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Armijo: Clean like there’s no tomorrow

Many of us have already begun our Spring cleaning rituals. We have cleaned and organized the garage. We have dug deep into that drawer filled with random batteries and other things we “thought” we might need one day. Some of us have even shampooed and groomed our furry friends but how would you clean if there were no tomorrow?

It may sound a bit morbid, but the practice of “Swedish death cleaning” is a very popular and effective method of therapy for many people. This practice, which sounds very negative by name is very practical, especially for Americans. Americans have a habit of holding onto just about everything they come across until they have piles of things in storage that never get used.

Swedish death cleaning is a practice of cleaning with a goal to get rid of clutter and focus on necessities instead of just holding onto everything. Quite simply it is the practice of getting rid of all that you do not need so nobody else has to do it if you were to pass. It is a process of simplifying one’s life.

The name may not be the most pleasing, but the effect it has for many people are extremely positive. Some that practice this type of cleaning have been able to think clearer after removing the clutter that previously surrounded them. There is an old saying that, “you can always tell how a person thinks by the cleanliness of their car, house, garage, or personal areas.” I’ve had friends who would open their car door and fast food wrappers and garbage spilled out. These same friends were intelligent but often could not focus on anything specific when needed.

There is a psychological component to cleaning and letting go of things we no longer use or need. A clean and organized living or workspace allows one to declutter their mind as well. We all know the wonderful feeling of coming home to a clean house after a long vacation. How much better would you feel if you could rid yourself of things you no longer use?

For example, yesterday my wife was cleaning our closet and found an old knee brace from a past surgery that I held onto. It was prescription-based equipment and I held on to it for the past 10 years because I thought maybe one day I might need it again, fully aware that I would be given a new one should I require knee surgery in the future. We have a tendency to hold onto things we don’t need using a “just in case” mentality. This is why most have that junk drawer filled with batteries, cables, phone chargers, or things we don’t really need to hold onto.

Elon Musk recently made waves for stating that he was giving up his material possessions, including his home, which was listed for sale a few days later. Now we do not need to take such drastic measures but Musk is right when he stated that “possessions weigh you down.” In our country, our measure of success has typically been measured by how many possessions and how much money we have. This is a belief that the millennials have begun to shed.

Prior to this pandemic, millennials had been the scapegoat for economic woes. They were blamed for not buying houses and cars like previous generations or for jumping from job to job. The truth is the jobs that existed in previous generations were no longer available.

As we have found out in the last few months, there is no longer such a thing as job security. Corporations by definition are not in the business of helping their employees — they are in the business of making money. Many millennials recognized this from the get-go and decided to change the game by creating things they could enjoy without having to tie themselves down, such as the subscription-based services we use today.

The opposite has been true of the Baby Boomers. They have been the largest population of wealth holders for a long time. They are usually the biggest purchasers of material goods and have a lot of “stuff” stored away. I believe this is because their parents endured the Great Depression and had a mentality of scarcity which caused more of a hoarding type mentality for the Baby Boomers.

To be clear, I am not stating one generation is better than the other. I’m just stating the generational difference in the approach to material possessions and the mindset that got them there. I believe the current pause taking place on this planet is allowing us to transition from a material-based mindset to a more interpersonal mindset. Perhaps the need to get more and more possessions will be replaced by a need or desire to help others.

So practice cleaning like there is no tomorrow. Take a look at all your “stuff” and touch each piece of it and see what items still feel special to you and get rid of those that do not. The benefit of cleaning with this purpose in mind is that one can reduce the clutter and focus on the really important things in life. In addition, one may feel happier, less encumbered, and more in control of their life and less dependent on obtaining “stuff” to fill a void. Now is the perfect time to declutter your life.

“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.” — Chuck Palahniuk


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