My parents are ageing. It’s one of those eternal truths in life that this is inevitable and yet it remains surprising. I’m extremely fortunate to have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) the love of my parents into their 70s.
But life catches up. We’re not infallible and our bodies are no longer what they were. And it was with this backdrop that I made my second visit within three weeks. They live several hours’ drive away, and my available time is challenged by a demanding job and a full home life of my own.
As I drove the beautiful journey through North Wales and down its west coast, I had plenty of time to think. One of the things I dwelt on was that, if they have to move house at some point, what will happen to the vast quantity of belongings they own. I recall helping them move house last time – ahead of moving day things came out of the loft that had never been touched since going in some time in 1977.
They have a lot of stuff. A lovely big house and outbuildings to contain it, but nonetheless a real quantity of stuff. A lifetime of belongings that represent them, their interests and domestic life. But – and this is where I have to face the inevitable – one day this is going to have to be (for want of a better phrase) dealt with.
As I stood and looked around the detached double garage filled with tools, bikes, lawn tractors, mowers, an old fireplace, my sister’s stand up paddle board and much, much more a thought struck me: yes, this is an overwhelming amount of stuff, but they’re not alone in being acquirers of belongings. I am not their son for nothing.
Now, as it happens I’ve also been reading about Döstädning or Swedish Death Cleaning as popularised by Margareta Magnusson in her book of the same name. And, as I took the drive to my parents, I also caught up on the excellent productivity Stationery Adjacent podcast where in episodes 51 and 52 hosts Justin and Stuart discussed their relationship with their own belongings and how they manage stuff.
So, as I delicately lean into the question with Mum and Dad, I’m also going to start work on my own death cleaning. It won’t be a project as such, but more a gradual shift to a mindset of moving on those things I no longer use. Sure, many of them – bikes that took me over mountains in Étapes du Tour of old – hold fond memories. But those memories are just that: the beautiful neural imprint of the days we have truly lived.
Time to let go of the stuff. And let the memories live on.