Time for a bit of Döstädning?

I’m not a big one for lifestyle concepts but döstädning is one that gained notoriety when a book entitled ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning’ (by Margareta Magnusson) was released early last year.

Given the title, you’d be forgiven for thinking our Swedish counterparts had invented a new way of processing the recently deceased, but it’s marginally less morbid than that.

Amongst other things, döstädning centres around the idea that we should look to declutter and gradually free ourselves of unnecessary earthly possessions so that when we depart this world, those we leave behind have a lot less to deal with.

In principle, this makes complete sense. It’s very easy to accumulate stuff, much of which is either under-used, under-appreciated or rarely sees the light of day. And if we don’t actively deal with it in some way, someone else will eventually have to.

Personally, I’ve never been one to hold onto too much stuff, so I’m sure my döstädning-ness (sorry Sweden) will be fully appreciated by my family when I’m gone. Saying that, I sometimes hoard stuff on purpose just so I have an excuse to take a Sunday morning trip to the local dump. Who doesn’t love scurrying from container to container hurling away those unwanted items with all of their might? The crashing sound of wood, metal and glass is like music to my ears!

I may be exaggerating a little – the truth is that setting our possessions free can be hard because they often represent feelings, memories and times in our lives that are dear to our heart. Margereta Magnusson talks about how to deal with this aspect of the process in her book so if you’re curious, it’s worth a read.

“What’s this got to do with money and finances?” I hear you ask.

A few months ago, I met with some long-standing clients for their yearly review and when asked what they wanted to achieve from that particular conversation (you can see where this is going), they told me they wanted to ‘death clean’ their finances.

I was a little taken back by this at first but when I regained my composure, I reassured them they were in good hands – I’d aced the Death Clean your Way to Financial Freedom diploma only the previous week.

Having read Magnusson’s book, they’d made a start on reducing physical clutter but now it was time to get their finances into leaner condition. Amongst other things, this involved consolidating various funds and pots of money and arranging them in a particular way so that they could keep track of them more easily. For them, the exercise was about gaining more peace of mind – taking fewer decisions, reducing paperwork and increasing time for things they really want to be doing.

More recently, another client (mid-50’s) wanted to focus solely on getting his affairs better organised for the benefit of his children. This man is young, fit and healthy but having had to deal with his parent’s estate, he’s determined not to leave behind a similar financial and administrative mess for his own kids. The true definition of döstädning!

There’s more to money

I’m experiencing more of these kinds of conversations with clients so it’s clear (to me at least) that financial planning is as much an emotional issue as it is a technical one, and that aligning the two well can be a recipe for a happier life.

We all know that acquiring material possessions and buying stuff doesn’t make you happy for very long. A lot of research suggests that the quality of our social relationships is in fact the single biggest contributor to our emotional well-being at every stage of our lives.

So, a certain amount of peace of mind can be achieved by decluttering your material and financial life. But true freedom is about planning a way that allows you to focus – and spend money – on living a fulfilling life built around relationships.

This is easier said than done. In my experience many find it very challenging to articulate their purpose and what they really want from life. Without this clarity, they can get a little stuck when it comes to making life and financial decisions.

Thankfully, however, there are experienced financial planners around (ahem) with good coaching skills who can help you get all your thoughts and objectives in crystal clear order.

Owning stuff is great but it’s worth reminding yourself that shared experiences, memories and achievements are the things most of us really want to accumulate.

If your finances could use a good clean, or you want to devise a financial plan that will create more freedom in your life, there’s no time like the present, so do get in touch.

Thanks for reading.


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