How I nearly kicked the bucket in a Swedish death decluttering bonfire
Take care when you set out to abandon your excess earthly possessions.
Take care when you set out to abandon your excess earthly possessions
I had heard of ‘dostadnung’ before. It’s a mashup of the Swedish words for ‘death’ and ‘cleaning’.
It’s the practice of tidying up and decluttering your possessions out of consideration for your loved ones, so they don’t have to trawl through all your stuff after you kick the bucket.
When I moved house not long ago, after 19 years in the same spot, I had the opportunity to do some ‘Swedish death decluttering’.
I wanted to dispense with some personal effects that I may have taken to my grave, but I realised that they wouldn’t fit.
When I’m cremated, all my corpse will be wearing is my pink shirt, my jacket with all the badges, my best undies, and a pair of slops.
To begin with, I put a pile of my journals on one side, possibly 20 years’ worth.
Thick covers of different colours, holding pages, and pages of thoughts and memories, ideas, drawings, musings, and dreams I’d transcribed.
A box of letters from all sorts of people, some written by me, some from people I’d loved. Photographs of several former partners. And other things.
As dusk fell, I lit a fire on the gravel of the driveway in front of the house.
When the flames seemed ready, I tossed on a few volumes and a few letters. And then the whole bunch. But they formed a dense mass the flames couldn’t penetrate.
I moved them around with a stick, to little effect, before remembering the container of petrol my motorcycling friend had left on the porch a couple months before. What seemed like a good idea formed in my little brain.
It was dark now. Uncapping the nozzle, I sloshed a bit of petrol onto the fire with a satisfying whoosh. So, I sloshed on some more.
The fire leapt up the arc of petrol, right into the plastic container. I dropped the bomb I was holding as burning petrol splashed up from the ground and all over the area adjacent to my parked car.
This is the kind of thing that gets onto YouTube, I thought, when the flames had burnt out, as I stood ready with the garden hose. My death decluttering had nearly killed me!
I added more wood to the fire and later that night doused a pile of burning ash.
Do I miss my journals? How could I? All they did was take up space. I’m well into another journal now, a new chapter in my life in a new home.
I keep a piece of paper and a pencil next to my bed. If I wake during the night, I scribble down my dreams to transcribe in the morning. They often tell me everything I need to know.
During lockdown, writing my journal has become my daily practice, my way of managing my fears and hopes.
Being able to throw it away when it’s done reminds me that life is short, and things pass, and in the end, it’s not what you leave behind that matters, but what you do with it now.