2020 – A Year Of Death Cleaning – 1-2-20

I am possessed or obsessed with DEATH CLEANING! I am getting a new bed delivered this afternoon and in preparation for that I’m cleaning the guest room.

Read more here

This huge cupboard is filled with quilts and stacked on top to the ceiling. There are too many to hang or use – some I hardly remember. There’s an antique chest of drawers across the room filled with linens and memorabilia. Nobody’s ever gonna care or want this stuff.

I am stuck in the 80’s and country decorating – but the thing is, I still love this stuff. The antique quilts in this cupboard are simple quilts with great hand stitching which I admire. Such as this one:

And this quilt on the bed is actually a family quilt. Remember Quilts From Aunt Amy? This is another one of Amy’s quilts – the scalloped binding is not perfect but the quilting stitches are!

The idea behind death cleaning is to help out those who survive you – as several of you have left comments about emptying houses of relatives know, it’s a thankless job! Since I moved in here in 1979 everything has just kept accumulating and now I need to do something about it.

Here’s another stack and Connie has just as many as me – we’ve been tossing around the idea of having a Death Cleaning sale of our own. We simply cannot manage an online sale and then the resulting shipping. We aren’t spring chickens anymore! Haha!

My #9 is actually a Christmas project —- one I’m not in the mood for a week after Christmas so I’m going to re-number it. I’m admitting to my cheating ways right now so you’ll have to forgive me. Ha!

Isn’t this a lovely finish?

And awhile ago someone posted their Wildflowers quilt and wanted to know where to find it. Here’s my quilt.

And this is the book it’s in.

Nice day in North Iowa – nice enough for the chickens to be out!

I was cheering for our neighbors, Wisconsin, in the Rose Bowl – nevertheless it was a great, exciting game, wasn’t it?

Time to finish up the bedroom – more Death Cleaning, here I come!

67 thoughts on “2020 – A Year Of Death Cleaning – 1-2-20

  1. Carrolyn v

    You don’t have to rid of all you love….be careful…..I had a friend do this and regrets it. You have done lots for others and someone else doing it can be it’s own treasure and adventure for them.

    1. Mary Hawk

      Love that wildflowers quilt! I do not need a new project. I like the cheating idea.
      The cleaning is kind of addicting, isn’t it? I have piles right now in my sewing room headed to various places. I think it’s hard for us kids raised by depression era parents to let go. Here’s a good one I read for purging the other day- would you buy this item today?
      Good luck! A sale would be awesome.

      1. CountryThreads Post author

        Mary Hawk – so if we had a sale, would you come and buy some more?

        1. mary Hawk

          I sure had fun at your last sale. I think of you every time I look at my plant table/bench. My dad had it in his assisted living room and now I have it. In fact I just doctored it up a bit. It had chippy green paint which didn’t go in our bluish gray/brown sun room. I chalk painted the top charcoal and then rubbed it with a dark wax. The legs are still bare wood and grain still shows through in the top. Really like the update. I am supposed to be working on getting rid of stuff too, sure don’t want to leave my kids the amount of stuff both our sets of parents left us. But still, a good sale …….
          Love those hand quilted beauties. There’s just nothing like hand quilting and we see so little of it anymore.

          1. CountryThreads Post author

            Mary Hawk – I cant remember the plant stand – send me a picture. And —- how’s Ada?

  2. Carolyn Meadows

    I’m impressed with your death cleaning. I read the book when it was published. I have had no luck with my own progress. Please done’t get rid of your quilts. Enjoy them and let your heirs deal with them later.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Carolyn Meadows – it they’ve been in that cupboard for years and I’ve never looked at them! They gotta go!

  3. Anonymous

    We have a new second hand store in Goldfield where the cheese mart used to be. I told the kids to just call them. They buy estates.😊 I’m keeping everything! I downsized 7 years ago and regret getting rid a lot of things I thought I could live without!!! My new mission is to buy it when I see it!🤣❤️

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Anonymous- I’ll have to check out that thrift store! Wait! I don’t need more junk in my house!!!!

