The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

When my grandmother died, we found that she had prepared well for the distribution of her belongings. On the bottom or on the back of her most important items, we found a small strip of masking tape with a family member’s name on it. We’ve remembered that over the years with humor and affection, and appreciation. Many years after her death, I turned over one of two kitchen chairs she had given me, and felt a rush of warmth and remembering when I saw the slightly curled piece of masking tape with my name on it.

Much like the planning ahead my grandmother did at the end of her life, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margareta Magnusson, is a book chock full of ideas on getting rid of the clutter in our lives. It is a book that would be helpful to read at any age! Her ideas are very practical and encouraging, and she addresses many of the roadblocks we run into when we are trying find the courage to let things go that we have spent a lifetime collecting.

“Sometimes you just have to give cherished things away with the hope that they end up with someone who will create new memories of their own.”

I will be putting many of her suggestions into gear immediately because I’m already in the purging mode this January. When I spend more time indoors, out of the cold weather, I realize how much stuff we have that we really don’t need anymore. And we are getting on in years, as well, and I definitely don’t want my children to have to deal with all our stuff.  It’s really an act of kindness and love to go through the process of letting go of the clutter now instead of leaving it for them to deal with after we are gone.

My Mom, who is 98 years old, is also reading this book and we are talking about the ideas and the process from both our perspectives. It’s a wonderful ongoing conversation right now, and an important one.

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4 thoughts on “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

  1. Kay

    That’s very interesting, Robin. How clever of your grandmother to ‘label’ her gifts! My mother told me as we were scaling down her possessions before she moved into assisted living, ‘you spend your whole life getting all these things and then you give them away.’ Yes, you do. My mother had many more ‘things’ than I suspect I will at that time of my life. I’ve even purged my books a lot and am much more of a ‘minimalist’ in the ‘stuff’ area. Part of that is by nature and part reaction to clearing out my folks possessions. Bet it does make for some interesting talks between you and your mother.

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  2. Robin Post author

    Thanks, Kay. When my mother decided that it was time to move into an independent living facility, she did the same thing—gave away most of what she and my dad had collected over the years. I loved how she did it, though. She spent a number of months going through her things and deciding where each thing would go. And then she began shipping special items to each of us. I was thrilled one day when a truck stopped in front of the house and brought me a large box. She had shipped me my dad’s reading chair.

    I, too, am becoming more of a minimalist. The weight of too much stuff is stifling! I’m in the process (and this little book helps) of a major purge!

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  3. Les in OR

    January is definitely the month everyone wants to purge their closets! We really don’t have a lot to sort through anymore, as we downsized and got rid of A LOT of our things when we moved to Oregon. It’s very liberating to not have so much STUFF! It’s a little more difficult to give away books, but I’m getting to the point where I only want to keep those that I know I’ll read again. This sounds like a lovely book. I may need to buy a copy or two…

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