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Just because I am old, do I really have to let go?




Apparently at my age (75) I am supposed to start cleaning my house of clutter. In her book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” Margareta Magnusson advises, “Get rid of stuff now, so your children won’t have to.”

 

Magnusson, who says her age is between 80 and 100, believes as our date of departure from earth grows closer, we should take the time to make our home nice and orderly.

 

I am not planning to depart from this earth any time soon, but I am getting older. We bought a new mattress last month, and the salesman boasted the model had a 25-year warranty. “Unless the mattress folds into a coffin, that warranty is not a selling point,” I replied.

 

Magnusson cheerfully provides tips on getting rid of clutter. Start with a category of stuff that is simple, easy to handle and doesn’t have too much sentimental connection, she advises.

 

So I started with socks.

 

I have 47 pairs of athletic socks. More than are probably owned by Serena and Venus Williams, combined. My collection includes crew socks, ankle socks and no-show socks. Am I a world-class athlete who must regularly change footwear as I compete around the world? No. I do like to walk and play pickleball, but neither past time requires 47 pairs of socksI will donate most to a homeless shelter.

 

Buoyed by my sock effort, I moved onto shoes. It turns out I have 17 pairs of shoes, the majority of which are black. I have black high heels, low heels, no heels, sandals, black shoes with decorations, black shoes without decorations—after socks, black shoes comprise my largest category of clothing items. 

 

I have kept all these shoes to ensure I always have the proper footwear for any type of event I might attend. I may not have a sentimental attachment to my 10-year-old, low-heeled black pumps, but what if I get invited to a semi-formal dinner or, more likely, must attend a funeral? Do I risk throwing out an appropriate pair of shoes?  

 

I decided to keep the black shoes but jettison any shoes with laces (keeping just two pairs of athletic sneakers). Slip on footwear is my go to choice now.  

 

By this time I am exhausted. And I have not even tackled the biggest items requiring much more thought: family photos, memorabilia, paper ephemera (like the response from the late Sen. Byrd to a letter son Nick wrote at age 9 questioning the decision to put a highway through our farm), knick-knacks, paintings, furniture. 

 

The depressing thought of dealing with all the clutter that is in our very large farmhouse deters me from tidying up.                   

 

Magnusson warns careful, thoughtful death cleaning takes many, many hours. I am not willing to put in the time. I would rather spend my remaining years enjoying pursuits like pickleball or jigsaw puzzles or streaming movies.

 

I have an alternative to Swedish Death Cleaning from the Travelers (gypsies) of Ireland. When a family member dies, possessions unwanted by the immediate family are burned.

 

I am going to attach the local regulations for burn piles in Jefferson County to my will. My kids can then burn what they don’t want, including what’s left in my sock drawer and whatever remains of my black shoe collection.

 

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