  4. Linda

    About half the pix didn’t come through today and there were no ads to click on. I’m not getting rid of anything! It’s my way of avenging myself for all the trouble my kids gave me as teenagers!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Linda – now what’s wrong, I wonder? I’ll ask Denise if she has any idea. So sorry.

  5. Linda

    I, too, am in the mood to disperse to my heirs the unnecceary things and those things that I may not enjoy as much anymore.
    I’m getting together a pile of my quilt projects to let the heirs choose what they want NOW and then they can still ask questions, make rational choices. I really do not use or need 10 big sized quilts or 15 sets of place mats. I have no more wall room to hang Christmas hangings as it is and I want to make new ones. Once the death cleaning on the heirs part starts, it can become very overwhelming and the decisions are not ratonal or logical. Besides, by dispersing the stuff now, they can enjoy the projects now. If they don’t want some of my stuff, perhaps I over-rated the value of my creativity. Through a thrift shop, some one else may dearly love and treasure them.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Linda – I LOVE your statement — perhaps I over-rated the value of my creativity. My sentiments exactly!

  6. Linda L

    You are right to go through things. Try to find a home for some of the quilts where you will be blessing someone else that will love them.

  7. Christine M

    The pictures came through for me, just took a little while. I also had ads. Are we allowed to close them? Does that still help you or cause a problem?

  8. Janice Hebert

    I’ll throw out some things that I really don’t want but I’m with everyone else so far, no death cleaning for me! I really do putter with different hobbies that I enjoy. I hear so many people say that they hate being retired, well not me! I love being able to do what I want when I want to. Today I might do some sewing, tomorrow I might be in the mood to knit or hook a rug. I have been giving my kids certain things that I think they might like. Jan in MA

  9. Martha

    “Death cleaning” or simply organizing and down-sizing is more than a gift to those who might survive you. It is a gift to you NOW, in the present time. There is a feeling of lightness that comes. There is space for stillness and calmness. AND, whomever is on the receiving end of whatever you let go gets an unexpected blessing to their lives and often it’s something they may actually use.

    Storage of things can weigh us down.

    Happy sorting!!

  10. catherine

    I understand your reason for cleaning out all those things. My mother had done that and I wish she hadn’t. She was not a quilter but both she and my grandmother would knit, crochet, etc. And the only things that I found when I was cleaning out her house of 30 years were a couple of crocheted pot holders. That was a disappointment. I wish that I had more of the things she had made.

  11. Betty Klosterman

    I’m with the other ladies. Who says we HAVE to get rid of stuff. Especially if we really like it. Also, I’m letting special people pick out a quilt they would like. My collection of arrowheads and tomahawk head from Relatives in Illinois and Indiana in about 1900 went to my great nephew. He saw and learned about the collection when he was young and was thrilled. There was a gullet stone, too, along with fossils from Montana, etc. I made the right decision there! Now to figure out what to do with the rest?? All in good time.
    The thrift stores have to keep their stuff neat and some stuff–even though treasures–won’t sell. The Good Will store takes used clothing which are really rags and sells them to be used as recycled fabric. I keep a bag for the stuff and take it to the store when full. And those quilts will be gobbled up by collectors at a yard sale. Just get the word out. At Sarah Thomas’ 3-day sale in Clarion a few years back, quilts that were on the beds and were full of mouse turds and holes went for several hundred dollars EACH. My aunt said she wouldn’t have even touched them with a ten foot pole! Sarah died at an age of 103 and had lived in the same house until she moved to a nursing home when she was nearly 100.
    I really think if the word got out that COUNTRY THREADS were having a yard sale, the ladies would come from far and wide. Or you could call it a catchy name that would bring laughter and money.
    And if you really love something, enjoy it and let somebody take care of it after you are gone.

