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  • Writer's pictureDee Crute

Could Death Cleaning Help You to Live Again? 

By Kate McGowan

If you hold on too tight to the past, how can you reach for the future?

By Cristina Gottardi

When embarking on any transitional growth, this question is often placed at the centre of our journey. We challenge ourselves to relinquish the parts of the past that no longer serve us in order to connect to the lives we dream of. But what if the future lives we fantasise about could be equally detrimental to our long-lasting fulfilment?

by Jan Canty

This thought has been at the forefront of my mind, as I declutter in preparation for moving house. Decluttering is not a new process to me, in fact, it has become a regular feature, as I have moved frequently.

Usually, paper clutter, duplicate items, worn-out equipment and home decor are easily discarded. They leave my mind and home feeling free and ready for the next chapter.

However, in what will be my tenth move in fifteen years, I felt called to take a different approach this time.


This time around, I, too, am different. Life has decluttered a lot from me in recent years, much not of my choosing. A serious accident took my mobility, car and career in the blink of an eye. Death took loved ones and life gave me chronic conditions, longstanding pain and a struggle to regain my mental health.

By OC Gonzalez

So this time, moving, I found myself looking around at my home and seeing a shrine to my former and future self.

On the walls smiling down, I saw a younger, carefree (okay... perhaps a bit reckless), global adventurer.

In a drawer, I caught my reflection in a running medal, as alien to me as my metal-stuffed leg.

On the desk, piles of former work papers were jostling for attention with photos of friendships that never fully survived a move abroad and the pandemic.


However, these past mementoes were only half of the silent items that cried out to me. In fact, the loudest was the other half, who tempted and tormented me with future accomplishments.

The Psychology texts from a second degree I'd paused during a dark period. The endless size 8 dresses from eBay I'd purchased during lockdown, were now laced with guilt for the money spent and that I'd never lost the weight to wear them. Craft supplies hoarded, even though I'll never learn to love calligraphy or crochet. Guides for another language I failed to master. Even a piano! Every item a reminder of my failings and the wastage of not pursuing any of the overwhelming options on display.

By Arto Marttinen

I'd read a while ago about döstädning, or Swedish death cleaning. A process popularised in Scandinavia for clearing out items in preparation for end of life.

Which isn't as dark as it sounds! If adopted early, it can become part of a lifelong process of letting go of things we no longer want to take into the next phase of our lives. Particularly if no one else close to us would feel any sentimental attachment or get use from if we passed.


So with this sentiment in my heart, I decided to pack for this next move, with all the anticipation of a journey. Thinking what items I would need to take with me and not.

Also, reflecting on how free and happy I used to feel traveling with nothing but the day in front of me and a bag on my back.


My ski trousers were the first to be put in the pile of the past. And not for any mobility reasons, I must add. My first foray in the sport, had begun with visions of me gracing the slopes like a Snow Queen. However, it resulted in me being unable to stop on the baby ones and grabbing the nearest man... then not long after getting escorted from the top piste on a snow mobile!


Quick to walk behind the ski trousers was a collection of bikinis from my early 20s that had more strings than a guitar. A collection of self-help books whose titles felt increasingly more ironic as they were tossed. A DVD that also failed its promise of a 6 pack in 6 weeks. High heels and low-cut dresses. Colouring pencils, crystals. I couldn't envisage needing any of this in the next chapter of my life.

By Johannes Plenio

I did keep a few items though along the way. A range of camera equipment. An inspirational collection of travel writing. And all of my course notes from holistic therapy qualifications I had gained during my recovery. With a quieter space, these items began to whisper to me, visions of a future I struggled to see amid the past.


If you are in a similar place in time and feel like packing up for a new life, perhaps asking yourself one of these questions might support you on your decluttering journey...

  • Does this item fill me with joy and nostalgia or sadness and guilt?

  • Have I used this item in the past 6 months/will I use it in the next 6 months?

  • Would this item be easy to replace if I regretted decluttering it?

  • Could someone else get more pleasure from using this item?

  • If I sold this item would I be better able to use the money and space it took up in my home and mind?


If you are currently in a time of transformation too, then I wish you a rich and inspiring time ahead. As for the person moving with me, I don't yet know exactly who she is, but I do know there is now space to find out. If she longs to pick up any of her decluttered interests again, then the items gone are easily replaceable. If not, then an exciting new journey may await. Though if she decides it's ever a good idea to ski again... please stop her!

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