I’VE BEEN Swedish Death Cleaning. With the same intensity I once “nested” during pregnancy, I now find myself operating in reverse. I have a deep desire to get rid of just about everything I own and bleach whatever’s left. Swedish Death Cleaning’s guiding principle is declutter your possessions now so after you kick the bucket, your kids will not stand in line at the UPS store and complain to complete strangers about what a hoarder you were and how they almost fainted when they emptied your sock drawer only to discover a rusty Sucrets tin full of baby teeth.
Back in the ’70s, before it was a movement, my grandmother Swedish Death Cleaned. She quietly slogged her way through the house getting rid of all the stuff no one would want or need. She didn’t talk about it (like I am). She wasn’t dramatic (like I am). She just did it. Legend has it, only a single garbage bag was taken to the curb after her death. Her possessions were either clearly labeled for an intended recipient or easily donated. She is my muse. I want to be the cool ancestor who becomes family folklore simply because I didn’t keep bags full of bags, boxes full of boxes, or human teeth. My goal is to Swedish Death Clean until I can live in a yurt.
Swedish Death Cleaning is not for the faint of heart, especially if you are a sentimental maximalist like me. I almost broke down when I donated my sons’ dirty clothes hamper. Seeing that hamper in my rearview mirror, alone on the sidewalk of Goodwill, had me silent sobbing and hiccuping all the way home. That hamper bore witness to my family’s ordinary, and occasionally extraordinary, life. She witnessed my best days. She witnessed my worst. If that hamper could talk; God only knows what she may have seen my kids do. I don’t even want to know.
We are so busy accumulating stuff and looking to the future, we often overlook the wonder of the ordinary. More often than not, the things that take our breath away are exceedingly ordinary—our children’s laughter, a scent that triggers a memory, a sunrise, an old dog’s devotion.
When my kids were small, I dreamt I was strangled by little, white toddler socks. I woke panicked, gasping for air. At the time, I was exhausted from washing, drying, and pairing these tiny socks. I was exhausted from picking up little white socks from the floor, from beds, from the yard, from car seats, from toy bins, from bookshelves. I was lamenting these little white socks when I caught myself. I focused my thoughts on each tiny little foot that fit into each tiny little sock. I envisioned the pudgy fingers that peeled off socks and dropped them.
The holy mundane is the yarn that becomes the warp and weft of our colorful life tapestries. To honor the holy mundane, we must train our eyes to appreciate the beauty of our life’s negative space. Like an artist creates forms in the space around a subject, we can let our mundane routines reveal meaning in our lives. If we were to truly embrace the holy mundane, we’d never take for granted our family’s toothbrushes hanging in the bathroom. Slamming screen doors would become music. We’d pay homage to our favorite burner on the stove (front, right obviously). We’d see the simple beauty around us. Each day would become sacred.
To help T-Ann Swedish Death Clean or to get more information about her coaching, check out her websites: t-annpierce.com and theconfidencetriangle.com. She’s on Insta @tannpiercecoaching and @the.confidence.triangle.