Skeletons in the Closet?

How to Remove the Embarrassing Stuff Before it’s Too Late 

Some things you just want to stay private forever, like your internet history or those weird letters from your ex-lover. No one wants their peaceful haunting interrupted by the mortifying moment your child decides to read your diary.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that this is the year I’m organizing my life, with a little help from my guidebook: 

In Case You Get Hit by a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later,” by Abby Schneiderman and Adam Seifer (founders of Everplans*) with Gene Newman.

Today, we’re exploring some of the final nuggets of wisdom this book has to offer: cleaning out those embarrassing (or even damaging) skeletons in your closet. 

6 Steps to Clean the Skeletons from Your Closet Before You Die

You don’t want your grandkids to stumble across your embarrassing skeletons, or find out any secret health issues you’d rather take to the grave. 

These six steps, inspired from our guidebook, will help ensure you’ve removed anything you’d like to stay hidden – let’s get started. 

  1. Throw Things Away

The first step is to remove anything from your home that you no longer need and don’t want to leave to anyone else to clear out. Get rid of as much as possible while you’re still here to do it. 

Now is a great time to dive into your storage and start sorting. Check out your closets, garage, basement, attic or wherever else you’ve been keeping stuff over the years. If you find anything you’d rather part with now than leave for your loved ones to find, toss it out. 

  1. Appoint a Cleaner

Another great idea is to leave a provision in your will stating exactly who you would like to take care of your personal belongings after you’re gone. This could be a close friend or even a professional cleaning service. This way, you can limit the embarrassment to a single person rather than leave it up to fate. 

You’ll need to leave detailed instructions for your appointed cleaner, which you can base off this list. Remember to add a thank-you as well! 

  1. Go Through the Embarrassing and Illegal Stuff

After you’ve passed, your appointed cleaner will need to get rid of anything embarrassing. Make a list of stuff that you wouldn’t leave in plain sight at Thanksgiving dinner, as well as where your person can find each item. 

If you have any drugs, weapons, dangerous items or illegal activities you want to stay secret, make note of those now as well. 

  1. Don’t Forget Your Digital History

One often-overlooked area to wipe clean is your digital history. This could mean tablets, computers, laptops, phones and digital cameras. Your cleaner should have access to all your login information so they can clear your search history as well as delete any cookies. You may also want them to delete your hard drive to ensure any private files saved to your device are cleared. 

Don’t forget about any digital receipts or footprints that may be lurking in your email account as well.

Give clear guidance here on what your cleaner should and shouldn’t delete: you want that adult material gone, but maybe not last year’s Christmas photos.

  1. If All Else Fails, Start Smashing

If for some reason your cleaner runs into trouble or you have doubts about their ability to find and delete the proper items, leave a back-up provision. If no one is going to use your computer anymore, you can always just smash the machine and throw it away. 

It may not be the most eco-friendly, but it is effective.

  1. Cancel Memberships

Your cleaner can also use this opportunity to cancel any memberships or subscriptions you wouldn’t like popping up on your credit card statement. 

Likewise, if you have any organizations that reach out to you via mail or phone, you can also request that your cleaner call and cancel those. 

A Bonus Resource

If you want to be extra-secure in cleaning out your skeletons, I’ve got another book that can help you dive deeper into after-death organization. 

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, written by Margareta Magnusson, details the Swedish practice of clearing out your life and home before and after death. 

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