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  • Betsy Singleton Snyder

How Not to Sweep Stuff Under the Rug

I recently bought a book titled, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.” No kidding.

It’s not a murder mystery, or a cultural reference tome. It’s not about Swedish cleaning products. Instead, the premise is based on two Swedish words that mean “death” and “cleaning.” These are not two of my favorite words.

The writer suggests that we remove unnecessary things to make our house nice and orderly, especially if we’re getting older. Parents of young children are hopefully years away from eliminating belongings because of old age and the approaching great-beyond. Yet some day, all the stuff we families have accumulated or stored in cubbies and attics must go somewhere.

Did I mention that I have a problem with Legos? I don’t struggle near enough with leaving them on the store shelf. Have you noticed Legos are so cool, and there are so many minis? They are so full of creative potential, and a great kinesthetic learning tool, right? And I see you nodding because you are with me, and I feel certain you want to encourage STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities too? I think I just fell off the stuff wagon. Sorry about that.

With the subtitle, “How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, “ this hopeful book offered me a liberating picture of simplifying my life, one that I can try to put into action now.

So, Legos aside, what am I to do with the “too-much” inhabiting my life. Some parents are terrific organizers, and I applaud them. Others, like me, struggle. I confess that I love the idea of decluttering, more than decluttering. Truly, I can do large junk probes through my house and pick up massive amounts of stuff, throw away old mail and papers, and hide things behind shelves. I can often disguise the mess, but, with four young boys, it is always threatening to reappear, and it does. I struggle with my stuff, my husband’s, and my kids’.

Most of us do have too much, and need to do a big sweep, and not under the rug. We have items we no longer use, that no longer give us joy, and that lead to stress, frustration, and sometimes anger, as we complain bitterly about the endless pool of stuff in which we are drowning.

There are plenty of wonderful, creative ideas in decorating books, on Pinterest, or through Etsy to spark how to save treasures like children’s art, family photos, and mementos in book form, e-storage, and fresh ways that allow us to see and experience sentimental objects. We have the technology to better curate what we want to keep these days.

Above all, if we make it a habit to sift, and not to sweep under the rug, we have something to teach our children. Wouldn’t it be nice if we big people and our families began to think not only about what we need, but what can be given away to others who might need it more? Wouldn’t it be lovely to see our children learn to sort through what is meaningful and what takes up unnecessary space that could be shared with others?

I’m starting to realize that decluttering is also about loving one another more than the stuff that inhabits the house. And the home is really the people who, minus the burden of too-many possessions, have extra time to spend together.

(This blog first appeared in my column, Parent-ish in Little Rock Family Magazine.)

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