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A world traveler and lover of life re-assesses her keepsakes following a brush with death.

Joleen Jernigan

Writer & Social Media Manager

Transformation and Story Notes

A writer and blogger, Joleen has traveled quite a bit of the world, and made many cherished memories and friends along the way. She describes herself as a vibrant energizer bunny who is the “oldest fucking millennial you’ll ever meet”, even though she has recently battled a severe disease. 

In August 2021, Joleen was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. She immediately began numerous rounds of chemo and radiation, and had her final round of chemo in January 2023. Having just recently come out on the other side of this health battle, Joleen is ready to address the clutter that has accumulated in her home. She is reclaiming her health and her life, and this process starts within her home. Having lived a life both full of happy times while traveling but also sad times while battling cancer, both parts of her life are scattered throughout her home. Souvenirs from her travels  She wants to death clean in order to start fresh and take advantage of the rest of the life that she has to live. 

Joleen is finally healthy enough to have guests over, however is too embarrassed to invite anyone. She does not want the first time her family sees her home to be when they are death cleaning it after she has passed. Her aunt passed away in 2019 and Joleen had to clean her home out, Joleen does not want this process to be replicated for her family. 

Joleen wants to be able to host again. Her immune system was compromised for so long that she never had visitors, so the house became cluttered and not suitable for her to feel comfortable inviting people. Now that she has her health, she wants to entertain friends, show off her travel memories, and take advantage of the life she was gifted.


Being in remission, Joleen is excited about her health, however still can’t let go of the items that came from her cancer journey. Her health is at 11% risk of cancer returning, but to Joleen, that number is much too high and she could be back in a health crisis at any moment.

Joleen does not have any kids and the only person close enough to her that she thinks might be interested in her belongings is her niece. Joleen is afraid that if her niece ends up not wanting her stuff, then her life and memory will just be erased and washed away. Her brother has never visited her and wants to be able to have the opportunity to share her life inside of her home with her brother, but she’s fearful that by the time he visits, it will be to clean out after she has passed.

Stuff/Random Objects
  • Grandparents gifted her their National Geographic collection; 20 years of National Geographic magazines on shelves

  • She collects art that is stacked around the house, not hung up on walls. Each piece of art has a story that reminds her of a memory from her travels or people she has met along the way.

  • ”Get well soon” cards that she saved from her friends. She wants to gift these cards to patients who are currently battling cancer.

  • A blanket that her family made her with everyone’s names on it. When she cuddles herself into the blanket, she feels her family’s love.

  • Medical bills and paperwork from her cancer journey that she keeps “just in case” the disease returns.

  • Photographs from her traveling scattered on office desk and office floor.

  • Passed down furniture from her parents that she would like to give to her brother.

Who is getting their stuff?
  • Her art collection could go to the art community in Austin

  • There are certain items she would like to gift to her nieces, pending they would be interested in accepting.

  • She ultimately just wants to be in charge of deciding where her belongings go, rather than having that decision made for her after she passed.

Their Thoughts on Death

Joleen understands that her life is not guaranteed and that she is lucky. On the outside, she is not afraid of death, but internally, she knows she brushed up against death and that terrifies her.

A strong force in her fear of death is the erasing of her memory, as her legacy might not be passed down or shared with anyone.

”What will it be like if I died, my brother would hire people to just throw it all away”- 

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