  12. Diane and Squeak in Central Ohio

    My daughter’s mother in law had them pick a painting that her husband had painted. They put their names on the back so in the future, it will belong to them. Good idea. I have put names on some of my quilts, but when I get closer to OLD age, I will let them pick, too.
    I like the idea of a sale for yours because you have so many. Would that be too much work, though? It could be kind of like a garage sale maybe?
    My siblings and I cleared out a large 5 bedroom, two kitchen, attic and cellar, Victorian home, and a one bedroom apartment. Both had about the same amount of STUFF!! It was a lot of work, but also interesting what we found. We wished that each owner had had us come to learn about the items. For example, we discovered our paternal grandmother lived with our maternal grandparents during WWII while the sons were in the war. Some of the history has been lost because no one asked us to come learn about it.
    Good luck with your death cleaning. You have inspired MANY of us to start, too. Thank you!!

  13. Linda

    Mary I must speak up and say you did not over rate your creativity! When I look at all your books and patterns you created I am in awe! You are a national treasure! You have a gift and a passion. Keep creating for all of our sakes!

  14. Jo in Wyoming

    Overrating your talent…NEVER!
    The things you have inspired people to do could never be overrated.

    I too have purchased old quilts or tops from sales and felt I gave them a good home. When I see old quilts used as moving pads or garage rags, it breaks my heart. See if someone at your senior center wants a quilt.
    As far as cleaning, strike while the fire is hot. I’d rather clean the garage than my sewing room. I wonder if the old cars will start?

  15. Carol at Pin Oak Quilting

    Mary, please cherry pick your quilts for sale. Keep what gives you joy, even if it’s too much! I wish I had even 1/10 the quilts you have, just to pet and enjoy over and over again. Generally I make quilts and give them away, I only have about eight to ten quilts here.
    The same goes for your collectibles, keep what makes you smile. Things that are ho-him, part of the collection but not as delightful as others…those are the ones that go.
    I speak from experience. And maybe from jealousy, ha ha!

  16. Linda baker

    No cleaning and tossing for me at this time. I would advise all of you to investigate organizations before you donate your treasures. A local thrift store near me has a director who throws a lot of items into the dumpster. A volunteer told us recently it “Makes him kinda sick” when he sees some of the stuff that’s been thrown out.

  17. Ginny

    When I moved to South Carolina in May my son and grandson had to pack most of my stuff because I could hardly walk. They downsized me, maybe they knew they would be the ones to wade through all of it later! I miss somethings but my life is simpler now without all the junk.They brought my sewing room contents, stained glass studio and my books so I was happy.
    My mother had saved electric bills from the ’40s and every other thing, she should have read the book.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Ginny – you were in pain and couldn’t walk so you had no choice but luckily you had sons to help – your daughter didn’t help, if I recall, but I know your life is so much better today in SC and I am so happy for you!

  18. Cinders

    In the summer or autumn you and Connie could do a sale, I would love to go. It is hard going thru treasured possessions, you could donate some to your local church for a fundraiser, our Lutheran Bible Camp at Lake Shetek, Slayton, MN has an annual Quilt auction on the last Saturday of June, there are hundreds of quilts and silent auction items, they usually have a quilt or two someone had that they do over or complete, so multiple things going on, you could take a couple to Junkin’ Gal too…and no doubt you have friend or relatives that would appreciate some thing from you just out of the blue…thinking of you…. I am working on my ‘stuff’ too, I enjoyed a few collections, some of my kids are not wanting anything, so more goes to those that do want my dust collectors. I am now working on my stash so I have completed projects to give away. Almost all my kids and their spouses and our Grands have at least one or two quilts from me already. Give it some thought on what you and Connie can handle whether it is a sale where we are there in person, or something online with photos of the particular quilt. Only thing with online, then you’d have to send it or the purchaser could arrange with you to get it. Does Garner have an annual all town/city garage sale day or days? Then you would have a set date and could do the sale that way. (Might be like I Love Lucy when they went to the big sale day..Look out! ) No doubt your audience on your blog will have an idea or two that will work just perfectly for you. Happy New Year! At least your quilts are done that you wish to find new homes for them, I admire your creativity!

