Goodbye 2017 - Learn to love life cleaning

So if you’re into minimalism and hygge and positivity (and if you’re reading this blog, it’s a fair bet you’ll be into at least one of these), then you may well have already come across the Swedish concept of “dostadning”, which is literally translated as “death cleaning”.  Now, I have to say, when I first heard the term “death cleaning”, I immediately thought of Arya Stark washing corpses in the House of Black and White and that image still pops into my head whenever I hear the term.  Based on the comments I’ve read on the internet I get the feeling that I’m far from the only person who finds the name conjures up rather morbid thoughts.

Leaving aside the name though, my main issue with the concept of “death cleaning” is that it seems to focus on your death and making life easier for those who have to deal with your estate, rather than focussing on your life and making your death meaningful as a result of your life being meaningful.  It also turns the basic concept into a sacrifice, something you do for others, rather than something from which you will benefit yourself.  I’ve therefore decided to rename the concept “life cleaning” and think about it in terms of the need to keep your life clean in the same way as you keep your house clean (and indeed your body clean).  In other words, instead of doing the occasional declutter when you realize you need to or you feel a strong urge to, you keep the idea of curating your belongings front and centre in your life and hence to divest yourself of anything which has ceased to have a purpose in it.

There are lots of articles on going through the decluttering process, I’ve written one, but what I’ve noticed about them (including mine) is that they all seem to stop at the point where you take the decision to declutter.  So, as 2017 is coming to an end and I think many of us, including me, are thinking about our plans for the coming year and probably promising ourselves that we’ll get on with the declutter that most of us, including me, know we need, I thought I’d look at the practicalities of getting rid of your possessions so that you could put together a plan for what to do once you’ve taken the decision that it’s time to get rid of an item.  

Check if anyone you know wants it and give them a deadline to respond.

Point 2 is massively important.  You want to give people a reasonable opportunity to claim whatever it is you’re giving away, but at the same time you don’t want to be holding on to it forever waiting for people to get back to you as this rather defeats the purpose of decluttering.  Likewise, when someone does lay claim to something, agree a deadline by which they will collect it for the same reason.

NB: if two or more people want something, then you’ll obviously need a way to decide who gets it.  Sometimes one person will clearly have a stronger claim, otherwise, as far as I am concerned, either first come first served or names in a hat are both absolutely fine.

Sell your stuff

This one seems to come up regularly, however, I personally would be a bit cautious about it.  Quite frankly if I had anything valuable to sell (which I don’t), I would be very cautious about putting in onto eBay for the simple reason that I’ve heard of too many people being scammed.  I have to say upfront, I have sold some items on eBay (nothing expensive) and everything was fine.  I also buy stuff on eBay and I’ve only had the occasional problem.  I am just saying that I, personally, would be loathe to put anything of any meaningful value on eBay.  I’d also be cautious about listing anything of real value on places like Gumtree.  Basically be careful about what information you put online.

Tip for people in the UK (may apply elsewhere), when you list an item on Gumtree it automatically ticks the box to show a map on your advert.  Personally I always untick this.  This may be less of an issue for people in other places because in the UK, post codes only apply to very small areas so if people know your post code, they can usually take a pretty good guess where your house is, whereas I think in other places, they generally cover a broader area.

In general, while I still think there’s a place for selling stuff, both online and offline, I think the idea of making money from selling unwanted stuff is often pushed harder than is justified.  Remember that if you do sell stuff online, you have to make a profit after listing costs, PayPal fees and postage costs on which eBay levies fees (at least they do in the UK), which is quite a high bar to jump.  If you sell offline, you can avoid these and the hassle of postage and buyer returns, just be aware of the safety implications.  In either case, remember that you’ll have to store the item until the buyer collects it and of course it has to sell first.  This may mean that you find yourself storing “pending sale” items for quite some time and even “pending collection” items can stick around for a bit.  This may be OK if you’re decluttering (or “life cleaning”) slowly but even then you may want to set yourself some time lines for moving stuff on.

Just give it away

To be honest, I think this is going to have to be my mantra for 2018.  Although I have managed a bit of a purge in 2017, it’s certainly been my best “decluttering year” yet, there’s a long way to go and part of the reason for this is that I keep holding on to stuff to sell at the right time of year and then forgetting to do it.  So, for a bit of a laugh, I’m going to finish this post with a list of some of the thing I have given away on Gumtree this year and the story behind them (when I remember).

A set of plain glass bowls - these were bought for my sister’s wedding in 2009.  My sister was storing them in my house till she got around to selling them.  I had a chat with her about them and she agreed I could give them away.

A set of balloon weights - as above

A giant drill bit - my mum got sent this by mistake and when she called the company about it, they told her to keep it.  What for?

A bag full of random balls of wool - presumably accumulated over time.

A ouija board - no idea.  My best guess is that my sister bought this as a prop for a Halloween  party and it somehow landed up at my house.  Nobody could remember buying it.  Nobody claimed it.  Nobody knew how it arrived in the house.  Spooky...

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