You Can't Take it with You

A box of household goods to be donated to charity

I followed a hearse to my favorite thrift store last week.

The irony of that wasn't lost on me. I was headed to a thrift store to buy stuff following a person who now had no need for stuff.

I did have a legitimate reason to thrift though. This is how I find my vintage items to sell in my online vintage clothing store. Vintage clothing is also ecologically responsible, so guilt didn't have me by the heart. Not to mention, I'm a minimalist. Stuff has less of a hold on me now than it ever has.

But... it really got me thinking:

How much more stuff do I have in my home that my kids will have to deal with when I'm gone? 

As a minimalist, there is less in my home than ever before. But I still have drawers and shelves of things I still need to go through. 

There are Christmas decorations from twenty years ago in my attic that I haven't put out in over ten years.

Despite my best effort at being minimal, I still had stuff... stuff still had me.

The hearse, with its dark rich mahogany casket resting softly in the back of the car, wasn't as morbid as it was enlightening. Did that person's family have to go through their things? Are they burdened by it all now? 

Then I thought. That could be me in there. I could be leaving my family with tons of stuff that they don't need. Would they feel compelled to keep it in a nostalgic, momento-type way? I didn't want them to have to do that. Sure, they could keep a few items, but all of it?

The hearse and I turned down the street to the thrift store. It kept on going on to its destination while I turned into the parking lot, noting a line of people waiting to get into the store before it opened. I got out of my car and headed in thinking about the Swedish Death Cleaning concept. 

Don't know what this is? I'd only heard about it a few years ago. It began in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries and is the concept of cleaning out what you have now so you don't burden your family with it later. It's genius.

And it is so anti-American it's astounding.

There is a great book about it (that I have yet to get on my Kindle) called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. It covers all you'd ever need to know to get one's possessions under control.

So how do we combat our consumption problem? By being content with what we have; choosing to take in less, giving away more, and keeping only what works, serves, and helps us. This is what I try to do:

Hold Some: There are some deeply loved items and possessions to which we have an emotional attachment. It's okay to keep some of those. We should. But, just so you know, it's also okay to throw away yearbooks and old photos that don't mean anything. I know... sounds crazy. It's also alright to throw away journals and keepsakes that aren't really "sakes" but more "keeps." 

Give Away Some: The biggest blessing is giving away items. I can't tell you how marvelous it is to do this. There's such a joy that springs forth that it makes me want to give everything away. There are times when I'm tempted to sell an item or two on eBay. And that's alright. But, the gift of giving feels better than making money any day.

Opt to Bring in Less: This is where I fail regularly. A "less is more" lifestyle means not only decluttering regularly but choosing not to shop online or offline regularly. When I'm out thrifting, it is tempting to buy way more than I need - and not just for my shop. I'm talking about items for the house, the family, clothing, etc. When prices are cheap it's easy to think it's a deal and it should jump into your cart. This is where I have to be intentional. Do I need this? Do I already have something like this at home that works just fine? If I bought this today, would I regret it tonight?

You can't take it with you. 

While we should enjoy life - there will always be fun but responsible purchases to make - we should also be planning for the future. I don't want to burden my family with my stuff. Things that are valuable to me may not be to them. Actually, I know this to be true. They will not want them. I've already asked my kids about some items. They don't want them!

I'm lucky my parents already downsized - they're living a simple, minimal, and very happy life in their condo. But getting there took a lot of work! They pared down and we kids helped them pare down too. It was overwhelming at the time but the best choice they could have made. They did their Swedish Death Cleaning and we are all better for it.

The hearse will be for me one day. I want to live a satisfied life knowing I don't need much to be happy. But I also don't need to bequeath my silly trinkets - and collectibles they don't want - to my family.

I want to save my family more grief and be responsible with my possessions now.


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