Friday, October 20, 2017

Death Cleaning

I have never called it that, but all my clients will tell
you the topic comes up in every job
that I work on.

I guess I should have written the book on it
 cause some gal has and will make money


The idea being that you clean your home - de-clutter,
before you die so as not to burden loved ones 
with all your crap.

I have clients that have saved furniture
 and mementos for decades 
"to leave for the kids".
Guess what?
Most of those precious to you things, your kids don't want,
and will sell or trash in the few weeks after your death.
and you will have made them miss work, 
travel far distances in some cases, and spend 
weeks sorting through your stuff because 
you did not do your job.
Several of you are shaking your heads thinking "not my kids."


So you wish to burden your loved ones so the cycle drags on
through the generations and you not only leave them, but leave 
them burdened with guilt over your china poodle figurine 
missing a leg that you adored when you were five.

SO here is the shortened version
of what I have been saying for years
 to all clients and friends.

1. Give your kids what they want and need now and
watch them enjoy it. If you are still using it ok fine,
but don't abuse the term "using" for just not letting go.
Why make them wait for it? 
Do they have to earn the right to have it now?

2. If you don't wish for me to pop you up side the head-
Have a will, a trust, medical and financial power of attorney
 and discuss everything with your loved ones. 
There are no excuses - It is cruel to NOT do this.
You're going to die- deal with it 
BECAUSE you love your family.
Get your papers in order, clearly marked.
Trash all unnecessary papers.
If you have set up trusts, 
you'll reduce the labor by about 80%
and more money goes to heirs.
oh one more-
please if you can, give generously to charity.
If your family is well financially, give to others.
Put wishes in binder.

3. If it is important to you, it deserves respect
 and a place in your home. NOT in a storage unit, 
or a box in the basement or attic. 
Storage should be holiday decor and seldom used, 
but used items like once a year turkey fryers. 

4. When it comes to saving kid's things, 
have them decide what they wish to keep. 
I had my two go through childhood keepsakes
 at the end of high school and shortly after college.
There were so many things I would have chosen
 that they cared nothing about, and the reverse,
 but these are their memories not yours.
I am storing for them a few childhood toys
that they selected,1 bin each and their childhood
 books in 4 small printer boxes.
Storing only because they live in wee apts in LA.
Once married - I'll deliver to them and they know it!
 If you're kids have families of their own,
why the heck are you storing their stuff?
If you demand they come get it,  
at least 50 % of them will say just toss it.
They don't care enough to store it.
Time and time again I've seen it, parents (usually the moms) 
"want" their kids to want stuff they don't give a damn about.
Also see kids who will not be honest with that same mom,
so as not to hurt her feelings.
If you think the stored stuff is soooo valuable, 
sell it and take the entire family on a paid vacation and 
make memories that matter.

5. Live with today's reality:
When my mom passed, she and dad had
 already downsized 4 times in 4 moves. 
Yet when clearing out the house I came across 24 
still in their plastic, Christmas tablecloths. All of them
were clearance priced, never used.
My folks entertained a lot, big neighborhood parties.
They always had scads of paper plates, cups etc
 all bought on sale for the next event. 
But dad had been gone for three years, not one guest
in all those years, yet she still bought "the good deal" 
out of habit, not reality. There was also a pallet of toilet paper.
sigh, that was dad

what NOT to do below
just so you can have a visual.
If you have anything remotely like this
get on it. Need help, ask friends and family.
But unless your fortune teller told you the date
for your tombstone, get cracking.
I'm a tough cookie- no excuses.

6. Have all your important papers
in one location preferably a binder,
and show your executor where it is and go over details.
Have a current DNR
Update everything if you make changes.
Consider how you would like to be faced with this job.
Every few years I review with my kids.

7. Make a list of friends your children might not know 
that should be informed of your passing privately.
Think blog friends? 
I discovered a few blog friends had passed
via a brief blog announcement which was shocking
and most upsetting.
I also once received a Christmas card with a note.
"BTW Greig died last Feb, not sure you knew that."
During so much grief, they may not remember that
work out buddy, or HS chum you still chat with.
Include phone numbers and addresses and keep in binder.

8. That brings up another vital task.
Your passwords - so that your loved ones 
can shut down your on line accts like blog, FB IG etc
and close up business dealings on line easily.
Go buy a cheap address book and  go
through alphabetically and list EVERYTHING - then 
show executor where it's hidden. 

9, If you don't want anyone to know something about
your past now is the time to go through it, 
deal with the memories and shred it.  
Again ticking clock..
If you have some things "uh.. personal"
you'll keep up until the very end, ask your best friend 
to quietly remove/destroy these items from the home
 right after your demise.
No sense shocking your in laws, siblings, or kids 
as they go through your belongings.  

This is also the time to write love notes to your loved ones.
Tell them every day of course, but 
receiving one last loving farewell from you 
may bring them comfort in those horrible first days.

