Swedish Death Cleaning

I just heard about this technique of “decluttering your house before you die to relieve the potential burden on your children” from my daughter. (Of course, that is my over-simplified version of the idea.) Even though the name sounds a bit morbid, I completely agree with the concept.

Despite my efforts to eliminate “stuff” from my house on a semi-regular basis, I still have too much clutter. I blame it on lack of time, but I know better. I am a great procrastinator. If I am not in the mood to do something, it doesn’t get done. If I procrastinate long enough, eventually something important becomes urgent and has to get done. That is where I find myself now. I am feeling a sense of urgency.

My mother-in-law passed away earlier this year (29 January 2018, to be exact) at the age of 95. She was a child during the Great Depression and, like many others of her era, she had a tendency to hold onto everything. While her kids were growing up, she kept two houses–one for the school year and one for vacations–fully stocked with cooking supplies, furniture, clothes, etc. In 1979, they moved into the last house they would share in this lifetime. Everything from both houses went into that one house. Seriously, everything…

After she had a stroke, she came to live with us, her son and me. However, we still kept her house and took her there to visit whenever we could. Over the ten years she was with us, we gradually began to eliminate unnecessary items–food beyond the expiration date by up to nine years, clothes of her husband who died in 1997, some of her clothes and most of her shoes (almost 100 pairs), empty bags, etc. I guess you could say, we had begun the technique of “Swedish Death Cleaning” on her behalf–she was alive, but couldn’t do it for herself. It was overwhelming to see all the stuff that she had collected over time.

Now, as we get closer to the anniversary of her passing, we are feeling an urgency to finish cleaning out her things–donating, selling, distributing to family members who want them, and trashing what can’t be reused somehow–in order to put her house on the market. If only she had started this process years ago! But, the death cleaning doesn’t stop there. Once we have finished preparing her house for sale, we have our own possessions to eliminate in preparation for a move and down-sizing of our own. This will be a major step toward doing some death cleaning of my own. I can’t wait to be free from the burden of stuff! I know my descendants will appreciate it, too. Time to let go!

For more information about Swedish Death Cleaning, you might want to read about it here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/gyanyankovich/what-is-swedish-death-cleaning

My Mother’s Hands

Whenever I think about my parents, both passed on for over a decade, thoughts of my father come into my mind first. He always seemed larger than life to me. He was the one I wanted to please, to make proud. My mother was more reserved, but she played an equally important role in making me the person I am today.

My mother’s hands were always busy. She kept our home clean and comfortable. She cooked, canned, and baked, filling our house with the most delightful aromas. She sewed a lot of our clothes. She maintained the household on a strict budget, but I for one never wanted for anything. Like all stay-at-home moms, she was also resident nurse, chauffeur, playmate, teacher, disciplinarian (until Dad got home), and so much more.

Even when she had “down” time, my mother’s hands were busy creating one handcrafted item after another. She always seemed to have a ball of yarn near her with which she would work, knitting or crocheting, tirelessly and lovingly, into this afghan, or that sweater, or those slippers, hats or scarves. She embroidered and did latch hook, creating both wall art and items for use in our home. She painted by number and enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles. She learned the art of ceramics and made serving dishes for her holiday table. Once she made a quilt top, wedding ring pattern, out of fabric remnants, but she never finished it. (The work of finishing her quilt is now in my hands, but that is a tale for another time.)

Her talents for handcrafting, cooking, and keeping house have passed down to her daughters and granddaughters in varying degrees, but my mother’s hands continue their work through each of us, just as her mother’s before her, and on through the ages of women who I call ancestors.

What do you remember about the work of your own mother’s hands? How has her work influenced your life? Let your family know of this legacy. Write it down.

Joining Genealogy Societies

Before attending my first big genealogy conference in 2013, I had no idea of the number of genealogy and historical societies in existence. They come in all shapes and societies, covering a wide variety of ethnic groups and geographical areas–the world, in fact! Since this discovery I have joined at least 15 different societies. Why? Good question… and I have a pretty good answer.

Genealogical and historical societies are the caretakers of the records of the past. They preserve and share unique collections and databases, at times only accessible to members. The journals and newsletters they produce are full of wonderful stories and information pertinent to the area or ethnic group they represent. Besides sharing information, some journal articles are designed to teach methodologies, to demonstrate quality research. Most societies sponsor seminars, workshops, conferences, webinars, etc., all for the purpose of advancing the goals of genealogists everywhere. Often, society membership means a discount in event registration and on purchases at their store, if there is one.

Most of the societies I have joined are located hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from where I live. Even so, I have found my membership to be invaluable. Joining a society near me has provided me a chance to give back to the genealogical community through volunteerism, but there are many other rewards for membership. I have joined societies for every different state, sometimes county, in which my ancestors lived in order to have access to their special collections and to connect with others in the society who may have shared lineage with me. I have joined ethnic societies to help learn more about my ancestors’ customs, language, and life in their ancestral homeland. I have joined lineage societies to prove my research and to support their missions. I have joined professional societies in order to advance my efforts in developing a part-time business doing something I love.

If you are at all interested in family history research, I definitely recommend joining a society in your area, or anywhere your ancestors lived. You may even find family you never knew you had!

Every Journey Has Its Bumps

I don’t know if it is Murphy’s Law, but it seems that no matter how you travel or where you go, you are bound to experience a few bumps along the way. Maybe your flight is delayed, or there is turbulence, or your luggage doesn’t arrive when you do. Maybe you accidentally take a wrong turn, miss an exit, or hit a few potholes. Maybe you get sick at the most inopportune times. What is life without its bumps?

My journey to certification with BCG (Board for Certification of Genealogists) is now almost eight months long. Before attending the 2019 FGS Conference in Ft. Wayne, IN, a few weeks ago, I was feeling pretty good about my research progress. My one area of concern had to do with my case study, so I went by the BCG booth and asked about it. Here comes the big bump!

My case study topic, while an interesting and worthwhile one for our family’s information, does not qualify as a case study for my portfolio. Ugh! I was afraid of that! Wait, was that a bump, or did I actually lose a tire?  What to do? Replace the tire and move on, of course.

Choosing the topic for one’s case study is often the most difficult part of any certification journey, or so I’ve been told. This is definitely true in my case. I am still trying to find that perfect “tire”–one that fits the BCG criteria for a case study, one that is new, one that will take me all the way to the end of this road to certification. In the meantime, I have other writing I can do. And… if need be, I can always request an extension. Thank you, BCG!