Once the fall and winter holidays are past, lifestyle magazines are flooded with a bucketful of articles on home organization, spring cleaning techniques and decluttering. You know it’s coming, right? As soon as the glut of Christmas décor goes back to the basement, we get manic about purging the excess in our homes. It’s as predictable as the announcement on your calendar of the first day of spring, with equally unpredictable results.
Swedes call a certain kind of decluttering döstädning, or “death cleaning.” I’m not sure we Norwegians have a term that’s quite so grim but the goal is the same: pare down your possessions so that others won’t have to do it for you. In America moving every few years accomplishes much the same thing.
But if you’ve sheltered in place for as long as we have? It’s happened to you too: so much stuff coming in with so little going out. For years you’ve served as a merry matchmaker for your walls (all those family photos), your closets (that cute top, the tight jeans you hope to fit into again) and your shelves (the collectibles that might be worth something in a couple centuries.)
So now relocation is looming, and the time of reckoning is here. That’s where Mike and I are right now.
Enter our fabulous realtor on her once, twice, and soon to be thrice compassion calls.
Once for a walk-through last fall, with tactful suggestions about stripping wallpaper from the 80’s and choosing paint colors that will appeal to younger buyers.
Twice for a whirl through every room with recommendations for removing excess rugs and furniture and coaxing our pictures to end their long relationship with our walls. Adding a love seat to give the sun porch a come-hither look.
Thrice for the final staging: shopping the house for accessories that – who knew? – have secretly longed to live elsewhere. Whiteware for the bookcases and a ceramic rabbit in a glass cloche. Paperweights for a bedside table and calling-all-the-teals together for an office party.
With apologies to the author of the current international bestseller The Gentle Art of Swedish Death-Cleaning, I have a few suggestions for Norwegian life-cleaning instead.
Want to break free of the bondage of clutter? I’m actually loving the process. Here’s what’s working for me.
- GET READY. Collect lots of boxes of various sizes from a warehouse, liquor store or your local big box store. Invest in some nice fat black Sharpies and a gun of plump package tape. Purchase tissue wrap from the Dollar Store and a roll of newsprint for the big stuff.
- GET SET. You know the three D’s of decluttering, right? Decide. Donate. Delete.
- Decide what’s in or out. When you’re tackling a room, have two boxes labeled Stays and Goes,. The Stays get a timeout in storage (those chatty books, photo albums, family keepsakes, and journals can talk amongst themselves). Goes have a choice of new destinations.
- Donate and do some good with the possessions you’re breaking up with. Haven’t worn it in a year? Stash the fancy or funky stuff in a costume box for your kids or grands. Otherwise It’s someone else’s turn. We keep a large bag in our bedroom and add items of gently worn clothing. When it’s full, out it goes. My favorite donation sites are those which directly benefit local charities.
- Delete the items lurking around your home hoping you won’t notice how nasty they are. Those baking pans blackened with age? The 51 plastic containers that fight for space in your pantry? That vintage chair that needs a good caning? If you wouldn’t buy them at your neighbor’s garage sale, don’t put them in yours.
- GO. Schedule a yard sale for the stuff worth selling. If you detest bartering and having strangers pick through your things, invite friends over to shop on a Saturday to take whatever items interest them with donations going to charity.
Cans of old paint or obsolete electronics? Google your county recycling programs. Ours is a drive-through facility just 20 minutes away where helpful workers remove the stuff right from your trunk. So satisfying!
Well-loved pieces of furniture you can’t take with you? Snap photos with your iPhone and email them to friends and family. When we move this fall, our dining room table and chairs, Ethan Allen sofa and a century-old bedroom set will all stay behind in the home of a young family from our church who are buying their first home.
A little end table hand-painted on Cape Cod is destined for a friend of our son’s who grew up with hin there. And the grad student who boards with us is already planning to scope out the theology books in Mike’s personal library.
As I’ve been clearing out the clutter in our home, I’ve been pondering spiritual housecleaning as well. The Apostle Paul urged his readers: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Peter set down similar instructions in his first epistle: “So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. “
Some of this junk isn’t cluttering up my life right now. But the rest?
It doesn’t take Norwegian life-cleaning to know it’s gotta go.