have known about.

Swedish Death Cleaning focuses on a method of decluttering with the sole purpose of saving loved ones pain once you’ve gone. Magnusson’s popular book offers advice on where to start, insisting photos should never come first as they can prove to be the most upsetting and sentimental part of the whole process.

Rather than forcing once-loved bits and pieces on unwilling recipients, Magnusson recommends throwing a party, and inviting guests take whatever items they fancy. The party can be a big gathering of friends, neighbours and acquaintances who’re happy to sort through kitchen utensils and little-worn clothes for handy pieces they may need, or an intimate event with your children, in which they choose the most personal keepsakes they’d like to keep to be reminded of you.

Magnusson also keeps what she calls a ‘throw-away box’ that holds items of sentimental value only to her, such as love letters and dried flowers from bouquets. She says she’s told her children that when she dies, they should feel free to throw the box away without looking through it, safe in the knowledge they’re not tossing out family heirlooms.

She claims it’s always best to tell family members about it, informing them they can throw the box away once you’ve gone without any guilt. While many relatives will no doubt find the subject morbid, she insists it’s worth speaking about openly as many will eventually understand why you’re doing it.

While she’s against clearing away your whole life however, Hodkinson insisted she believes in throwing out broken items and crockery with cracks in – a thought that’s echoed by Starts at 60 blogger Pat Daley, who previously recalled finding all sorts of bits she had no use for when clearing out her late mother-in-law’s possessions.

“Crockery, collectible plates, books, buttons, countless reels of cotton and an endless box of greeting cards for all occasions formed just part of the treasures she collected from 1929 to 2017,” she said of the clear-out.

Have you considered decluttering your home while you're still alive? Or do you agree it's not fair to expect people to do it when they're still alive?

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