Death Cleaning

26 Oct

Bob’s hat

The headline caught my eye. There is a Swedish word meaning “death cleaning”. It means decluttering as you look forward to your own death. As soon as you realize your own mortality, you start thinking about paring down the stuff in your homes. Sharing special items with family and friends or just donating them to others is a way we can prepare for our own deaths but also makes it easier for our loved ones when they have to come and clean out our homes.

On Monday morning, I arrived at work at the Waxhaw Creek Apartments, the retirement housing Wycliffe has in our Waxhaw, NC area. My boss informed me that one of the residents had passed away. Because of some software changes going on in our organization, I wasn’t able to work on our department’s receipts and had some time on my hands.

“Would you be willing to clean out Bob’s refrigerator and freezer?,” my boss asked me. Of course, I would. Off we trooped down to his one bedroom apartment. Contact had still not been made with Bob’s family, so we were careful to leave his goods and papers in place until they could arrive.

Bob lived a rather spartan life compared to most Americans. I guess living in a village in Papua New Guinea for over 40 years would do that to you. His home was filled with just the basics: food, clothing, books and important papers. It made me a little sad at first, seeing how little he lived with. But after cleaning out his refrigerator and finding the task quick and easy I found that I admired him more than felt sorry for him.

Bob spent most of his adult life working in literacy for the Waris people of Papua New Guinea. You have probably never heard of these people. I didn’t. But God knows them and loves them and created them in HIS image. He also gave them a beautiful language. And now they can read about God in their own Mother Tongue because of people like Bob who are willing to live without a lot of stuff so that others can have what is really important: God’s very words.

I went home on Monday and thought about all the stuff I have in my house that seems so important. Just cleaning out my freezer would take twice the time it took to clean Bob’s because it is stuffed with bits and pieces of this and that. I have something in every closet and drawer in my house. What does all my stuff say about me and what’s important to me?

Jesus Christ and the message of His salvation is the most important thing to me. It’s time to make sure my house reflects that.


Posted by on October 26, 2017 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “Death Cleaning

  1. Janie

    October 31, 2017 at 12:47 PM

    This is something we need to do! I like what your mom has been doing. Will definitely use that method as well as decluttering. Or minimizing like Maggie has done.

  2. George Ginter

    October 26, 2017 at 11:25 AM

    Hey Anne! Good advice about clearing out – but – what do you do when the ‘stuff’ you have is wanted by children or grandchildren, but they have no place to put them? Hah!!

    • Ken & Anne

      October 26, 2017 at 11:41 AM

      I hear this sometimes! I guess you could put it in a box and mark it for them for after your passing. My mom already has our names on the backs of things so that we can disperse them easily when she is gone. She’s been purging for years!


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