IT’S ESTATE SALE TIME for my late friend, Lou, and there’s a lot of stuff to clear out of here. He was a guy who built things — custom motorcycles, wooden boats, experimental biplanes, travel trailers, a tiny house, and so much more — so he had tools and supplies instead of nicknacks, mementos, furnishings, clothing or other things more conventional folks tend to collect. Lou hated throwing anything out. It might be useful someday, even if it was worn out or obsolete. One does not casually toss aside objects that had put in a lot of good work. To him it would be like discarding hard working people.

So here we are, Linda the executor/longtime friend and I, with a shop and cargo trailer filled with things like 47 screwdrivers, three complete wrench sets, all types of electrical wire, leftover laminate flooring, lumber scraps, half a case of dried up construction adhesive, a box of unlabeled wall warts, bits of sandpaper, a pack and a half of tongue depressors, boxes of
various sizes and types of nails, eleven pocket knives, eighteen tape measures, and some tools so specialized and esoteric we can only guess their use. Or value.

Lou did bequeath a few items to his friends, but there’s a lot left. Linda is more sentimental than I am and as she goes through boxes, cupboards and cargo trailers she finds significance in many things and wants to “re-home” the stuff. But that’s a lot of work and potential shipping expense. And it’s a lot to have on our minds.

My priority is to just have everything gone. Soon. Estate sale? How about an estate giveaway? How about simply unlocking everything and driving away? Heartless, and not what Lou would want, but very pragmatic. When I sold my house so I could hit the road, I gave the furniture to a shelter for battered women, sold some valuable things on eBay, and tossed
the rest in a dumpster. I would be glad to do that with Lou’s stuff, but dumpster rentals have become ridiculously high. I just want to use the thing, man, not own it.

Swedish Death Cleaning

Swedes realized long ago that distributing your possessions while you’re still alive is far less of a burden on your survivors. They have a name for it: Döstädning. It’s not a grand everything-must-go event. Bit by bit, over the years, they cull the most meaningful items and give them as gifts to family and friends. In the process they rethink everything else they own and whether they need to keep it. “Yes, this item is significant, but these other things? Not so much.”

Although döstädning started in the realm of old age and impending death, it has spread to minimalist living. Those things you’ve been holding onto? Why? Are you really going to use them? Do they really enrich your life? Would your life be diminished by parting with the objects or, instead, would giving them make your life fuller?

Those things you’ll leave to family and friends when you’re gone? Why not do it now when you can witness them enjoying your gifts? Why not leave them with the excellent gift of not needing to deal with your stuff after you’re gone?