Book Review - The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

Well that’s an interesting title for a book. What could it possibly be about?

Why would someone write a book about Swedish house cleaning? Is it a book about scrubbing everything in one’s home until you are so exhausted you are near death? Well move aside Marie Kondo, and welcome Margareta Magnusson. The focus is not on keeping what “sparks joy,” but finding the right homes for your sentimental items so they can be loved by someone else. Magnusson who says she is between 80-100 years old, writes with humor, honesty and practicality.

The Swedish word for death cleaning is “döstädning” which means to declutter earlier in life as opposed to leaving it for family to do once you pass away.

“To get rid of things to make life easier and less crowded.”  Magnusson explains that döstädning doesn't have to happen later in life, but often that is when people realize they need to reduce clutter. Death cleaning is not sad, in fact it is not the story of death but the story of your life. When one death cleans, you steam-line your life, downsize your possessions and leave your home less messy and more organized.

Magnusson says to start in the basement or attic. Things in storage may have been there for years and one may have forgotten what they own. As professional organizers we encourage clients to start in basement or garage as these areas can be excellent areas for items either leaving your home or storage for items you don't use very often. Another tip is not to start with photographs, letters and papers. These items can take quite a long time to review so best to start with subjects that are less time consuming. Magnusson likes to start with clothing. Clothing is easy to sort. Maybe there are items which you have been saving thinking you will wear the again, but reality is it has been 5 years and you probably will not?  These items can be donated and you will find you will be helping someone else out while creating more space in your closet/drawers to find clothes that you prefer to wear.  

An important tip in the book is that everything needs a place to live. The author says she knows families who live in a complete mess. We are sure you do to.

Living in a mess is exhausting. Family members can’t find items such as keys, phones, homework, and glasses. “Give everything a place and you won’t feel angry, irritated, or desperate, when leaving the house. You will not as often stand by the front door yelling… and for a change – as an added bonus-you may also arrive on time,” writes the author.

At House to Home Organizing we frequently deal with multi-generational families, and many possessions have been passed down over the years. It is common for adult children to worry about their parents as they age as well as what will happen to all the possessions once their parents are gone. Magnusson suggests the following wording when talking to an aging parents. “You have many nice things, have you thought about what you want to do with all later on? Could life be easier and less tiring if we got rid of some of this stuff that you have collected over the years? Is there a way we can do together in a slow way so that there won’t be too many things to handle later?”

The author points out that we live in a very wasteful society. As technology brings advances in every area in our life, sometimes we have a combination of items in our homes acquired over the years. Take for example the kitchen. Percolator coffee pots were replaced by drip coffee pots, and now Keurigs are the rage. In many homes you will find all 3 of these items. People tend to get new products even if the old ones are not yet broken or worn out. “This cycle of consumption we are all part of will eventually destroy our planet-but it doesn’t have to destroy the relationship you have with whomever you leave behind.” This is another benefit of death cleaning, thinking more about recycling, donating, and gifting. By doing so you make your life simpler and less complicated. What a relief!

A suggestion in the book is to try to give your items to family, friends, co-workers and neighbors who may be happy to receive your possessions. If not, Magnusson says to sell them or make a donation to charity. This will make you feel good about your decision. Remember there are always young adults starting out who can’t afford to purchase all the wonderful items you may have. They may be so happy to have the possessions you may not want anymore. When they can afford to purchase they will pass your items on to others. “You cannot know the places your objects may go after you are gone, and that could be wonderful to contemplate,” says Magnusson.

If you death clean regularly, you will be able to focus on your personal and professional life without obstacles. Without obstacles you will have more time to enjoy your family and friends. So what are you waiting for? Start döstädning! 





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