      1. Kathy Schwartz in SW MN

        I live in Slayton and am wondering what was your Mom’s name?
        Kathy Schwartz

  19. B. J. Berlo

    I’ve never heard the expression “death cleaning” and it gives me the chills! I’m 80 yrs. old and I’ve started giving away things now that no longer mean as much to me as they did when I made them. I’ve given both son’s quilts in the past few years, and some of my women friends have quilts that I’ve made and I know they will care for them. Keep what makes you happy! Don’t just get rid of things in a rush. I have the feeling you’ll regret it.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      B.j. Berlo – I had not heard of it either but it’s Swedish and it not meant to sound awful – it CAN take place after a death but also means to remove unnecessary things and make your home nice and orderly – I quote from the book, page 1.

  20. Sunflower from Michigan

    Mary, that table runner is beautiful! I also like your wildflower quilt, it’s very pleasing to the eye. We also were rooting for Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and it was a good game despite the outcome. The Big 10 hasn’t done well in the football games but I’ve liked watching them all.
    We have snow here in southeast Michigan but it was in the upper 40s today so a lot is gone. Took my friends dog for a long walk in The park .
    I’m impressed with your determination to declutter but remember, you’re having a major surgery in a week and you need to rest a little before that! Take care, I enjoy your blog and the farm news so much.

    1. Jeanine

      The Iowa Hawkeyes beat USC in the Holiday Bowl! It was a fun game to watch for Iowa Hawkeye fans!!

    2. CountryThreads Post author

      Sunflower – the Big Ten did terrible! Very disappointing! Major surgery be damned – do you know how long I’ll have to rest afterwards? I hate thinking about it! I can rest then.

  21. Linda Carpenter

    When I downsize my things I am doing it for me. As I age (I am 70) now, I want a simple, uncluttered life. I will continue my art (rug braiding, quilting and rug hooking) as long as I am able. This Christmas I sent off 7 of my quilts to children and grandchildren. I’m keeping the ones I love and enjoy most, and I use them. My creativity makes me happy and I intend to enjoy it as long as I can, so I probably create far too many items. But I don’t need a lot of “stuff” sitting round taking my peace. Thanks for sharing Mary. Keep at it.

  22. Sandy

    Mary, your quilts are too beautiful and special to end up in a garage sale or thrift store! Sell for a good price to someone who would appreciate them or give to someone special( or me!) I’m sure one of your readers would like the opportunity to buy one of your wonderful quilts,good luck with the cleaning! Best wishes, sandy

  23. Alice

    3 yrs ago I decided to start purging our big house of items we no longer needed as we had plans to down size. I let a realtor talk me into listing early. Long story short, my house sold I one day! I hired a company to pick up items that we just had to get rid of. They didn’t show up on time & had to return to finish the job, still didn’t return on time. Wouldn’t recommend this nationally owned company! We’re in a condo now & I’m still unpacking! I got rid of so much fabric. Found a church that makes quilts for kids in 3rd world countries. They made almost 100 quilts from my donation. I kept the good stuff! Haven’t missed all the stuff I let go of, but do need to better organized my sewing room. It can be so rewarding to get rid of the clutter or things we no longer need! I like the idea of your yard sale. You might be surprised at how much $ you & Connie could make!

  24. Liz , IA

    I’m with B.J. Berlo could you please call it something besides Death Cleaning? Maybe Thoughtful Cleaning you are being Thoughtful of those who will be dealing with your things. Also be thoughtful of what makes you happy and what not so much any more.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Liz, IA – nope, I can’t change the name! That’s the name of the book!

