Getting One’s Affairs in Order

On our island, across Puget Sound from the coronavirus epicenter, normalcy and strangeness coexist. Grocery store shelves emptied (but only briefly), patrons at the gym wipe exercise equipment with newfound diligence, and schools make plans to close. I’ve heard of just one confirmed case of COVID-19 on the island, but, given our close relationship with Seattle, it’s just a matter of time.

A few weeks ago before all this started, my old friend who lives on Bainbridge told me that she was in the midst of serious dostadning  (the Swedish word for “death cleaning”). My friend’s an orderly person, not a hoarder of the useless, so I couldn’t imagine she had much to do. We laughed about some of the items encountered, and moved on to discuss the political frets of the week. That was a lifetime ago.

Yesterday she sent a link to a poignant but realistic essay by Mary Pipher, “If I’m Going to Die, I Might As Well Be Cheerful About It.”

My old friend also told me how thankful she is that the coronavirus, so far, had not come for children – or even their healthy parents. I think of that with each piece of grim news – how terrifying to be worrying about the children or their parents – and I, too, am grateful.

And, as the acknowledged target demographic for this virus – being aged and having compromised lungs – it’s probably time to pay attention to what one would leave behind.

Recently, two different friends, after experiencing the sudden loss of their partners, strongly advised to organize what each of us knows – to share knowledge about passwords, bank accounts, bills, tv remotes, repair people, on and on – the unnoticed details of daily life. Oh yes, I thought, and then did nothing.

But now, gathering all this information seems an urgent task – not technically dostadning – but another way to make things easier for the left behinds. And be cheerful about it!

11 thoughts on “Getting One’s Affairs in Order

  1. I’ve been pecking away at some of these necessary thing but still have a number of closets and cubbyholes that MUST be addressed. I really don’t want to leave my kids a mess.

    • That’s a huge incentive – to leave no mess. I read a blogger I admire whose parents passed away recently – he described actually enjoying the process of cleaning out the house – like it hadn’t been onerous. That’s a goal! (Did you read the book about dostadning? It’s inspiring. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning : How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter
      by Margareta Magnusson

  2. I love Mary Pipher, and thanks for sending this to us. I do have such an accumulation of stuff, I had a goal before we left Alaska to get rid of something every day. I need to resurrect that practice. Heaven knows, I have far more stuff than I really need, and plenty of joy in my life without the stuff to spark it. Sending thanks across the water, and hoping you are staying cozy and extra clean.

  3. It’s so interesting that all of us are feeling the need to purge. I started feeling that way before the coronavirus and the coming spring. I’m still working full-time (from home, thankfully) and have chronic health issues, so having the time and energy to take on the massive heap of things I want to sort through is often monumental. My daughter and grandkids help when they visit in the summer, but I want to get rid of more on a regular basis. The biggest challenge isn’t clothes or shoes and such things but crafts. I make jewelry, design and hook rugs, design and make quilts, make custom stamps, etc. I have so many different areas, it’s hard to sort through. I think with age, I’m starting to realize that I need to focus on what I enjoy doing the most and let the rest go. So I’m finding good homes for many of my craft books and other related things. The more I send along, the lighter I feel. I hope I get a good headstart on it before dying. It could be a beautiful parting gift to family. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Hi Cate – oh yes, art supplies! That’s a tough one for sure – it’s so comforting and inspiring to open that cupboard and see all the things one might do! But that seems a good plan you have – to reduce to the supplies for the things you like best. When we moved I gave a lot to a school art teacher friend. Sounds like you are doing that. Our gallery has a few shelves of art books – people donate them, customers buy them – and the money goes to our local library. Just navigating all the possibilities is a monumental task for sure – hooray for getting started!

  4. I do love your cheerful house, Katy. It’s perfect for the cover of the “need to know” notebook. I’m so ready to live the uncluttered life but still feel overwhelmed at times in trying to get there. Time truly does go more quickly as we age. Your writings are always comforting as a reminder that we all have those similar feelings. Thanks for sharing so eloquently.

    • Thank you for this message Shirley – very much – made my day! And I have started to think about this (you are right about time speeding up – where do the days go?) in terms of how to organize. And that’s not so easy – I think it needs to be a loose leaf notebook for sure – with pages I can write on and change and move around while I figure out how best to make sense of it all. Onward with this project!

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