10. Do not be shy about death wishes
Describe in detail your funeral wishes.
Do NOT make them have to decide.
If it is written down no one can dispute or argue,
(and many have and will) what is to occur.
The executor can simply flash the sheet and say
"Her wishes are to be respected."
My kids know who is to be invited ,
and who is NOT to be invited
to "Z's post existence" final sale.
That was assuming I went earlier than usual
as my friends are all my peers, so if I go late,
none of them will want anything or maybe even be around. 
There are a select few who have earned "first dibs rights."
Honestly there's a list and they know about it.
I smile every time I think of these few gals
 getting together with my kids and deciding what they 
want from the sale. 
I told Ben to have Rolling Rock on ice.
home town beer

NO this is not morbid.
It is life's reality. 
None of us gets out of this alive.
Talking about it will not make it happen
any sooner or jinx anything.
I wish to live as long as I possibly can,
and I refuse to burden my kids with my life's 
flotsam and jetsam. 

Celebrate my life and my love for you.
and yep there's even a playlist I made, but I also told Ben 
to make a playlist of what he thinks is appropriate,
it will be hilarious and meaningful I'm sure.

hybrid of words death and cleaning


Karen Ann said...

Great advice!! I've already told my family I do not want a funeral or wake, just a dog adoption event held in my name and funded with the cash they might have used for a bigger burial deal. All our friends/family invited to the adoption event.

I have started giving them things they really like of mine, too. Hopefully I have many years to go with them, but you don't know that for sure, so... onward.

Kit said...

Good ideas! My mother did all that ahead of time too. But I am finding it hard to wrap my head around planning for my death. :( KIt

oldgreymareprimitives said...


I love and applaud your idea. So many folks are so hung up on the funereal event. I do think there should be some kind of gathering. My folks said absolutely nothing and it was weird to just have them die and then clean out their stuff and fly home. For weeks I would forget sometimes what had happened. Their friends felt my brother and I were cold hearted, and they had loads of friends who wished to gather. BUT we honored their wishes.

I do about 50% counseling and 50% actually helping folks purge and organize.

SO many folks our age had parents who went through such lean and dark times and they held onto everything “just in case”. So we were raised with that mentality. My grandmother saved used string into these huge balls and there were bags of used tinfoil that she had wiped off and folded into squares. Drawers full. It never occurred to her she could not use it all up in her lifetime.

I really like a lot of the pieces I have and have sold off even more that I loved. I’ve enjoyed my home in all it’s phases, and I’m almost to my happy spot. Empty closets in all rooms but my bedroom now, nothing under beds, most drawers in pieces you see are empty or contain often used items like tablecloths, desk supplies etc. Garage has only holiday and workshop things used, paintbrushes, tools.

So if the universe allows me to move and go small, I can quickly sell furniture and bam I’m outa here. :D

oldgreymareprimitives said...


Don’t look at it as preparing for your death, you are not “preparing" to die. You are doing something very precious for your loved ones NOW because you should and because you love them. If you think about how much stress and trouble you will leave them if you don’t prepare, let alone less money to leave them without a trust, then maybe you can view it differently. It is a kindness. and in a way “preparing” for the rest of your days to be purposeful in the right way.

NMK said...

So true !!!!!!

Terra said...

Your advice is excellent. My husband and my stepmom died recently so I can relate. I am clearing out my own house as you suggest and have important papers in one place that my sons know about.

oldgreymareprimitives said...


Bless you for doing this and I’m sorry for such pain in your life right now.

bayrayschild said...

Thank you for this post. Makes sense to me!


bayrayschild said...

Thank you for this post. Makes sense to me!


Linda @ A La Carte said...

I like this! I have started my downsizing and will continue. I first of all gave my kids all the things I saved from their childhood. One kept a few things but not much, another kept a bit more but has slowly gotten rid of a lot of that as her home has gotten full with her children. Now I'm working on downsizing my collections so that things aren't stored but used or they need to find another home. It's slow going but I keep working on it. I have given my girls most anything I think they will want (china, silverware, etc) with a few things I still have that I'll probably offer them in a few years. If they don't take them, then sell or donate. I still have my Mom and while I got rid of lots and lots of things when I moved her she still has things that will need to go when she does. But it's OK, not a huge job. I find the younger people don't want as much keepsake things as my parents and I want. Good post!

Brenda Pruitt said...

You're so right and this is very pragmatic. Kids have totally different ideas about things. They don't want our crap usually!

donna baker said...

All true. I thought my kids would want a lot more than they actually do. I'm getting rid of it in my booth and it will take a long time because I have stuck back so much stuff. I knew someone that had a large dumpster in the driveway throwing out everything his parents had. He didn't want any of it. I wish I could have gone through it. I do give my kids lots of things, including money which I may regret one day, but if I can I will leave money to animal charities without their knowledge. Whatever happens, they won't have to go through houses of stuff. And, shocking as it may sound, I don't think I'm going to have a funeral. I'll just be gone.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

You are so right Z but I think I shall leave mine to clear it out .... after all, they shall be getting the benefit from the house and anything that's left !!!! haha ..... just kidding !! XXXX

Gayle said...

Such great advice! I tried printing your post so I could refer to it, but can't get it to work - any suggestions?

Amy B said...

Thank you for your wise words. Been thinking lately I aught to get on some of these items and am more motivated than ever to do so. Hope you're feeling better too!