  25. Kay Crandall

    Mary – loved that you said you cheated and changed your number for the dirty dozen challenge this month. My number nine wasn’t anything that I even wanted to finish and when I took it out yesterday it was in many more pieces than I remembered so I really thought about changing to something else. However, I sucked it up and got busy and finished piecing the top today – it’s more complicated than I want to tackle so I will send it out to be quilted tomorrow. Again, I want to thank you for this challenge – without it I would be getting little to nothing finished. I also need to read the death cleaning book – we moved over a year ago from a house we lived in for almost 50 years and still have to clean out two long attics, a basement, garage, shed and a couple of rooms that could star in an episode of “Hoarders” before we can sell it. Yikes!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Kay Crandall – you know, once I got started cleaning and sorting, I really enjoyed it! Wish I’m hold come and help you!

  26. Teresa

    I love your Aunts quilt on the bed, it’s so charming! Years ago I was a collector of many things and eventually ran out of room so I had to stop acquiring things. I do have a few treasured quilts that I picked up cheap from auctions and yard sales. I love the antique hand quilted quilts too. My kids won’t want any of the stuff that’s in my house so I’m enjoying it.

    If you decide to have a sale, I will be there too!

  27. MJ

    Mary – I have said many times, I loved country living before it was cool, when it was cool, and now that it is no longer cool. It’s still what I love best and my home reflects that. That’s why I enjoy your blog and Country Threads.

  28. Sue in Oregon

    Yah Ducks!!! Wasn’t that a terrific game? You did not know until the very end who would win that one.

    Love that beautiful old applique quilt on the bed.

    What an undertaking, going through everything. I just go limp thinking about doing it myself. I thin here and there. I really need to thin my clothes. So many I never wear. Ugh.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Sue in Oregon – yes, it was a fun game to watch and since I know so many of you in Oregon as well as Wisconsin, I didn’t have to really choose. I don’t buy many clothes anymore – no place to shop unless I drive 2 hours minimum. It it’s all the other stuff – every cupboard is full. I’m going to have to stop soon so everything will get put away.

  29. Diane Bauer

    Just an idea—I have a friend who makes beautiful “quilted” ornaments. She prices each of them and has sales throughout the year. All proceeds go toward “Boodle boxes” for two platoons she adopts. Unlike an auction, prices are set by Lorrie. Each time she announces a sale, those of us who follow her put it on our calendars and look forward to the crazy competition to get one of her ornaments. I have several and have given many as gifts. I need no more Christmas ornaments, but I try to make it to every sale because I get something beautiful and I know the money goes to a cause I am passionate about.
    Just thinking you could do something similar—price the treasures you are ready to part with and decide where the money will go—to you, the care of your animals, a rescue you care about, some other charity. Your readers, I believe, would swarm to an online sale like that! I’d be happy to connect you to Lorrie or help you with the details as to how she does her sales.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Diane Bauer – I will definitely keep that in mind! I hate the shipping end of it however. Yes, all proceeds will go to my two favorite charities – Patriots For Pets and Iowa Pet Alliance. I don’t need the money to complicate my estate which is turning into a nightmare anyway. Hmmmm….an online sale …..with a few things at a time so it wouldn’t be so overwhelming?

  30. Jolyn Olson

    After you and Connie spoke in Blue Earth, I was hooked on the straight line quilting. I finished over 70 little quilts (many were one or two or three blocks or more put together). Sold some and gave bunches away at a family reunion. It was fun to see the excitement of those who got one! But then I found more…

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Jolyn – sooooo fun to hear from you and that you like straight line quilting. I still love it! And I can actually accomplish it all which means I finish things instead of them piling up. Did you know that Felicia and I are good friends?

    2. CountryThreads Post author

      Jolyn Olson – I’ve always said that for me it’s the journey not the destination which keeps me quilting. That said, it’s FUN to give them away, too!

