The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter was written and illustrated by Margareta Magnusson, who reminded the reader many times that she was “somewhere between eighty and one hundred years old”. She only needed to inform the reader of her age range once, yet her excessive use of that phrase got to be annoying. She gave helpful advice on how to part with objects while you are still alive, and how to designate what to do with your possessions after you die. Forty brief sections covered such topics as ridding yourself of photographs, clothes, books, special collections, as well as what to do if you are downsizing into a smaller living space. She wrote this short book primarily to make it easier on those after you die, but it can also be used by anyone who wants to declutter. She states in the foreword:

“You have collected so much wonderful stuff in your life–stuff that your family and friends can’t evaluate or take care of.
“Let me help make your loved ones’ memories of you nice–instead of awful.”

She even had a section devoted to the disposal of the most intimate objects (I’m not surprised that this was written by a Swede):

“Maybe Grandfather had ladies’ underwear in his drawer and maybe Grandma had a dildo in hers. But what does that matter now? They are no longer among us; if we liked them, it really should be nothing for us to worry about. Let us each have our small preferences, as long as nobody gets hurt.
“But it is perhaps a nice gift to those loved ones who may be death cleaning for us later if we do a little bit of our own cleaning now–to reduce these types of belongings a bit before we leave our present life.
“Save your favorite dildo–but throw away the other fifteen!”

Magnusson did not hold back as she shared her experience in cleaning out her late husband’s toolshed:

“As I investigated my husband’s snickarbod [ = toolshed], I saw that everything was so beautifully in order: chisel, level, rotary hammers, pliers and hacksaw frames, and lots of screws and nails! Pumps and rubber valves, special oils for the bikes. It sounds almost erotic!”

I like the idea of an octogenarian getting off by poking around in a toolshed.

There is no need to keep anything you find unappealing; “If you don’t like something, get rid of it.”. Keep the things that give you pleasure, yet if they are so personal or sentimental in nature, then you should indicate that they can be disposed of after death. No one would be interested in keeping your old ticket stubs or favourite stuffed animal anyway.

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