Set Dressing

washed out image of an old airline luggage check, an army of people approach in a uniform line, each of them wrestling with a tower of luggage, trunks, bags, and things. the man in front is fighting to keep his tower of luggage from toppling.
You can not take it all with you. (still from Songs From The Second Floor…look it up. beautiful film.)

One of the services I offer is Death Cleaning. It takes different forms, depending on the situation. Someone has died, and their home needs to be cleared out? I help manage that. Things need to be shipped or otherwise distributed to next of kin or people named in wills? I handle that, too. Estate sales? Nope, I don’t do that. It would be a conflict of interest to guide someone to let an item go specifically so I could profit on it. I refer out to estate sale companies, appraisers, and auction houses.

So let’s dial it back a little bit. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is a book I’ve mentioned during lectures, in general, and have referred clients to multiple times. The process as described in that book leads you through things like deciding who gets what. One offspring gets the sideboard, a friend gets the tea set, for example. Having those conversations with people about that (and whether they even want the things you’re offering) before your death. I can guide you through that. I prefer that, to be honest, but because of the generalized aversion to discussing death, it doesn’t come up much. The instances where I’ve been able to work with a client before their death winds up being a massive relief to those they leave behind. They can be present for the client facing death, as well as being able to be present for themselves as they need vs being swamped with someone else’s stuff and the adjacent logistics.

Backing up a bit more, death cleaning closely mirrors downsizing, but has more introspection, deeper digging into the stories attached to things. Downsizing, or as some folks like to call it, rightsizing, is another adjacent thing I do. Rightsizing pops up at different times for different stages of life. Gone from being a grad student to having your own practice, and feeling swamped because your files, textbooks, and papers are battling for space? You’ve stepped into a different stage, which means you need different set dressing, so to speak. Home go sideways when you retired? Different stage, need new set dressing.

That conscious culling is a thing I’ve gotten good at over the years, and backing up to the 30k foot view, that’s where the life coaching comes in. There’s plenty of talk about what you should have or how much you should have, but never really taking into consideration the context of one’s life, or the ways in which that context changes. Those wily context changes. Are they deliberate? Do you have any say in them? Sometimes you don’t. What do you imagine is on the other side of them? Who do you want to be once you get to the other side? And what kind of set dressing do you imagine would be needed for that stage?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep repeating it: Life is not a static state. It’s constantly in flux, which means the things you need in your life and the things you consider important will also be in flux. I see my job as helping you cut through the overwhelm, figuring out what is essential for you, and guiding you to create an environment to support that. (also teaching you the skills to do that for yourself for the next shift in stage you encounter.)

If this is something you’re curious about, try signing up for my mailing list. It’s a weekly dose of introspection, honest takes on things, and some perspective on getting a grip on your stuff (along with a bonus section on disaster prep). If you want to dig deeper, contact me for a discovery call (email me at the address the mailing list comes from because OMG the spam I get if I post the actual address) to see if working with me is something that can help you.