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Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning / Margareta Magnusson

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

A charming, practical, and unsentimental approach to putting a home in order while reflecting on the tiny joys that make up a long life.

In Sweden there is a kind of decluttering called döstädning, dö meaning “death” and städning meaning “cleaning.” This surprising and invigorating process of clearing out unnecessary belongings can be undertaken at any age or life stage but should be done sooner than later, before others have to do it for you. In The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, artist Margareta Magnusson, with Scandinavian humor and wisdom, instructs readers to embrace minimalism. Her radical and joyous method for putting things in order helps families broach sensitive conversations, and makes the process uplifting rather than overwhelming.

 

I’ve been practicing döstädning (death cleaning) for years without knowing it. My two sisters and I were responsible for cleaning out our parents’ home 20 years ago and we were all inspired by that experience to cut down (or at least try to cut down) on our own clutter load. We’ve had varying degrees of success.

Spring may arrive someday soon here in Western Canada and I needed some inspiration to get me back in the swing of things, purging the unnecessary accumulations of the past year, sorting older deposits, and clearing the decks for spring cleaning.

The author recommends a slow but steady culling process to deal with the pile-ups of possessions that afflict many of us in the first world. I know that I look forward to each spring, when I can count on a number of book sales and garage sales to be soliciting for donations. Each year, I contribute things that I am willing to part with and it gets easier every year.

I am pretty ruthless now with clothing—anything that needs ironing goes. So does anything uncomfortable to wear. There are very few ‘dry clean only’ items remaining in my closet. But a closet can be easily sorted in an afternoon—what I struggle with are things like photographs, paper files, and items which hold sentimental attachment for me. As tax time approaches, I’m going to be forced to deal with at least a few papers. Then I’m planning a photo sorting party to deal with all the photographs from my parents’ home, inviting a sister and a cousin to come for a day and help me get to the bottom of the box. Combining the necessary work with a good visit seems like an excellent idea.

The author advocates a very rational approach to these tasks—visualizing yourself taking the weight of these decisions off others and dealing with your own possessions. I find I’m only able to maintain this mindset in short bursts, so her slow-but-steady method works well for me. If you are a more emotional or sentimental sort, this book may not be the most motivating for you, but if you have a logical, pragmatic approach to life it should be a useful book.