I thought ‘Swedish Death Cleaning’ would be a fantastic name for a new band I’m developing. Five women, all over 40, each holding a huge garbage bag, sporting yoga pants, and giving you that well known flinty glare that shrieks ‘This Hoover is about to run over your toes’.
When they launch into a cover of ABBA’s “S.O.S.” we know they’re talking about Steel Wool.
Swedish Death Cleaning is translated from the original “Dostadning”. Apparently, it is the process of throwing out everything while you’re alive which your family will unceremoniously chuck the second you pop your clogs.
Now that I realize that there’s a name for it, that there’s a whole Nordic culture who hold with it, I begin to better understand my wife, her motivations and her long term views.
She not only knows I’m going to croak before she does, she is well into the planning for the liberating event. That tiny area I have been assigned where my pitiful collection of socks and gonch now reside will be in a cardboard box next to the ditch while my remains are still warmish. As it is, she heaves my shoes outside quite regularly given that they are the size of longboats and sorely interrupt traffic flow. I have very little doubt how long it will take them to drift to Valhalla or Helgafjell.
As for my 1200 books, well, I had to cull the herd severely some years ago and I’m down to about 500 now. It felt as if I was giving pets up for adoption. My wife, looking around for her horned cleaning helmet, didn’t feel the same.
Sadie Hawkins….Mother of the Modern Cheezie?
I’ve spent the bulk of my life attaching value to curiosities that no one else seems to appreciate. Obvious things like old coins & watches, yellowing family documents and plaques. But other things too. 75 year old suit-jackets that are sure to come back in style, eventually. Grandma’s dentures. A newspaper clipping of my Dad dressed up for Sadie Hawkins day. (When asked by my kids what Sadie Hawkins day was, even I was at a loss. It had something to do with L’il Abner. Who?) I have the front page of the Lethbridge Herald, 96 point font screaming, “Will There Be Enough Potatoes?” (Ok, anyone can understand why I’d save that beaut). A bronze ParticipAction badge, which of course I told everyone was Gold. Paper bags from 30 years worth of boutique purchases, in random locations, kept because ‘they might come in handy’. Two letters I had every intention of responding to, in longhand, around 1986 which I still keep handy in the vain hope I can get up the jam to compose a response. One of the intended recipients has long since passed.
Thing is, although I understand the impulse to make the cleanup easy for your survivors, I personally don’t want to do that. I really don’t. As they hump 60 pound boxes of old newspapers out to a truck I want them to think of the times I had to pick them up at 4 in the morning, staggering and covered in barf, hopefully their own but possibly not. Or the instance where I paid a celphone bill that was about the same as the monthly operating costs of Lockheed Martin. When his payment didn’t go through my son actually said, “It wasn’t my fault! There was no money in my bank account!” Genius, pure genius. I’m going to use that excuse one day, too.
I think of all the Dads and Moms whose cars have been wrecked, savings ravaged, their schedules vandalized, and hopes for one night of peace & quiet rendered laughable.
I think of ‘Team Building Day’ at school, a mere $20 per kid, at a far off Climbing Gym, for god’s sake. This team far more easily built by sitting the truculent bastards down and barking, “I am the boss. You are not. That’s our team.” The unused $20 will buy a great bottle of Malbec.
I think of driving to distant towns over snowy mountain passes, a kid asleep in the back seat, still in his jammies, so that he and his buddies can take advantage of ‘Ice Time’ at 615 am. Rather than wreak righteous vengeance upon the thick twit who dreamed up ‘Ice Time’ before 4pm, I shall heap inconvenience upon my offspring, and make them sift through a three generation collection of inherited hand tools, in rusty Second War Ammo cases. I am happy to report that there are Plumbing artifacts in there that look positively urological.
Surely every one of us does small things, one by one, over and over, until you look back on your life and can only stack up about 3 things you did purely for yourself. We do them for love and family, for continuity, and because it’s simply the right thing to do; somebody surely did the same for us.
Our Swedish Death Cleaning Squads, fully occupied in attempting to live-stream our Memorial Service so that they don’t actually have to be there, can spend a few extra hours reflecting on who we were as they chuck out what we kept.
Random Note Generator — Vince Ditrich © 2017 — All Rights Reserved