  31. Judy

    You mentioned possibility of a sale. My husband asked me if I was interested in going to the sale. What sale? I don’t read the auction ads. There was an auction that listed yards and yards of fabric. I first said no. It was an hour away and I don’t do auctions and I had just acquired several bags of fabric for our church group. Then I reconsidered. One of the older ladies in the church had once told me that when I could get fabric for a good price I should buy! So we traveled an hour in the storm to the auction. The rain stopped as we arrived. Where’s the fabric? Under the tent in the back yard on the ten tables and also under them. Books galore and machines as well. I spent one hundred dollars and came home with six boxes of fabric. Glad my husband was along to carry. I think maybe this lady had previously had a shop and when she no longer could manage it due to health had had a sale at the town’s community center. People were let in a few at a time. The back yard tables were sold last at this sale. There were still 40 people gathered around the tables bidding. What a day! I think that you might find a sale success in your community. I don’t think I would be there. Probably am 8 to 10 hour drive.

  32. Betty Klosterman

    The quilting on the quilt with the gold bars is absolutely wonderful. The stitching is perfect. I remember seeing a quilt in thrift shop on the highway in Goldfield. The stitching on that was primitive to say the least. It looked like very bad basting as the stitches were at least 1 1/2″ long!

  33. Kathy Schwartz in SW MN

    The hand quilting is wonderful.
    A friend of mine has 39 quilts on one bed so she doesn’t have to fold them.
    If you and Connie have a sale and advertise quilts, I am here to tell you people will come; also your other items. It would be the sale of the century!!!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Kathy Schwartz – really? We already had a sale 5 years ago with the majority of quilts but we still have more. I like the idea of my things going to live with a reader not a stranger.

  34. San

    Mary, I’ve been cleaning out since I moved into my house, not long after my dad’s funeral. So I totally understand why you’re working so hard on this. My possessions had been in storage on and off for 30 years and once I got unpacked, I figured out what I needed.

    Another way to look at your possessions and decide what is most important is to pretend you’re moving. Marie Kondo’s book helped me a lot. Sure wish I could come for the sale, LOL!

  35. Kathy in Oak Creek, WI

    Thanks for cheering on our Wisconsin Badgers although they needed more help than us cheering fans could give them, ha!

    I love the death cleaning concept. I’ve been showing your posts to my husband hoping he takes the hint and starts to clean out his things. Since I’ve turned 60, I really don’t want more stuff, the stuff I have, or to deal with anybody else’s stuff. Less is more – an uncluttered life sounds so lovely.

    Tomorrow I am giving half of my Fiestaware to my sister-in-law. Yay!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Kathy in Oak Creek, WI – I have quite a lot of Fiestaware, too, but don’t have a sil who wants it. My husband hasn’t caught on either!

  36. Anna Singleton

    I received your new book and Santa pattern! I love them both, thanks so much for all you and Connie do to give us new patterns!
    Happy Stitching! Anna

  37. Diane and Squeak in Central Ohio

    Mary, if you have red,white,blue quilts, could you donate them to Quilts of Valor? How about donating some to Hospice? My Guild makes lots of Honor Flight quilts, Quilts of Valor, Hospice quilts, and kid quilts. Just a thought.

  38. Sharon Bennett

    I think that when you are finished with your “Death Cleaning”….you’re going to realize that it is really “Cleaner Living”…. I went through a similar process the past couple of years…and now that all that clutter is out of my home….I feel so much more peaceful (and productive). 🙂

  39. Janie Lang

    I’m trying to clean and repaint/redecorate bedrooms . It’s not an easy task at 65. I must’ve been nuts! My husband passed away 7 years ago and I’m still trying to get rid of things. What a mess. On a brighter note, I’ve been planning a quilt of my own design based on dresses from Scarlett’s wardrobe in Gone With the Wind. I hope it turns out as i envision it!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Janie Lang – hang in there with both the redecorating and the quilt – sometimes our dreams/visions make much work for us and it can seem too overwhelming to continue. But you can do it!

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