We have known about the doula for a few years now, the woman who helps an expectant mother before and after the baby is born with physical and emotional support. The doula extended the role to cover help for the dying as well and so the doula is now also the person you turn to when you want to undertake a death clean. In this role she is referred to as the end-of-life doula.
We regard the Swedes as being responsible for introducing this concept, death clean being a literal translation of the Swedish name for it, but it is an idea that resonates. People are aware that when they die someone is going to have to clean up their belongings. Usually family members. There are two reasons for wincing when we contemplate that moment. We feel sympathy for those who have to wade through the clutter of our lives, particularly family members for whom it is presumably a source of sadness. But we also feel that we don’t want all our stuff carted out onto the median strip for the next council clean up. We would like it to be dealt with more tactfully than that. Or so my Greek neighbour told me. I don’t think she has ever heard of a death clean but she has observed what happened to the prized possessions of her friend and she wants to make sure that doesn’t happen to her.
The solution is to undertake the clean-up of our lives ourselves but it is easier to have someone who will cajole us into decision-making and physically cart stuff away. Some people make it an opportunity to decide who gets what and give it to them early rather than late. Others leave notes pinned to things with instructions on what to do.
It has been helpfully suggested that it is never too early to start undertaking the death clean because then you can chip away at it for some part of your life, but I think it then begins to blur into the Marie Kondo de-cluttering program. We need to keep the lines straight and not confuse the consideration of what gives us joy with the consideration of what has given us joy and now might give it to someone else.